Saturday, August 1, 2009

New offense shines for Eagles in scrimmage

By Craig Harris • The News Examiner • August 1, 2009

WESTMORELAND – The Westmoreland High School football team is ready to move forward after Friday afternoon’s three-hour scrimmage with visiting Friendship Christian and White House Heritage, which took place on the rain-soaked practice field at WHS.

“We’re working on our basic stuff,” explained Eagles’ first-year head coach Bronson Bradley. “Now, I know we can go to the next phase. I know which kids I can rely on. That’s really big.”

Bradley has taken Westmoreland away from its traditional wing-T offense and implemented the single-wing attack, which had considerable success in Friday’s scrimmage action.

The three teams alternated 10-play offensive series, and the Eagles’ first-team offense scored on each of its four series. However, due in part to a middle school scrimmage taking place on the other end of the practice complex, each possession started only 30 or 40 yards from the end zone.

“I’m very pleased,” said Bradley. “We score every six plays. That was our average.

“Friendship Christian had a good-sized defense, which is something we might see (in Class 3A/4A).”

Both the Commanders and the Patriots are now Class 2A programs (moving up from Class 1A), while the Eagles reside in 3A in the new six-classification set-up. FCS was the 1A state runner-up in 2006 and finished 10-2 a year ago, with its only losses coming to eventual state champion Trousdale County and to No. 1-ranked South Pittsburg in the second round of the 1A playoffs.

However, Westmoreland had success against both teams early on.

The Eagles scored on their sixth play, on a 9-yard touchdown run by senior Cody Green. Green and quarterback Caleb Smith had first-down runs on the two prior plays.

Smith completed passes to seniors Dex Sadler and Cody Scruggs after that, but Smith’s pass into the end zone on the 10th and final play was broken up.

The Eagles didn’t allow a touchdown on their first defensive series against White House Heritage, but Friendship Christian victimized the Westmoreland defense for four first downs and three touchdowns on the ensuing 10 plays. Commander quarterback Lee Maasen threw to John Markham for an 18-yard touchdown. Maasen also had a tackle-breaking, 40-yard scoring scamper, and Markham ran 17 yards for the third touchdown.

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“Our secondary is our backbone,” pointed out Bradley, whose program finished 10-2 a year ago (reaching the second round of the 2A playoffs before falling at Boyd-Buchanan). “Our secondary is our strong point, and a couple of times, we had some breakdowns, not staying with our man long enough. That’s easy to fix. That’s our most experienced group on the field.”

However, the Eagles made the going tougher as the first-team defense’s final three series were considerably better, one of which resulted in no points (though the Patriot first-team offense did score on its final two possessions).

Westmoreland senior defensive back Michael Johnson had a pair of tackles for losses on the series in which White House Heritage didn’t score, and senior linebacker Josh Champion ended that series by hitting the Patriot quarterback as he was handing off, causing a fumble on the final play of the possession.

Eagle junior lineman Matt Rollin also had a tackle for a loss later in the scrimmage, and sophomore defensive back Zach Lo had an interception for Westmoreland.

White House Heritage quarterback John Moore had a 16-yard touchdown run against the Commanders, and he also ripped off a 34-yard scoring jaunt on his squad’s final offensive series against the host squad.

Patriot quarterback Cameron Vitulli also threw a touchdown, a 15-yarder to Dakota Brant.

Green and junior quarterback Michael Tolley had first-down runs on the Eagle first-team offense’s second series, and Tolley eventually scored on a 1-yard keeper. That 10-play series ended with Vitulli’s interception in the end zone, on a pass intended for tight end Derrick Stamps.

Smith kept the football around the left end on Westmoreland’s third first-team possession and made a late pitch to a trailing Johnson, resulting in a 20-yard gain. That set up Green’s 7-yard scoring run.

Sadler also caught passes of 10 and 19 yards, making a leaping grab before he was tackled at the 1 yard line on the final play of the series.

Sadler finished with five receptions for 45 yards.

Green’s 15-yard dash set up the final Eagle touchdown, Tolley’s 8-yard run off right tackle.

In junior-varsity action, Westmoreland junior defensive back Ethan Bell recovered an FCS fumble, and sophomore defensive back David Sanders intercepted a Commander pass.

However, the Eagles’ second-team offense in the scrimmage wasn’t able to score, due in part to three interceptions.

Westmoreland freshman quarterback Wyatt Carter appeared to have thrown a touchdown pass to Logan Troutt late in the scrimmage, but Troutt was ruled out of the back of the end zone.

Carter reached the end zone moments later on a run, and Carter also threw a touchdown pass to freshman split end Spencer Hodge on the final play of the scrimmage.

