Balance Redefined In The Spread Offense

Balance 'Redefined' In The Spread Offense
You can hear about it everyday from fans with even the most basic knowledge of the game of football.  It is something that some coaches meticulously strive for, despite the fact that there are no points awarded for it, and some of the most successful coaches at any level completely disregard it.  “It” is balance in play calling.
It baffles me to see coaches who line up in the I formation try to force horrible passes to tiny receivers and disrupt the flow of the game when they have a 200 lb. hoss dotting their I, or to see a phenomenal quarterback being forced to hand the ball off to a glorified guard behind a sub-par line while athletes roam free on the perimeter.  The traditional idea of 50/50 pass/run play calling is in desperate need of an update.
You may ask what gives me the right to make that statement, but I can assure you that the statement is not mine alone.  Paul Johnson is one of the hottest names in college coaching, and if his previous record is any indication, Georgia Tech will probably be more than slightly weighted toward the running side. 
Also, look at the teams with coaches from the Hal Mumme influence (Mike Leach, Chris Hatcher, etc.), you find these teams easily pushing 50 passes a game.  How can there be this blatant lack of balance?  I would submit that there may actually already be balance in these instances.
The spread offense can be a bit tricky with “balance.”  Some spread teams, like Texas Tech, can be successful throwing the football 65 times in a game, while West Virginia might run the football more than they throw it from a spread option look.  Also, there are teams that have made it awfully close to that magical 50/50 like Troy University.  Somehow, we have to find consistency in the successful play-calling from all three of these instances.  Something has to keep the defense guessing, even if play-calls have been weighted to the ground or air.
Balance in the spread has to be measured in touches.  Backs, slots, and outside receivers should all get about the same number of touches.  Obviously, the best back, the best slot, and the best outside receiver should get the most touches from their respective groups, but the defense needs to be forced to defend everyone.  Here’s an example.
If X has 9 touches, Y has 8 touches, Z has 13 touches, B has 19 touches (14 from the slot, and 5 from the backfield), and A has 17 touches; you would have 22 touches by the outside receivers, 22 touches by slot receivers, and 22 touches by backs.  That, I submit, is pretty good balance, even though the more talented players (A, B, and Z) got more touches and passing and rushing were not even brought into account.
In this offense, it really does not matter how you get the ball to a player.  It is obviously easy to throw the ball to any skill position player on the field.  Sometimes getting the ball to a playmaker on a running play can require some creativity.  You can motion him into the backfield for a handoff, or behind the backfield to be a pitch man on an option or flip play; or you can take the ball to him on a reverse.  Again, the value is in forcing the defense to respect every player, regardless of his position on the field.  Also, the defense is forced to show a lack of depth at some position when balance is maintained on the outside (corners), slot (OLB’s and safeties), and backfield (ILB’s and DL).
In summation, as an offensive coordinator, you have to do what you are best at doing.  You have to get the ball into the hands of your best players.  You do not have to spend time scripting in unproductive plays just to keep your run/pass ratio close to 50/50.  Do what you do well—with who does it well—and do it often.
Written by: Coach Kenn

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