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Rick Neuheisel On The Spread, Vince Young, OL Recruiting & NFL

Let's talk spread

A thought-provoking interview from Bruin Nation with Rick Neuheisel about myriad subjects of great interest. Neuheisel has grown a lot since his days at Colorado (hiding behind Cedric Cormier's couch - allegedly) and I respect his views though I don't find myself in raging agreement with all of them.

This comment about Vince Young and the feasibility of a true NFL spread captured my attention:

That being said, the other thing that kids are interested in today is the chance to go to play on Sundays. You are not seeing spread offenses played on Sundays. Vince Young would have been the perfect guy to go and do it, but even Vince Young didn’t want to do it. And I have it on authority, because Norm was there, because he doesn’t want to get hit anymore. He doesn’t want to get beat up on an every-Sunday basis and shorten his career length. So, quarterbacks that are interested in going to the NFL would like to be in pro-style offenses. So, you can go and attract guys.

For clarification, Neuheisel's definition of spread here clearly involves the QB as a significant runner - he's not talking about a pure passing spread like Tom Brady in New England, Graham Harrell at Tech, or Colt Brennan at Hawaii.

So, Vince: that's the first time I've read that. This is NEW. If I were Thomas Friedman, I would write an entire book around this premise....five years too late. I know Vince was more than willing to scramble in his rookie season and ran some draws, but I agree that running zone read consistently in the NFL is absolutely out of the question. Except that the Titans (or Vince, or both) took it too far in removing the run from his game. By trying to extend Vince's career, you effectively kill Vince's career by not allowing Vince to put pressure on the defense with his legs. All told, I'd rather strive for Gale Sayers' career - brief, brilliant, beloved - rather than Marc Wilson's.

As for the spread endangering your QB more than the pro-set at the college level, odd that a UCLA coach would opine thusly when you consider the Greek tragedy that has been UCLA QB depth over the last three years running out of pro-sets and 3 wide. I'd like to see the numbers on that rather than just the Dennis Dixon anecdote.

More good stuff....

Here's the pitch being made to Jake Matthews (albeit from USC and A&M):

[Likewise,] offensive linemen, frankly, would like to be in offenses that are going to be like the NFL because they’d like to have a chance to play in more of that scheme. It goes on down the line; the more you play like an NFL offense, the more the NFL can look and see your skill level and adapt it to that.

That doesn't seem to be impacting Baylor's Jason Smith and his draft status, but there's no question that the NFL is a league without a great deal of imagination when it comes to player projection at certain positions. They want to see you doing the things in college that they project you to in the NFL. That was the inherent advantage of an organization like the Patriots under Scott Pioli (before he left for KC) who can see Mike Vrabel as a great football player who can line up at DE, OLB, ILB, and catch goalline TDs while the rest of the league has him designated as a tweener with marginal talent.

It's a classic definitional problem: change the definitions and suddenly some very marginal football players trapped in the NFL positional straitjacket become Pro-Bowlers. Conversely, some great college spread players are rendered scrubs.

As for the spread in general, Ricky isn't necessarily hatin':

It’s a great question, and there are times when I look at spread offenses and I see value. The key to the spread offense, and the reason why its successful, is that it adds an extra player. It diminishes the need for great offensive linemen, because you’ve got a little longer because you are always in the gun, and the quarterback’s a runner. So, in essence, he becomes a blocker, and can account for an extra defender. All great thoughts, all great thoughts. The problem at UCLA is that you have to beat the Trojans. And it’s also the benefit at UCLA, because when you beat them, you’re going to be among the nation’s elite. So you have to be a physical offense. I know that two years ago SC got beat by Oregon up in Eugene, but his last year, SC with their physical defense was able to beat the heck out of a very, very good spread offense Oregon team.

Neuheisel understands the benefits of a running QB (he had Tuiasosopo at Washington) and ran quite a bit of option at CU with Kordell, but you can also see that his experience in the NFL as a QB coach and coordinator as well as watching his cross-town rival has tempered his view. I wonder if he considers the '05 Texas offense physical? Is there merit in his trying to create USC II in Westwood or should the Bruins blaze their own trail?

What do you think?