Breaking Down the Spread Offense: The Trend

It wasn’t until this year where I, as a football coach, considered deploying even a series of the spread offense. While everyone is in love with it and it seems to be a trend, the spread can be ran efficiently with any personnel. Although there are many types of ways to deploy the spread, the most common is obviously an up tempo/no huddle.Through this article I hope to educate those who are more interested in the spread and give them a better understanding.


Two of the most common goals in any offense are obviously to score and win. Depending on how you use the spread your philosophy is different. Many teams obviously want to open up the field and confuse the defense. One simple dummy, audible, or cadence change can kill a defense’s original play call. The offense is based on the use of multiple spread formations to force the defense to spread the field; therefore it limits the number of defenders in the box.

Positional Breakdown


A quarterback in the spread offense has to be a smart QB and good at running or passing. He doesn’t have to be both, but one or the other. If you have a running QB such as Cleveland’s Johnny Manziel, chances are a couple of your second down calls will be QB keep options. Most of your third down calls then could either be play actions with the main target being a tight end pop, or a tailback bubble screen. If you have a pass first QB such as Nick Foles, you will have more personnel groupings with receivers that are active at the pre-snap, making man coverage harder for the defense.

Running Back

Many spread teams deploy a lot of two back personnel groups. A primary example of this will be the LSU Tigers, who this year will send in more two back personnel groups as the season goes on. The spread also originates its early beginnings from Bill Yeoman’s veer option, where a lot of the run plays sprouted from the mid-line veer. Some teams will script in some outside runs for certain situations, such as second and short and in the red zone along with green zone situations. At younger age levels, many teams that deploy a spread will often trade off their two running back personnel groups for a two tight end package. At the higher levels, you can deploy both on a more frequent basis.

Tight End

The tight end is one of the most vital positions in this offense. The great thing about the spread is that it welcomes all breeds of the position. Depending on what you want in your offense, you can plug in any tight end you want. If you are going to hybrid some ground and pound, then you can utilize your tight end as a block first end. If you are running an actual option series or putting it within your whole offense, (as in most cases), make sure your tight end is very athletic and can sprout off the line of scrimmage, serving as a decoy that will create the point of attack.

Wide Receivers

Receivers are very important in all aspects of the spread. Before the snap, your receivers adjustments are crucial to killing the defense’s original play. If you are in a pro right formation vs a 4-3 defense, and the QB calls an audible that sends the receiver from the opposite side to strong side, then he could possibly have drawn off a Sam or Will Linebacker that had a QB spy assignment. Receivers in the spread should be fast and capable of making crucial plays; and you should probably script some of your Cover 2 beaters that allow your receivers to make plays.

Offensive Line

Depending on how you use the spread, your blocking scheme will also be dictated. If you are going to go up tempo and no huddle, then you will most likely see a zone blocking scheme implemented. Your offensive tackles will somewhat differ in size from your guards, but it all depends on your philosophy.

Final Tips

If you’re a youth coach and running the spread like me, don’t just run the spread. I heavily recommend hybridizing the spread and another system. Also try to brand your spread offense. Every team that runs it is heavily unique.

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