Top 5 Football Offense Schemes
Football season is once again upon us. Our team ranked the Top 5 Football Offense Schemes.
Love him or hate him, you can’t deny that Mike Leach is one of the most entertaining characters in college football today. During his days at Texas Tech, his gruff—and at times odd—behavior was only matched by his unusual offensive game plan that called for airing it out early and often, regardless of opponent.
Nicknamed the “Air Raid,” Leach’s Red Raiders were fairly successful over his 10 seasons in Lubbock, finishing with a record of 84-43 and never missing a bowl trip. Then at Washington State, Leach continued his aerial attacks, only this time with limited success.
The cornerstone of a Leach offense is the set number of rehearsed plays that often come in an empty (5-wide) or balanced (4-wide) formation. These plays are fairly well scripted, can be called at almost any time, and require little if any on-field, in-game preparation.
The Midshipmen of Navy, like their brethren up in New York, lack the size and pure athleticism we see from the nation’s top football programs. Since every cadet and midshipman must adhere to military fitness standards, a 320-pound lineman is out of the question for the academies.
So how can Navy compete so well against other FBS programs? It’s all about the offensive scheme.
Navy runs a flexbone triple-option offense that was once one of the premiere systems in football. As players got bigger, strong and faster, the flex began to fall by the wayside with the introduction of pro style, run-and-gun, west coast and spread offenses. But therein lies the secret to Navy’s success.
Since the flex triple-option is so rare this day in age, most teams have a very difficult time defending it. Navy opponents never really know where the ball will be going next, and the Midshipmen are masters at misdirection.
Whether the ball goes up the middle with the fullback, around the end with the quarterback, or out to the wings with the halfback, an opposing defense must defend each option flawlessly. In effect, Navy has three players carrying the ball on every play, and in this shell game, the defense has to be not only very good, but a little lucky, too.
Some people love the pistol, others think it’s a gimmick. When Chris Ault invented the current version of Nevada’s pistol, he used it to guide the Wolf Pack to eight-straight bowl games, and 11 in his previous 13 seasons (he did not coach the 1993 team, nor 1996-2003) before his retirement at the end of 2012.
Ault took over a Nevada program when it was a small Division II team back in the 1970s. He guided the program through its years in the FCS (then Division I-AA) until it became an FBS member in 1992.
The pistol formation places the quarterback halfway between a shotgun position and directly under center—basically a mini-gun, hence the name. From this vantage point, the quarterback makes defensive reads before the snap and has added time to throw the ball compared to under center. Otherwise, he can hand the ball off to a back who is much closer to the line of scrimmage, giving defenses much less time to react.
Okay, you caught us. Here’s another scheme we’re including on this list that isn’t truly “creative,” but is pretty unusual these days.
These days, Wisconsin looks every bit the Big Ten team of yesteryear. The Badgers love a big, powerful run game, and while it may not be very flashy at first glance, it’s guided Wisconsin to three straight Big Ten titles and trips to the Rose Bowl Game.
Every season, the names on the backs of the jerseys change, but the team is essentially the same: ginormous offensive linemen, powerful running backs and a quarterback who can manage the game even with questionable passing skills.
When the spread was introduced, it was clear that a revolution was underway. Chip Kelly and the Oregon Ducks took the spread and injected some monster steroids into it, creating the most prolific offensive scheme we’ve ever seen in the history of college football.
The Ducks take the spread, combine it with the air raid, and mix it with the energy of a three-year-old who just found a stash of Pixy Stix. Kelly put together this system at Oregon as offensive coordinator in 2007 and 2008 under head coach Mike Bellotti. Bellotti and Kelly developed the system that is still in use today, and has led the Ducks to four-straight BCS bowl appearances.
The trademark of this system is not only it’s typical spread formations and play-calling, but the speed at which the plays are executed. Rather than a typical system of hand signals and armband checks, Oregon revolutionized the signal system with a series of poster boards with four pictures or symbols. At a glance in under a second, every Oregon player on the field knows exactly what to do next. This allows Oregon to get plays off very quickly, often with more than 20 seconds remaining on the play clock.
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