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On Gimmick Offenses

A little while back, there was a good post on Burnt Orange Nation about Texas Tech, and how a "gimmicky offense" doesn't inherently lead to a team having poor defenses. Of course, the reason I bring this up is because of the perception that Rich Rodriguez run a gimmick offense himself, and the fear that this wouldn't work at a high level.
Essentially, the theory goes: (1) offenses can be enginnered[sic] to take advantage of inferior athletes much more easily than defenses. (2) defenses require great athletes to be great. (3) it's very hard to recruit great athletes to Lubbock, Texas. (4) therefore, Leach's offenses have outpaced his defenses. Look around college football at the mid-level programs that have over-achieved in the past 10 years. What do they all have in common? Explosive offense; spotty defense.
This holds true for West Virginia to a certain extent as well. While Rodriguez's recent success enabled him to recruit better players to Morgantown, WV, it was the Mountaineer offenses that became known around the nation, not the defenses. Recently, the defensive was able to improve based on the success of the team overall. Obviously, Michigan has been a national power, and will not have the same recruiting difficulties as Texas Tech or West Virginia.
If any of you have read the Blind Side by Michael Lewis, you'll recall his discussion of Bill Walsh's innovative West Coast offense. Well, NOW it's called innovative. Back when it was introduced, it was thought of as gimmicky and voodoo. Sound familiar? Then Walsh (who himself said that defensive prowess depends primarily on having great athletes and smart football players, not a scheme) and his 49ers got a defense and won a few Super Bowls and now teams freely use the West Coast Offense as a viable system.
Of course, Michigan's defense is expected to carry the torch in year one while the offense plays catch-up, so will the Rodriguez spread simply considered "innovative" rather than "gimmicky" in no time flat?
Leach could have been content with Tech being a mediocre team that loses to good teams with better players and beats the teams it's supposed to. But he instead created a system that allowed his inferior players to beat the best on any given Saturday. Unfortunately for Leach, however, if his offensive system isn't working, Tech can lose to teams that have even more inferior talent than it. Why? In short, no damn defense.
Of course, a lack of offense explained the WVU loss to Pitt, but it wasn't because they had "no damn defense" (Pitt only put up 14 points). The lack of the system working and special teams blunders (due to Pat White's injury and missing three field goals, respectively) were to blame here. With ability to recruit better backups and, presumably, special teams players than West Virginia, hopefully Michigan can avoid upsets of this nature.

In the end, it comes down to Michigan having a "decided schematic advantage" over the opponents (note: actual advantage, not Weis-labeled advantage) on offense, without the defensive difficulties that a team like Texas Tech or West Virginia may encounter. With an effective offensive system and the ability to recruit high-caliber defensive recruits, the sky is the limit for the Wolverines.

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“On Gimmick Offenses”

  1. Anonymous Obes Says:

    excellent post, both by you and the blog you cited

  2. Blogger J. Lichty Says:

    We saw this in the Big Ten with NW and Minnesota. NW succeeded with its version of a spread and Minn with its zone blocking scheme under Mason. Neither team had a defense but they could hang up some yards. NW obviously had a little more success, but Minn. story is also a remarkable show of offensive coaching and lack of jims and joeys on defense.

    Defenses with slow undersized defensive linemen and linebackers were the staple of both of these programs, but each could beat you on a given day.