How do you think those things will be changing this season without Maclin and Coffman?
DY: We feel like there will be a lot of catches to go around and we tell that to our recruits. Sure, Maclin caught 102 balls last year, but a couple of other guys had 60 catches for us. Three years ago, four guys had 60 catches. It’s whatever you have, you can take advantage of. But look at [tailback] Derrick Washington. He’s not just a guy who catches screens or flares. He goes out and runs a lot of routes. But this year, we’ll be using a receiver-by-committee plan. We should have six-to-eight guys capable of catching 40-to-70 balls. We’ll run a little more. We’ve got more guys who can help get us a little faster. And we’ll be getting back to the kind of offense where we have a lot of interchangeable parts.
What specifically do you guys demand from your receivers?
DY: You line up with five guys [receivers] and we stress after they get the ball in their hands that they can make something happen. We want a guy who runs with a purpose. And since we don’t line up with a tight end on every play, we really value blocking among our receivers, too. Our H and Y [receiving positions] have to be high-level blockers.
Second year of this system. Are you able to do a lot more with the offense now with an experienced quarterback, an experienced running back, or is it going to be a wait-and-see thing?
JP: But the one thing about our offense is we’re able to do some things to keep it simple for the offensive line, but it puts more pressure on your wideouts and your running backs to line up in different places and different formations, those kinds of things.
DM: Through personnel and through formations, we want to create advantageous one-on-one matchups, where I get a player in the open field matched up against someone that he’s better than. That’s the Spread Offense, the offense we’re going to run.
DM: You don’t have to be five receivers or four receivers to run a Spread Offense. You can run it with three backs, two tight ends, get in the wishbone formation one time and spread the field to create the matchups the next time.
DM: If you take our playbook, only 60 percent of it applies to the given team you have. What we have to do is make sure we pick the right 60 percent of it to apply to the personnel that we have, then use that 60 percent to the best of our ability and have our players execute at a high level.
What type of player are you looking for at the skill positions?
DM: The first thing we look for is a guy who’s multi-talented, a guy that can play a crossover position or hybrid position. You want a receiver who can also line up at tailback or a tailback who can flex into the slot or move up to the fullback position.
What’s the offense going to look like under Gus (Malzahn)?
TT: I think you’ll see from the offense that we use the run to set up the pass a little bit more. In coach Malzahn’s offense we’ll have much more of a downfield running attack.
Where do you see yourself in the offense?
TT: Coach Malzahn’s told me that 25 percent of the game will probably have a tight end in there with his actual hand on the ground. He says hopefully I’ll give them the ability to split me out some into the slot and even out there to a wide receiver. It’s very demanding for a tight end in this offense to split out and get all the way wide and get open and avoid coverage and then at the same time put his hand on the ground.
Can you tell us about the role of the receivers in the spread?
MC: The biggest thing I look for with receivers in the spread offense is, they’ve got to be able to block. It’s so crucial to the success of the run game, because you’re going to get to that second level of defenders, and if you get the running back to that position you need to create angles.
People think throw-throw-throw with the spread, but as a coordinator, what I tell our receivers is, you’re not getting on the field if you don’t block. These guys are basically your fullbacks down the field, but they’re not built like fullbacks.
How difficult is it for receivers to learn the proper spacing and timing in this offense?
MC: We talk all the time about minimum, normal and maximum splits and how it fits the scheme. We teach it so they understand the full scheme. People have been describing us as a “Spread Coast,” because it’s a spread with West Coast concepts.
The spread creates favorable matchups of receivers against linebackers and safeties, but doesn’t that also mean that smaller wideouts have to block much bigger guys sometimes?
MC: I tell our guys that the big thing is just to get in the way and become a nuisance. Get in their chops, try to hand battle and get in a position to create leverage. It’s not about being so aggressive and making a block too early. It’s about getting in position for a back to make a move off it.
Is there a fundamental difference in the way you guys line up versus Oregon and the spreads that are more of a spread-option running attack?
SD: What we’re doing here is kind of a combination of both. We double call a lot of stuff, so depending on how many people are in the box, we’re going to throw it when we’ve got good numbers and run it when we’ve got good numbers to run it. That’s really what Tech is doing but they are more inclined to throw it.
