Sunday, January 11, 2009

Title game offers blueprint

Title game offers blueprint
Matt Hayes

Thursday, Jan. 8, 2009 - 12:26 a.m. ET
MIAMI--A funny thing happened this fall: The NFL copied college football, which two years earlier, copied high school football. And now the Wildcat formation--or whatever funky term teams use--is the hot, new changeup in the coaching world.

Until next fall, that is. Until the sport of copycats adapts to something else.

"You're always looking," said Florida coach Urban Meyer, "for that little edge."

By the end of tonight's BCS national championship game, that edge could be Florida's speed-based, shotgun option offense, or Oklahoma's no-huddle, pass-happy scheme. It's fairly simple in the coaching world: Someone wins, others follow.

"Anyone who says they don't isn't telling the truth," said Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt.

It was Nutt who introduced the Wildcat, which he later changed to WildHog, to college football three years ago as coach at Arkansas. His new offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn brought it with him from Springdale (Ark.) High School, and now many in the game (and a few in the NFL) find a handful of snaps for their best athlete in what amounts to an old-school, single-wing formation.

Two years ago, LSU copied Nevada's Pistol Offense--single back, shotgun run formation--and it became a staple of the Tigers' national title run. This time around in the championship game, there are two more examples from which to choose, each with drastically different time frames for execution.

Oklahoma took the play clock rules changes this offseason and instituted a no-huddle scheme around the 40-second window from the end of the previous play. More plays meant more opportunity, and led to the highest-scoring team in the history of college football.

Florida's goal of recruiting speed first--no matter the size of the player--since Meyer arrived in Gainesville in 2005 has transformed the immensely popular spread option offense. Because the Gators run the option so well, it makes every other part of the offense that much harder to defend.

"You watch and you learn," said Texas coach Mack Brown. "We all do it one way or another."

Sporting News Today


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