The Eagles travel to Clarksville next Friday for a scrimmage against Northwest.

Westmoreland opens its season on Aug. 28, at East Literature.

New coach, New Offense has given Coyotes new hope

Football countdown 2009: No. 30 Tornillo
By Lenny Jurado / El Paso Times
Posted: 07/28/2009 11:11:02 PM MDT

EL PASO -- Jesus Escobedo and his teammates on the Tornillo football team vow not to repeat last year's dismal season.

"Certainly, we won't go 0-10 because we've been working hard and busting our butts," Escobedo, a senior, said. "We've united as a family."

There also is a new head of the table, former team defensive coordinator Don Tillson.

So it's with new leadership and vigor that the Coyotes venture into the 2009 season, hoping to surprise people and build a tradition along the way.

Step 1 began in the off-season.

"This off-season we had with the new coach is nothing compared to the years before that," senior Danny Garcia said. "The off-season was different. We had to adjust because we weren't used to all the weight lifting and running."

This season, Tornillo looks to field 35 players combined for both junior varsity and varsity, Tillson said. The Coyotes had 25 athletes and no JV last year.

Eleven lettermen return, and the group is led by Escobedo (5-foot-10, 175 pounds), a tight end and linebacker, and Garcia (5-9, 185), a running back and linebacker. Both were All-District 4-3A picks in 2008.

One change fans can expect to see is different offensive and defensive schemes.

"We're going to run the single wing offense, which is designed to run the clock," Tillson said. "We're going to just run the football, try to keep the ball out of the other team's hands and give us an opportunity for good angle blocks. We're going to be deceptive in the backfield, and that will help us level the playing field, hopefully.
"Defensively, we're going to run a variation of the four-down split, and that will vary depending on what offense we'll be facing."

Iron-man football has been the norm for Tornillo, but Tillson plans to platoon as much as possible.

So far, the players have welcomed the changes, as well as their new coach.

"He's been trying to prove what he's been telling us," Escobedo said. "He's trying to make it happen. He's not all talk."

Tillson, Tornillo's third head coach in as many years, previously has coached at North Dallas, Irving and Nimitz -- all Class 5A high schools.

He realizes the challenge ahead, and although he can't promise X-number of wins, he does see improvement on the horizon.

More than anything, though, Tillson said the goal is to help mold the boys into productive student-athletes.

"The most important thing I can do is try to get them to graduate, help them do the right thing, (instill) a hard work ethic, not taking shortcuts, and hey, if they become better citizens, better fathers, better (soldiers), better teachers and coaches ... that's our job. And as we teach that, winning will take care of itself."

Spread of the spread: Florida's success quiets critics, creates copycats

Posted by Kevin Scarbinsky -- Birmingham News August 01, 2009 1:43 PM
This story appeared in the Saturday, August 1, edition of The Birmingham News.

Urban Meyer remembers two things in particular from his first road trip to Alabama in his first season at Florida.

Before and after that visit to Bryant-Denny Stadium, he heard voices.
During warm-ups, he said, "I'm standing near the goal post. They flip that scoreboard on. Bear Bryant is right there talking to me. I'll never forget that."

But that pregame blast from the past didn't speak as loudly as the postgame critics. They saw Alabama 31, Florida 3 as a sign that Meyer wasn't going to change the future of the SEC.

At least not with his newfangled offense. It looked like the spread was dead on arrival.

"I was very concerned," Meyer said. "I started believing what I was hearing."

Four years, two SEC championships and two BCS titles later, seeing is believing. It hasn't turned the SEC into the Big 12, and it hasn't happened as fast as the legend of Tim Tebow, but the spread has begun to spread from Gainesville throughout the conference.

"There certainly is some gratification in that," Meyer said.

Three SEC schools hired new head coaches after last season. Two of them will run a version of the spread offense.

Mississippi State hired Dan Mullen, Meyer's long-time offensive coordinator, as its new head coach even before Florida won its second national title in three years.

The Bulldogs traded Sylvester Croom's failed West Coast offense for the Meyer-Mullen spread they started together at Bowling Green, took to Utah and brought to Florida.

"I don't know if we're spread option, spread passing, spread running or just spread," Mullen said. "To me, we're a multiple spread team. I want to make sure the defense has to defend the field sideline to sideline."

Auburn swapped one kind of spread for another when new head coach Gene Chizik hired Gus Malzahn as his offensive coordinator.

That brings the number of true spread teams in the SEC to three, but others will feature some spread principles.

Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino said his Razorbacks "use some of the different personnel groups that are aspects of the spread offense."

