I'd like to interrupt this week's Tennessee coverage briefly to go over something that has been thrown around by Smart Football, Spencer Hall (a.k.a. Orson from EDSBS), Senator Blutarsky, Rocky Top Talk, and I have no doubt others as well lately. It's the notion that Urban Meyer incorporating pro-style elements into his offense will be some kind of earth-shattering change.
For one thing, Meyer's offense has been different every year at Florida. In 2005, it was a big mess thanks to transitional issues and, thanks to injuries, a severe lack of playmakers. In 2006, things were more cohesive and a bit more opened up, plus it had the Tim Tebow as a changeup factor. In 2007, it was the Tebow and Percy Harvin show, with anything beyond them just periphery. In 2008, it was a true ensemble cast with Tebow, Harvin, Louis Murphy, Chris Rainey, Jeffrey Demps, and a variety of others making contributions.
Anyway, it was something that Meyer said before he got to Florida and it's something that remains true today: there is no Urban Meyer offense. He hardly invented anything that the team now runs. As Chris from Smart Football chronicles:
While at Notre Dame, he began meeting with his intellectual mentor (his actual mentors were guys like Lou Holtz), Scott Linehan. (Yes, that Scott Linehan.) He was hired as Head Coach of Bowling Green, and decided that -- in years that just happened to be the rather formative ones for the spread -- he would have his staff learn at the masters' feet...
Meyer directed his staff to make a midwest pilgrammage to learn from the likes of: John L. Smith and Scott Linehan at Louisville; Joe Tiller and Jim Chaney (now St. Louis Rams) at Purdue; Randy Walker and Kevin Wilson (now at Oklahoma) at Northwestern; and, of course, with Rich Rod at West Virginia...
So yeah, he went out and learned everything he knows about the spread. Meyer himself is fully willing to admit that too:
"Most of my ideas are ones that I have borrowed from someone else," adding, "The whole concept of the spread offense started from visiting other great offensive minds."
So what's the big deal?Well, the big theory from spring practice was that hiring pro-style QB coach Scot Loeffler and adding some under center stuff was to get Tebow ready for the draft. There may be some truth to that; I'd be surprised if there wasn't. However, Florida ran plenty of under center sets while Chris Leak was the quarterback (35% in the Ohio State game, for instance). The offensive staff has done it before and can do it again.
As Spencer pointed out, you have to evolve to survive in the SEC, so it makes sense to add things to the offense. That more than anything else is probably why we're going to see some pro-style stuff mixed in. It's one more thing for defenses to worry about.
I think what reignited these fires was the story that Meyer promised 2010 quarterback recruit Jesse Scroggins that Florida would move to "a more drop back style offense" once Tebow is gone. I can understand skepticism if you're not familiar with UF's depth chart, but the heir apparent is John Brantley, a "drop back style" quarterback. If they weren't going in that direction regardless of Scroggins, that would be the real story.
It's not that big a stretch, what with Meyer's football upbringing being heavily influenced by Woody Hayes and old time Big Ten football. Bill Belichick himself says Florida's existing offense "has a lot of pro elements to it." That's true, because a lot of the things the generic spread offense gets criticized about—wide splits between offensive linemen, linemen in two point stances, little power running, lack of toughness, etc.—don't apply to any of the iterations of Urban Meyer's offenses.
Meyer is not a chef coming up with lots of brilliant recipies. Instead, he's the one who compiles and edits the cookbook, adding only a couple things of his own making. Even some of his innovations, such as lining up a receiver (Harvin) at running back on a very regular basis, came more from necessity than anything else.
Meyer certainly believes in the spread offense philosophy of making the defense cover the entire field and getting the ball into your best playmakers' hands as much as possible 100%. How he goes about doing that is and has always been subject to change. We had two years of the offense made for Leak, and now three of an offense made for Tebow. After that will come the offense made for Brantley, and after that, who knows.
I guess my overarching point is this: don't be surprised to hear that Urban Meyer is changing his offense. If you ever hear that he's not changing a thing, that's when it becomes a real story.