Archive for the ‘Todd Sturdy’ Category

If We Aren’t the Spread….

July 28, 2008

Then what are we??

Coach Wulff made waves last week at the snooze-fest known as media day (and let’s face it, there wasn’t a whole lot of compelling stuff to come out of last Thursday, was there? Team looks good, worked hard all off-season, so-and-so is coming back from injury, blah blah blah). But the most talked-about nugget from Wulff was the mention that we aren’t exactly a spread offense, but more a shotgun offense but with multiple looks, including the QB under center.

One of the most hailed things to come out of Wulff when he took the job was that he was installing a no-huddle, shotgun, spread offense. At least that’s what everyone heard when he took the job….or was it?

The reality is, when Wulff took the job and was at the podium, he said no-huddle, he said shotgun, but he never actually spoke the words “spread”. Why? Because his offense isn’t the true definition of what that offense really is regarded around the NCAA landscape these days. A lot of people, including myself, instantly thought spread when we heard no-huddle shotgun, but that doesn’t exactly fit what many people define a spread offense.

To see where I’m going with this, it’s important to at least acknowledge what the hell the spread offense actually is defined these days. For a lot of teams out there have adopted different strategies and labeled it a form of the spread offense. Loosely put, the spread is basically “spreading” out your skill position players, getting them in one-on-one situations with the defense and getting your play-makers out in space. The general idea, offensively, is to create favorable match-ups. Spread out the defense, hit the mismatch and have some fun. That’s what we see all over the country, and it’s done in a variety of ways.

Texas Tech and Arizona have their version of the offense, where they aren’t shy about at least chucking it 50 times a game. The run has very little to do with what they are trying to accomplish. But West Virginia calls itself the spread, yet they do it in a much more of a running style designed around the QB’s legs. Kansas is in the shotgun read-option offense and was much more balanced in their scheme last year, as was Oklahoma State, where they strive for the 50-50 balance of run-to-pass ratio.

But I think what Wulff is getting at in terms of “don’t call it the spread” is that we aren’t going to be exclusively a spread, READ-OPTION offense that is all the rage right now. Don’t think West Virginia or Okie State or even Oregon when you think our offense this year, because that isn’t what we are going to see.

To keep it simple, a key idea of the spread read-option is to start the offensive play with the QB in a “read option” mode. The QB has a running back with him in the shotgun, gets the snap, and immediately keys on the defensive end on the side of the field where the running back has set up. Then the play goes from there based on what the defensive end is doing. If the end charges hard upfield, the QB can fake the hand-off and keep it himself (we saw a lot of this out of Jake Locker and UW last year in the Apple Cup, and you see it all the time with Tim Tebow at Florida). But if the d-end stays home, then the QB can choose to hand the ball off to the back and the play just goes from there. Or, the QB can fake the hand-off, and pull it out of there and throw the ball.

The trick here though is that it isn’t the old wishbone option offense we used to see out of Oregon State, Oklahoma, or even the Rypien-Porter-Mayes offense of days gone by. Instead of everyone bunched up at the line and sometimes three backs in the backfield, it’s a modern flare to it with WR’s from sideline to sideline. The extra dimension of throwing the ball to multiple WR’s is a big part of what the offense can do, making it a complete headache to defend beyond the old-school option.

The best example you will ever find is what Oregon did to UW last year. Dennis Dixon was in the zone that day, as the Duck O went for an unreal 465 yards RUSHING, averaging 7.5 yards per carry on 62 total rushing attempts. It was a clinic. In the shotgun, Dixon would get the snap and make his read. Either hand it to Stewart, keep the ball himself, or, uh-oh, he could pull it out of there and throw it to WR’s running wide open, all game long. UW’s EJ Savannah said after the game that not only could they not attack the Ducks and they were on their heels all game long, but half the time they had trouble figuring out who even had the football. It was a sight to behold.


Why profile this? Because this is NOT exactly the new WSU offense. Don’t picture Gary Rogers doing things that Dennis Dixon did in that clip. This is an example of what is really thought of as the spread, read-option offense that is the rage today. But will we show some of the same sort of things? Occasionally, yes, we’ll do some things that look like the read-option. But it is not exclusively the read-option spread compared to what others are running.

As you can see in the following clips in a game between EWU and BYU last year, you begin to understand what Wulff was getting at by describing the multiple approach. There are plays that show EWU doing all sorts of different things. Shotgun with read-option fakes or handoffs, yes, absolutely. But we also see the QB under center with one back, sometimes with double-tight ends, WR motion, the whole thing. There is even a play where the WR goes in motion and takes a handoff from the QB at around the 5:18 mark of the tape (might we see that out of Gibson this year??).

In the second half, you see more of the same, with more shotgun formations with two backs and some more WR motion. And as a bonus, if you like games played in the snow? Check out things beginning at the 6-minute mark. BRRRRRR!

I guess the point of all this is to understand what people think of as the spread, and what we are actually going to see. With Wulff and Todd Sturdy and the rest, anything and everything goes. As Wulff and Sturdy have said all along, expect a balanced attack out of a no-huddle scheme, with multiple formations. In the end, it will not be predictable, it will not be stale, and I think we can all be assured that it is going to be very entertaining to watch!

Now will it work? Hard to say. The no-huddle, multiple attack sounds good, but, we’re not the first team in the Pac-10 to do it. Oregon for example runs a lot of no-huddle. So while the Pac-10 will be seeing some things that are fresh from WSU as we distance ourselves from the Erickson-Price one-back attack, it won’t be as if we are doing things that nobody has ever seen before. And you can have the greatest offensive scheme of all-time, but, if you don’t have the playmakers to go with it???……Well, you know.

