Sunday, September 6, 2009

Spread, Wildcat, Pistol, and Yes, the Single-Wing

Bama football has definite Gator flavor to it
Matt Hayes
Sunday, Sep. 6, 2009 - 1:30 a.m. ET

Yep, the fifth-ranked Tide joined the 21st Century Saturday night in a convincing 34-24 victory over No.7 Virginia Tech. Even Tim Tebow would've been proud.

"This is the first step in trying to create an identity for this team," said Alabama coach Nick Saban.

How's this for an identity: the zone read option, the Wildcat formation, the Pistol formation, the running game from the shotgun. If you didn't know any better, you'd swear the Florida Gators were running around the Georgia Dome.

"A little something different," said Alabama tailback Mark Ingram. "Maybe we'll keep using it."

You better believe they will. The last time the Tide was in this building, they were a handful of plays away from winning the SEC championship and playing for a national title.

Revamped Alabama has a new quarterback (better than the old one), a new running game (more dynamic than the old one) and the same nasty defense. The only question on this team – a rebuilt offensive line – has eased into the transition with the help of the spread option principles.

The Alabama offensive philosophy the past two years under Saban was fairly basic: line up under center, run it down your throat and throw over the top. Nothing freaky, fancy or forced.

The spread principles now allow this team to block more efficiently, yet still have an aggressive attitude at the point of attack. The misdirection and deception allows the line to peel off blocks quicker, instead driving and sustaining blocks with a power running game.

The first play of the game was Ingram running the Wildcat, and there were many more that followed. By the time Ingram scored on an 18-yard pass from Greg McElroy to finish the scoring, Alabama had nearly 500 yards off offense against one of the nation's best defenses -- including 268 yards rushing.

McElroy is more talented than last year's starter John Parker Wilson. Ingram and Roy Upchurch are just as potent – and more dynamic -- as Glenn Coffee. But no matter who Alabama throws out on the line, they're not close to what they lost in All-Americans Andre Smith and Antoine Caldwell.

So the change in philosophy really wasn't so much of a drastic step as it was a logical move in finding a way to make the offensive line more of a strength than a liability.

"We're still a physical line," said Alabama guard Mike Johnson. "This is the first game; we're going to grow with this with each week. There's no telling where it can takes us."

Maybe right back to the Georgia Dome in December for the SEC Championship game. With You Know Who on the other sideline.


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