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August 19, 2009

Embracing the spread

Talking to Iowa State's new offensive coordinator is both elightening and refreshing.

Enlightening because Tom Herman knows the ins and outs of the spread offense, which he's installing under new head coach Paul Rhoads. Refreshing because Herman acknowledges something that should have been said long ago about coaching at Iowa State.

Herman says there's no way the Cyclones can line up against the heavyweights of the Big 12 and play head-to-head, smash-mouth football. As Herman puts it, you can't play Texas and Oklahoma in a phone booth. The Cyclones simply don't -- and won't ever -- have the athletes to match what the Longhorns and Sooners and others of their ilk can put on the field.

So forget the two-back set and power running game. Go another direction. I say amen to that and this is where the spread comes in.

Herman used the spread to put up some big numbers at Rice and jokes that the Owls did it with a bunch of doctors and lawyers. They also won -- 10-3 last season with a victory over Western Michigan in the Texas Bowl while averaging 471 yards and 41 points a game. Sure beats the heck out of 2-10.

Now, running an offense against Tulane, UTEP and Tulsa isn't quite the same as trying to make yards against Oklahoma State, Missouri and Nebraska. And the Cyclones will still face a lot of superior athletes on the other side of the field no matter how they line up.

But if they can spread those athletes out and create some space in which to maneuver, they might have a chance to do some damage. It's a lot easier to beat one defender than three. And if a guy can make that one defender miss, he's likely off on a big gainer. Herman and the Cyclones aren't going to be greedy, though. "We're going to celebrate four yards,'' he said. "If we make four yards on every snap, last time I checked, we'd be scoring touchdowns on every single drive.''

When you add a hurry-up, no-huddle component to the equation, that puts even more stress on a defense because it doesn't have time to substitute and adjust. And if you keep coming at a defense, maybe it'll wear down late in the game. As Herman sees it, "A tired great athlete isn't as good as our fresh good athlete.''

It'll be awhile before we see how this all shakes out, but at least the Cyclones are trying something different.

It's about time.

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