Big 12 football notes: Spread challenges defenses

Tuesday, July 22, 2008 | 8:21 p.m. CDT; updated 9:46 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy listens to a reporter's question Tuesday during the Big 12 Football Media Days in Kansas City. Gundy spoke about his “I’m a man!” rant that made him a YouTube sensation. "I think in society today that those are the things that people thrive on, unfortunately, in my opinion," he said. "I don’t care much for off-the-field issues and it’s not something that I contemplated.”

KANSAS CITY — The spread offense has been a boon to the Big 12, helping teams like Missouri and Kansas transition from also-rans to national title contenders.
But for all the talk about the success offenses have with the spread, what about the defenses that have to stop it? That, uh, hasn’t been so great.
“The spread offense is a pain to stop,” Colorado safety Ryan Walters said Tuesday, the second of the Big 12’s media days. “There’s so many options, especially you see in today’s game. You’ve got to be smart players to stop the spread offense.”
The difficulty of stopping the spread is its complexity.
It’s generally run out of the shotgun, giving the quarterback extra time to survey the defense and decide what he wants to do and the defensive backfield usually gets flooded with receivers, making it hard to account for everyone. There’s plenty of options out of the formation, as well: throwing receiver screens near the sidelines, getting the ball to a running back on a swing pass or draw, having the quarterback roll out to throw a pass.
And since no two teams run the offense exactly the same, coaches have to shift the type of defense they run, almost on a weekly basis.
“You have to be very multiple and be able to effectively deal with everything you’re going to see on a week-to-week basis,” Nebraska coach Bo Pelini said. “You can’t just line up and have one base defense and expect to stop everything you’re going to see over the course of 12, 13 games.”
The spread is relatively new to the Big 12 and defenses are still struggling to figure out how to stop it.
The general consensus so far is that slowing the spread requires pressure on the quarterback, forcing dump-off passes underneath instead of long throws downfield, and sure tackling when the offensive players do get the ball.
But with all the chaos that comes with the spread and the talented quarterbacks who know how to run it, theory and reality don’t always collide.
“I don’t think it matters whether you’re veterans or rookies, you’re going to have some problems with the talent we have in this league,” Colorado coach Dan Hawkins said.
GUNDY’S GAME: Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy earned a bit of unwanted fame with his “I’m a man!” rant that made him a YouTube sensation. It didn’t take him long to reference it in his media session on Tuesday.
“I’ve been a popular guy over the last year,” he said.
Gundy earned his fame with a tirade following a win over Texas Tech last season. He took exception with a column in The Daily Oklahoman and berated the author for criticizing a college athlete, yelling out “I’m a man! I’m 40!” during the post-game news conference.
So what was the first question after his opening remarks on Tuesday? You guessed it.
“You’d have to ask the players how it’s affected the team,” Gundy said. “I don’ think they put as much into it as maybe what the media does. I think in society today that those are the things that people thrive on, unfortunately, in my opinion. I don’t care much for off-the-field issues and it’s not something that I contemplated.”
JAYHAWK SCHEDULE: Kansas was criticized for riding a weak schedule to the Orange Bowl last year.
That won’t be the case this year — at least in conference.
While the Jayhawks’ preseason schedule still isn’t all that demanding, with the likes of Florida International, Louisiana Tech and Sam Houston State, the conference schedule includes Oklahoma, Texas and Texas Tech.
Get through those games, along with rivals Missouri and Kansas State, and it’s going to be hard to complain about Kansas this year.
“We want to be able to play against all the best teams in our league and be able to beat them,” Kansas coach Mark Mangino said. “That’s the test for our program. We will never truly get over the hump, in my eyes — I don’t know how anybody else sees it — until we’re about to defeat those teams as well.”
MISSING JORDY: Kansas State quarterback Josh Freeman doesn’t miss Jordy Nelson.
What? A quarterback not missing an All-American wideout? Something’s got to be wrong.
Nope. That’s the way Freeman feels.
“It was fun playing with him, but I won’t miss him at all,” he said.
OK, so maybe it was a bit of an overstatement, a way to express faith in the remaining receivers, which Freeman elaborated on later.
“I’ll miss him as a person, we were really good friends, but I feel like our offense is going to be able to keep on going as if we didn’t lose Jordy,” Freeman said. “Like I said, he’s a great player, but that’s how the game of college football is; guys graduate and you can’t even think about it. It’s not like there’s something I could have done to keep him here.”

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