New Florida State coach Willie Taggart brought his “Gulf Coast Offense” with him, and it has been described as a “power spread” style.
That may sound like an oxymoron, and it might also might be why Taggart has been smiling the entire time he’s been FSU’s coach. Quite simply, one can say he now has the toy he’s always wanted in the coaching job at FSU.
One of the descriptions that he used for fans to visualize what he saw when he walked into The Moore Center at FSU was “mutants!” That’s not to say that he didn’t have good players at Oregon, but he also didn’t have a 6-foot-3, 220-pound receiver who can run like Keith Gavin.
I’ve been hesitant to write about the philosophies that Taggart will use in Tallahassee because I wanted to see what kind of recruiting haul he made and the coaches he would hire (especially at offensive coordinator), then get a chance to watch film of his offense at USF and Oregon. He now has bigger, faster and stronger tools, but the overall premise remains simple but lethal. I like to say the offense is complex in its simplicity. The formations will cause opponents to have to stay true to their defense and will create a lot of one-on-one matchups, which bodes well for the style of athlete at FSU.
Think about it like this: It’s a rock-paper-scissors offense. Defenses have rules, but a defense can’t stay true to all of them and be successful. Keep the opposition guessing and help them guess wrong. Whatever the defense is keying on, exploit one of the other two.
When a lot of fans hear “spread offense,” they think of 50 throws a game and a lack of physicality. They also focus too much on the up-tempo nature of the no-huddle offense. Some fans also hear “spread” and think it’s only used by teams that lack talent and try to produce offense by taking advantage of mismatches.
“Traditional” fans will say FSU isn’t known for the spread. Well, the history major in me says different. It has a lot of schematic and conceptual similarities to the “fast break offense” that was used by Wayne McDuffie and Brad Scott at FSU. And I’ll take it a step further and bring up Bill Peterson, whose ahead-of-his-time passing concepts brought us Fred Biletnikoff. I know I went waaayyyy back on that one, but what I’m saying is that in many ways, this offense will be a modernization as well as a return to FSU’s identity as a program.
I’ve had old-school FSU fans ask me how, as a former fullback, I can like the offense, and I remind them that “up-tempo” and “high scoring” doesn’t necessarily mean not physical. One of my favorite FSU players growing up was William “Bar None” Floyd, who was the fullback during the Charlie Ward era; this offense can have power backs, but they must be athletic. Think also of Edgar Bennett.
The two variations we can see are based upon the quarterback.
- The USF model with Deondre Francois.
- The Oregon model with James Blackman or Bailey Hockman.
With Francois, as with Quinton “Winky” Flowers at USF, you can expect coaches to move the pocket to get him in situations where he can see the field better. In addition, if he is healthy, he is more athletic than Blackman or Hockman. Francois was dangerous when Jimbo Fisher called designed quarterback runs.
Blackman has a stronger arm and isn’t afraid to throw the ball downfield. When watching Oregon tape, you see that Taggart utilized a lot of post/wheel combinations. Something that Fisher’s offense didn’t do enough of was attacking the middle of the field. The “Gulf Coast Offense” should create a lot of one-on-one matchups, which should make for good opportunities for playmakers.
Each of these quarterbacks can run the system, and think of them as “paper” in the rock-paper-scissors scenario.
Running backs Cam Akers, Jacques Patrick and Khalan Laborn are nice fits for the power spread. Patrick reminds me a lot of Marlon Mack, the leading rusher in USF history. If he can keep his feet moving, accelerate feet on contact and build upon the running back that he became last season, fans will see a much-improved version of Mack. If the defense is being honest and it’s the third quarter, I wouldn’t want those problems.
And what if you saw a version of the USC offense with Bush (Akers) and White (Patrick and Laborn)? The three can work interchangeably: run the rock and run routes. One of the biggest mismatches on the field is a running back in space against a linebacker. Running back is one of FSU’s most talented and deepest position groups. These guys are the “rock” in rock-paper-scissors.
The wide receivers and tight ends are the scissors. There is great length at wide receiver with holdovers Gavin, George Campbell and Tamorrion Terry and true freshmen Tre’Shaun Harrison, Warren Thompson and Jordan Young. Each is at least 6 feet 2 and all are burners except Thompson, but he has good body control and solid speed. When this system gets to rocking and rolling, these guys should really be able to cut up defenses. Then you can add in the elusiveness of holdovers Nyqwan Murray and D.J. Matthews and freshman Keyshawn Helton. They give you everything that the taller receivers give you except height, and they also can be deadly with the jet sweep or on option routes. You need receivers who can just go and not get bogged down by thinking. I believe this segment was handicapped the past few seasons, but if new receivers coach David Kelly can work on the route running, this group will cut the top off defenses consistently.
So, what is this offense?
Basically, it’s a fusion of a traditional power running game with both vertical and West Coast concepts. From the West Coast offense, Taggart utilizes a lot of screens and shallow crosses to get players in space on a mismatch, and the vertical concepts are modernizations of Bill Peterson’s vertical schemes. The use of traps and blast makes defenses load the box; screens and crosses make defenses cheat up; and then you hit them over the top. You can use the quarterback’s legs to make plays when the defense guesses right. Find the tendencies and exploit them.
It’s as simple as rock-paper-scissors.
Article Originally Appeared On Gridiron Now: http://gridironnow.com/willie-taggart-offense-florida-state-2018-season/