clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Football: College Football is Experiencing a ‘Back To The Future’ Moment

New, 14 comments

With just a few days before the annual Spring Football Game, we look at a possible shifting trend in college football.

Brad Barr-USA TODAY Sports

I recently had a conversation with a high school football coach again lamenting the idea that a team running an option-based offense could never compete on the national level. Don't worry... this is not another article to defend the Georgia Tech offense. Instead, let's focus on the current state of football and why so many coaches are recognized as "geniuses." While this coach and I may differ on offensive schemes, it is the philosophy of running the ball that I think allows a team like Georgia Tech to compete on the national level.

Football reminds of the scene in Back to the Future when a nervous Marty McFly tries to offend what he perceives is his saintly, prude of a mother. To his shock, McFly ends up having to stop the woman who gave birth to him from trying to be his back-seat, hook-up buddy.

Marty wanted to think that his mother wasn't as aggressive and advanced as he and the kids in his time. But mothers were young too... and were and are just as aggressive and advanced as we were as teenagers. (Well... everyone but my mother). And despite his perceptions, his mother was no different than other teenage girls of his own time, (again... not my mother) including his own girlfriend.When you look at the state of modern day football, not much has changed. The uniforms and terminology may have been adjusted, but football is still the same game we've loved over the past 50 years.

Here is our argument... discussion, or whatever you want to call it:

HIM: "Today's game has evolved so much with recruiting and 7-on-7 tournaments that more people are capable of throwing the ball even at the middle school level."

ME: "Yet you still have a limited number of QB's who can read defenses and deliver accurate passes."

HIM: "Spread and passing teams are the future... Football didn't throw the ball as much in the past."

ME: "Instead of Spread, I believe the term was called the Run and Shoot offense, which was deemed outdated by the early 1990's."

HIM: "Yes, but teams are also running the ball from shotgun. Look how innovative guys like Chip Kelly and Gus Malzahn have been."

ME: "Legendary coach Nick Heider ran that same scheme in the 80's and 90's at Valdosta High and heavily influenced college coaches Hal Mumme and Chris Hatcher"

HIM: "But nobody ever thought of combining their offense with an up-tempo, no huddle approach."

ME: "Only Marv Levy's Buffalo Bills for a decade and a half. He had success going to four straight Super Bowls."

This is not to discredit the efforts of these coaches, but nothing is new. And all these coaches had to get their ideas from someone who came before them. Think about this... a coach is hired and brings back an old offensive playbook. He dusts it off, adds a wrinkle or two and re-names the system to fit his own terminology, and wham! We have a genius on our hands.

Now we are seeing the limited number of teams who run a traditional, pro-style offense complete with huddles and quarterbacks taking snaps from under the center, being described as innovative. This seems to put teams like Georgia Tech in a little bit of an advantage going into the 2015 season.

With the influence of so many teams running spread, shotgun and no-huddle, defenses have had to adjust in recruiting and in developing smaller defensive linemen and linebackers. Defenses are having more DB's on the field at a time. The guy I was talking to made the observation that traditional fullbacks and linebackers no longer exist. And he's right. In the modern era, there are not many inside linebackers who know how to take on blocks, shed offensive lineman and make tackles. There are just not that many players looking to be a bruising fullback coming through the hole to smash a would-be tackler.

Having an offense based on running the ball makes a quarterback much better. The reads are much more simple, receivers go against single-coverage and defenses can't play with speedy safety-sized defensive ends. Those guys are great at rushing the passer, but are useless at stopping the run.

For years, we heard how it was a detriment to the Yellow Jackets' defense for having to face the option in practice. But as it turns out... who was more physical in the 2014 Orange Bowl, Tech or Mississippi State? Which team gives Oregon the most trouble in the Pac-12? What happened to the high-octane Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl against an outdated, but physical Seattle Seahawk team? And what has the new coaching staff for the Atlanta Falcons made a commitment to do every game? Run the ball.

So in that regard, the Yellow Jackets could be called "retro" by todays' standards. Teams want to take pressure off quarterbacks, but aren't willing to commit to the run because it is so outdated. But if more teams like Georgia Tech, Florida State, Seattle Seahawks, etc. has success running the football, the more we're going to see squads committing to the run.

Heck you might see the next "genius" break out the Oklahoma wishbone attack... except the coach will call it the "Triangle Offense."