Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.


Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.


Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.


On the Offensive

Introduced back in the early 1990s, the spread offense has emerged as the hottest commodity in the college football market.

Each year there are more schools switching from their old offensive schemes to the spread.

Schools such as Florida, Utah, North Texas, Texas, LSU and West Virginia have switched, and this upcoming season Auburn and Michigan will change over as well.

In spite of the growing popularity of the spread offense, FAU prefers the pro-style two-back set. The Owls have run a pro-style offense for their entire eight-year existence.

Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez is considered the founder of the spread offense, which has evolved from the run-and-shoot offense over the past several years. The spread consists of no huddles, a shotgun snap, one running back (sometimes), a dual-threat quarterback and four or five receivers. The purpose of this offense is to spread the field, making the defense cover the entire field. The spread is also based on timing, with the receivers breaking off routes based on the quarterback’s drop.

FAU bases its offense off of the two back set, which is considered the pro set. It consists of two backs in the backfield, two receivers and a tight end. The philosophy behind this scheme is a simple one: take the pressure off the offense by being able to run the ball between the tackles and protect the quarterback.

“We never want our quarterback to get hit during the course of a game,” says offensive coordinator Gary Nord. “When you start taking backs out of the backfield, you start giving the defense shots at the quarterback.”

One of the biggest differences between the spread and pro set offenses is the use of the fullback and tight end positions. Most spread offenses don’t even use a fullback or tight end, while FAU relies heavily on both.

“The fullback is a very critical part of our offense,” Nord says. FAU’s reliance on the fullback requires the person filling that position (Willie Rose is the current starter) to be extremely versatile and athletic, as he is asked to perform multiple functions in the offense.

“We have them blocking on lineman, linebackers, defensive backs, and have them running short, medium and deep routes,” Nord says.

The tight end in FAU’s offensive system is also vital. He serves as a run blocker but also a very valuable receiver. FAU likes to throw high completion percentage passes, making the tight end the first progression for the quarterback on a number of plays. FAU’s tight ends, Rob Housler and Jamari Grant, are also extremely quick with their ability to stretch the field by going deep – creating mismatches with either a safety or linebacker forced to cover them. The tight ends are always leading receivers for FAU.

These positions are so vital to FAU’s success that fullbacks and tight ends are ranked very highly on the pecking order when it comes time for recruiting. “Quarterback is our number one priority, then tight end, and then fullback,” Nord says.

With FAU’s dependence on these positions and more and more teams changing to spread, FAU is reaping the benefits of other schools not pursuing players at these positions.

“We been able to get better kids at those positions because no other schools are recruiting them anymore,” Nord says.

Another reason for FAU’s success last year was their ability to change up their offense. Although the Owls’ run the two back set as their base offense, they also run multiple formations and are able to move the ball quickly down field when necessary.

Last year FAU used a two back set 50 percent of the time, a one back 35 percent of the time and an empty set 15 percent of the time. “We have the ability to run the fast break offense when we need to,” Nord says.

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