What is your base formation?
SD: Now, we’ll be a little bit more of a two-back team because of [H-back] Chris Gronkowski. We’ll be a mixture really. So our base formation will be with a tight end and a fullback, which is a little bit more old style football.
So that’s the big difference between you guys and Texas Tech — the fullback and tight end are just role players for the Red Raiders, right?
SD: Our offense has evolved and a lot of it is because of Robbie. We started running some power and a little bit more of a downhill run game just because he can block a defensive end at a point of attack. We’re evolving. We’re probably a little bit more like Oregon now than Texas Tech, just because of our ability and need to run the football.
How about with receivers? Does the spread require different things out of them than if you were lining up in a pro-style set?
SD: If you run the ball, guys are going to try to sneak more guys in the box. When they do that, you need to find a way to get the ball on the perimeter, whether it’s throwing the [bubble screens] or whatever, to try to get the ball away from the guys packing the box.
If you’re going to run 35 times a game, you need receivers to block well. But, in general, does a spread receiver need to be a better blocker than a pro-style receiver?
SD: I think so because of the screens. A lot of that stuff maybe forces them to be more effective blockers. Our guys are really just trying to get in the way more.
One way guys recruit against spread teams is they tell recruits that if they play in a spread offense they are not going to get the respect from the NFL in the draft. What do you say to that?
SD: I think anytime a quarterback can drop back and throw the football, that’s important. All that does is make him better, whether he does it under center or out of the shotgun. I don’t see how a quarterback can be faulted when he takes a snap, avoids a rush, shuffles in the pocket, goes through reads, finds a receiver, throws an accurate ball, and does all the things you have to do to drop back and throw. I don’t see how he becomes a better quarterback by being under center and handing it to a running back.
How are the receivers’ responsibilities different?
PJ: I don’t know that they are. What they may call their [Urban Meyer, Rich Rodriguez] receivers sometimes we call A-backs. Their slot receivers are like our A-backs. Most of the time we’re lined up tighter, not always. We change formations, and those guys are in the same spots.
Why do you think then, that most college football fans, when they think of your offense, probably don’t automatically think of what Urban Meyer and Rich Rodriquez do?
PJ: Because one is under the gun and the other is under the center.
PJ: Yeah, and most fans, quite honestly, couldn’t tell you what plays they ran out of the gun. It’s like anything else — if you’re successful and you have big plays, then it’s great. If you’re not moving the ball and you’re not scoring then it’s no good. If you look at last year with what Rich did at Michigan, it’s the same offense they ran at West Virginia, but it was a learning process, different personnel and they didn’t have near the success. In fact they had very little success. But nobody was questioning whether it would work or not. As soon as we have one game where we don’t score 30 points, boy it’s like, I told you this wouldn’t work, everybody figured it out. That’s what drives you nuts.
Because it’s going to be the second year, a lot of players feel so much more comfortable in the system, would you like to pass it more?
PJ: If we become more efficient at running the ball, then the passing game will open up because people will say we have to play the run.
Is there anything else I didn’t ask you that would help explain any misconceptions about the offense to fans?
PJ: If you execute it properly it’s going to be good, and if you don’t, it won’t. There are no magic ways to line up and play the offense. There’s nothing magical about the offense. If we don’t block people and execute right, it’s not going to work. It’s no different than the BYU passing or anything else. It’s a system and if you do it correctly you’ll be successful and if not you won’t. We’ve done it for 26 years. It’s not like it was a one-time thing. I get a kick out of people saying, ‘Well they’ll have another year of defending it.’ Gosh, they’ve got 25 years, and we haven’t changed much.
Do the responsibilities of the wide receivers change in the spread offense versus a more conventional scheme?
MC: In the spread, it’s more of a quick-passing game, you’ve got more of the screens.
From a blocking standpoint, is there anything unique about the spread as far as responsibilities?
MC: Obviously in the spread, you’re going to have more wideout screens and screens down the field. They’re going to have to block those more, but I don’t think there’s any good wideout that wouldn’t be able to do that.