Not a whole lot happening in Cougar Nation this week. It should be pretty quiet, but of course, things get rolling next week. We’ll stay on top of the news, and our own Rooster might have something coming in the next few days, but this is another quiet time. Enjoy your Monday, and as always, GO COUGS.

Recruit Profile: Calvin Schmidtke

January 24, 2008

Ok, enough about Heath Ledger. Sorry to those of you that weren’t thrilled with that yesterday. But today, we move forward with a profile of QB recruit Calvin Schmidtke.

Schmidtke is an interesting prospect for this year’s class, mainly because of two huge things – 1) His success in a pass-happy offense, which fits the Wulff/Sturdy offense to a T, and 2) His lack of prototype size and recruiting attention for a player of his ilk.

In other words, Schmidtke is exactly the type of QB that WSU never would have given much consideration to in the past. If you’ve watched our offense since 1987, you know the type of QB that excelled in the one-back offense. The tall, strong-armed, NFL prototype passers like Rosey, Bledsoe and Leaf were the perfect fit. Not only were they big enough to see the mismatches with a spread-em-out offense under center and in the pocket, but they were also big enough to take the inevitable beatings that were frequent under a one-back offense. With zero help back there on passing downs, usually that QB was on an island and defenses brought the house. But it was all about our QB finding the mismatch and getting the ball off before the D could get to him.

Obviously there are exceptions. Gesser was 6-1 and while he didn’t have the size or the arm, he had not only an understanding of the offense but an extra sense to avoid the pass rush that the great ones have, ala Brett Favre. So many times Gesser would roll away from pressure when it looked like he didn’t even know it was coming from a blind spot, etc. If you are ever bored, pull up the 2002 USC game and watch how many times Gesser is rolling out or rolling away from pressure and making plays. And of course, the red-headed stepchild, Alex Brink, lacked the great size and arm strength, but he put up the best career numbers in school history in this offense. (NO, we will NOT debate Brink anymore. It’s done.)

So, Schmidtke basically goes against the grain of what we normally look for and, obviously, hope for in a QB. But you have to remember the kind of new offense we will be running, and why it makes so much sense for a recruit like him to be a guy that is high on our board, while other schools might not feel so inclined.

First of all, consider the numbers: Completed an astounding 76 percent of his passes as a senior — racking up 2,724 yards and 37 TDs with only 5 interceptions. He also rushed for 10 scores. 2007 Tacoma News-Tribune’s All-Area Player of the Year, Seattle Times first team All-State. Earned Associated Press first-team Class 2B All-State honors following his junior season at Life Christian Academy when he threw for more than 3,000 yards, completing 66 percent of his passes, and posting 46 TDs vs. 15 INTs. Was an all-league choice as an LC sophomore after passing for a school record 2,379 yards with 23 TDs and 10 interceptions. Also plays safety. Grew three inches between his sophomore and junior seasons.

What does all that tell you? 76 percent of his passes in a pass-happy offense, with 37 TD’s and only 5 INT’s, is simply exceptional no matter how you slice it. Whether you are playing 8-man football, or even playing against air with your buddies in the street, seriously, 37 and 5?? WOW. That’s throwing a ton of strikes. And that’s all in an offense that is perfectly suited for him, not the traditional offense that might see him overwhelmed if he hung in the pocket every play.

Here’s a scouts read on Schmidtke, from ESPN.com:

Evaluation: Schmidtke is a productive quarterback prospect with the moxxy needed to move the chains and improvise when the original play breaks down. Lacks great size but is a crafty gunslinger who can buy extra time with his quick feet and throw on the run with above average accuracy. Ball handling skills and overall mechanics are adequate when he has time to settle his feet. Keeps the ball high upon delivery with an adequate release point. Flashes good wrist snap and rotation on intermediate-to-deep routes and shows good touch in the three-step game. However, he is not your prototypical drop back pocket passer lacking downfield arm strength and the velocity to fit the ball into tight spots in coverage. Tends to look at his intended target and flee the moment he feels pressure without going through progressions. Is a quick, decisive runner but does not warrant legit dual threat status that make him an ideal prospect in a zone read scheme at the next level. Bottom line, Schmidtke is a crafty quarterback prospect who takes command of the offense and is productive despite lack of ideal measurable; should excel in an open offense with the freedom to make plays.

Now, before you freak out over the line that says he does not warrant legit dual threat status in a zone read scheme, you should consider the numbers from Matt Nichols at EWU last year. Nichols threw from an astounding 3700+ yards, 34 TD’s and only 9 INT’s as a sophomore in ’07. It was the first year Nichols played in Todd Sturdy’s offense. But Nichols only rushed for 392 yards, so it’s not like you have to have the running ability of Jake Locker or Dennis Dixon to make an offense like this work. And Nichols is 6-2, certainly not the NFL scouts dream for size, but far and away good enough to just tear it up in this offense.

Here’s some footage of Schmidtke. The video is pretty grainy in spots, in fact it looks like some of it was taken with a cell phone camera(!), but you get the idea of the dual-threat he really looks like on a few of those runs. You also see him under center quite a bit, something he’ll never do in Pullman, and to me that makes him that much more impressive that he can be his size, yet still drop back and get the job done, even if he isn’t NFL-caliber:

Bottom line? In the new Todd Sturdy offense at WSU, Schmidtke looks like the perfect fit.