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THE SPREAD: From Texas to Syracuse, Dino Babers brings the Baylor-style offense

first_imgAfter being the head coach for two years at both Hamlin (Texas) High School and Georgetown (Texas) High School from 1984-87, Briles took over at Stephenville in 1988. His schematic roots came from former Houston head coach Bill Yeoman, who Briles played for in college. Yeoman was famous for running the veer offense with the Cougars.The veer typically features the quarterback under center with two halfbacks behind him. The triple option — a quarterback option to hand the ball off up the middle, pitch it to the outside or keep it — is a cornerstone of the system.But Stephenville didn’t have the players who could win their individual battles in the trenches and open up running lanes.The following year, the Yellow Jackets ran an offense that included both option run plays and pro-style pass plays, meaning traditional three-, five- and seven-step drops in the pocket. Stephenville lost in the second round of the playoffs.Briles knew he needed to do something different. Something to make it easier for the running backs to find space. Something to compensate for a lack of skill.“We were playing people and getting out-athleted,” Merket said. “We had to figure out ways to put ourselves in better situations.” By the time players on that 1998 team reached the varsity level, they had already been running the scheme since junior high. That “smoke and mirrors” proved itself by helping Stephenville to back-to-back state titles in 1993 and 1994.Coaches often talk about getting playmakers the ball in space. Briles’ teams have executed it as well as any. His key is simplifying the concepts.“I wasn’t the brightest (Briles) ever coached, that’s for sure,” said Kelan Luker, Stephenville’s starting quarterback in 1998, “but he made it so I didn’t have to think so much. I just had to throw.”In 2000, Briles went to Texas Tech as the Raiders’ running backs coach. But the difference between Briles’ scheme and Mike Leach’s, then the head coach at TTU, is that the Raiders barely ever run the ball. The style developed at Stephenville stemmed from a desire to open up running space.Even in Baylor’s bowl game last season, Briles’ offense ran for 645 yards against North Carolina. Several quarterbacks sustained injuries and the Bears relied on the running game. The yardage gained stood out, but the concept wasn’t anything out of the ordinary. It’s always been a staple of the system.The offense has had continued success since Briles brought it to the college game as a head coach in 2003 at Houston. Quarterback Kevin Kolb threw for 12,964 in Briles’ first four years running the show with the Cougars.In order to stop the high-powered offense, Memphis tried using a 2-4 base defense in 2005. Two linemen and four linebackers set up to reduce the matchup advantages Briles created.“They kind of slowed us down,” former Stephenville and Houston offensive lineman Sterling Doty said. Houston scored eight fewer points than its season average. Still, the Cougars put 20 on the scoreboard.,The reason it’s hard to defend Briles’ system is because it’s hard to define. Rarely is a play called that is strictly designated as a run or a pass. Based on the defense’s alignment, the quarterback can choose which type would be best.The first time Mike Spradlin, Houston’s offensive line coach in 2003, came off the field after a practice, he could barely wrap his mind around the scheme.“What just happened?” Spradlin thought to himself after the offense cruised up and down the field.Thirteen years later, people are still wondering the same thing. While parts of the scheme have been adopted by others, only four schools in the country — Tulsa, Texas, Baylor and Syracuse — are running systems similar to what Briles created.Now it comes to the Atlantic Coast Conference. And if it has the same kind of success it’s had elsewhere, defensive coordinators around the league will keep asking the same question.Banner photo courtesy of @UHCougarFB. Comments Published on August 29, 2016 at 7:01 am Contact Paul: [email protected] | @pschweds,Cancel replyYou must be logged in to post a comment. Dino Babers’ offense has come a long way. One thousand, four-hundred sixteen miles to be exact. All the way from the small country town of Stephenville, Texas, 65 miles southwest of Fort Worth, to the hills of Onondaga County.Babers never coached at Stephenville High School. But one of his coaching mentors, Art Briles, did, and Briles’ football revolution began there in 1990. Most everything about Babers’ offense is rooted in what Briles created at Stephenville.At his introductory press conference at Syracuse on Dec. 7, Babers said the offense he will run is unlike anything anyone has seen at SU. It’s traveled from Stephenville to Houston to Waco, Texas with Briles. From there to Austin, Texas, and Tulsa, Oklahoma, with former assistants. Babers brought it to Charleston, Illinois and Bowling Green, Ohio.When the Orange kicks off the first game of the Babers era on Friday against Colgate, the product will be brand new for SU fans. But it will also be a similar system to what Briles has used the past 26 years.“He taught a different style of football to me,” Babers said of Briles during his first press conference as Syracuse’s head coach.AdvertisementThis is placeholder text“It was a situation where he told me, ‘Just let it simmer. Put it in the Crock Pot. Just let it simmer. Don’t think much about it and I promise after a year or two, it’ll change the way you think.’”Briles was fired by Baylor this offseason following several allegations of sexual assault facing his players. Baylor University hired the Philadelphia-based law firm Pepper Hamilton to review the school’s Title IX and related compliance issues. According to the findings of fact presented to Baylor’s board of regents, “football coaches and staff had inappropriate involvement in disciplinary and criminal matters or engaged in improper conduct that reinforced an overall perception that football was above the rules.”,In eight years at Baylor, Briles turned the Bears from a laughing stock to a perennial power. Baylor hadn’t had a winning season from 1996 until 2009. In 12 years in the Big 12 Conference, Baylor won just 11 conference games. But under Briles, the Bears went 65-37. Prior to that, Briles spent five seasons at Houston. When he arrived, the Cougars were just two years removed from an 0-11 season. In his last two seasons at Houston, Briles led the Cougars to an 18-8 record and at least a share of a conference title in both seasons.But neither of those two stops would have happened if not for his innovative schemes that he cooked up at Stephenville.“We loved it as a staff,” said Jeff Merket, Briles’ wide receivers coach at Stephenville. “He was a young head coach and the staff, we were all one or two years out of college on the offensive side so we loved it. We loved doing things different.”The Yellow Jackets hadn’t made the playoffs since 1952. The program had virtually zero history. Within Class 4A, Stephenville’s enrollment was on the small side. In 11 years under Briles, it won four state titles. Briles called for formations that included four or five wide receivers spread as close to the sidelines as possible to open up space for the run game. It was one of the first offenses to use that many receivers. To tire defenses, its offense stopped huddling and intentionally ran consecutive plays to opposite sides of the field.All of the quarterbacks’ reads that were previously done under center were then done from shotgun. Instead of only having options to run, like in the veer, an option to pass to a receiver was added.The combination was lethal for defenses. If opponents loaded up the inside to defend the run, receivers had one-on-one matchups to take advantage of. If they extended out to the receivers lining up wider than the numbers on the field, the middle was open. Defenses had to pick their poison.Some people in the region called it smoke and mirrors. In Stephenville, coaches called it a system that could help them win games.“It’s a fairly simple idea,” said Mike Copeland, Briles’ defensive coordinator at Stephenville. “But it really creates problems for you, defensively. I got to work against it every day and I can tell you, it was difficult.”,One of the biggest misconceptions with Briles’ offense is that it’s heavy on the pass game. But the purpose of spreading so many receivers so far wide is to open up the power run game, a core concept of the veer. The run-pass option takes the option concept from the veer and simply adds in a passing component.The pieces added to create one of the most prolific high school offenses in history. The 1998 team set a national high school record with 8,615 total yards. During Briles’ time at Stephenville, the school sent four quarterbacks to play Division 1-A in college.last_img read more