While at Arkansas, current Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt -- with Malzahn as his offensive coordinator -- popularized a spread-like set with someone other than the quarterback taking direct snaps and running or throwing.

The Wild Hog in Fayetteville has become the Wild Rebel in Oxford, with wideout Dexter McCluster the primary trigger man.

"That gives us a chance to throw a little knuckleball in there," Nutt said.

Chizik made it clear that not all spread offenses are created equal.

"I get asked all the time about the spread offense," he said. "My question back to the people who ask me about the spread offense is: Please tell me what kind of spread offense you're talking about because there's so many different variations about what people want to call the spread."

The Tony Franklin spread Auburn employed in 2008 -- at least until Tommy Tuberville fired Franklin after six games -- looked a lot different than the spread Malzahn will use this season.

"We want to run the football, but we also want to be able to have a very balanced passing attack too," Chizik said. "Everybody wants to have a balanced attack."

High school trend, too
The spread already had spread to high schools. Malzahn won multiple state championships with it as a prep head coach in Arkansas. Former Hoover coach Rush Propst did the same in Alabama.

That has changed college recruiting, especially at quarterback, Petrino said. Because so many high school teams run the spread, with the quarterback in the shotgun, it's hard to find a signal-caller who takes snaps under center. Or even huddles.

"That's something that's holding Tyler Wilson back a little bit right now," Petrino said of his highly touted redshirt freshman from Greenville, Ark., who enters fall camp as the backup to Ryan Mallett.

"He was a very good high school player, but since eighth grade, he took every snap no-huddle shotgun. Didn't even step in a huddle and call a play. Didn't get underneath the center and learn how to make a handoff."

The spread hasn't spread to the NFL, except in limited cases, such as former Auburn tailback Ronnie Brown taking direct snaps for the Miami Dolphins.

But the spread has given NFL scouts and coaches headaches as they try to evaluate players who run that system in college.

Alabama coach Nick Saban said an NFL general manager wrote asking how he looks at quarterbacks because the GM admitted "having a more difficult time evaluating players that play in that offense."

Tebow will be an interesting case study there. As a consensus builds that the Florida quarterback is one of the best players in college history, opinions of his ability to play that position in the NFL vary wildly.

"I think he'll be a winner in the NFL," Saban said. "But I think everybody needs to understand that the NFL struggles to evaluate people who don't do in college what they look for guys to do in the pros.

"I think Florida has a great offense. I think it's very difficult to defend. So I'm not being critical. But it is different."

Saban should know.

His Alabama defense was dominant last season as the Crimson Tide rolled through the regular season 12-0. Then it faced two of the most prominent proponents of the spread offense, Florida in the SEC Championship Game and Utah in the Sugar Bowl.

Alabama surrendered a season-high 31 points to both the Gators and the Utes and lost both games.

"The concept of the spread offense is outstanding because it makes the quarterback an 11th gap on defense," Saban said. "If you only had to defend that all the time, I think we could all get a little better at it. It's the multiple of the different things you see throughout the season that make it more difficult."

So the good news for SEC defenses is they'll see the spread more than ever. But that also could be bad news, at least for the defenses that have to figure a way to slow Tebow and Florida.

As much as he likes the scheme, Meyer, the spread's pied piper, said it still comes down to the players running it, not the coaches drawing it up.

Meyer remembered that the 2005 loss at Alabama came during a four-week stretch in which his offense was "probably the worst since I've been head coach." Key injuries contributed, as did the growing pains of getting older players such as then-Florida quarterback Chris Leak to adjust to the system and getting the system to adapt to the talents of Leak and his teammates.

"It's all personnel-based," Meyer said. "If you have very good players, it's going to be a very good offense."

>> The spread is a label for several variations of the wide-open offenses now prevalent in college football. There's Rich Rodriguez's zone-read option, Florida's version of the single-wing with Tim Tebow, and Texas Tech's pass-happy Air Raid, to name just a few.
>> Most spread offenses contain no huddle, a shotgun snap, four or five receivers, and no more than one running back. Some spreads work at a fast pace to wear down defenses, and others wait at the line for a play call to match the defense.
>> The spread is all about matchups. The goal is to spread defenders across the width of the field, leaving one-on-one matchups for running backs and receivers. The spread can also recognize blitzes better because spreadout defenders can tip themselves off when they intend to blitz.
>> The quarterback is the most critical component in the spread. He must make plays on the run, both out of design and necessity when plays break down. And he better have a backup because a spread quarterback will get hit. Receivers need to read defenses and adjust routes. Tailbacks must pose receiving threats out of the backfield. Offensive linemen often play in a standing position.