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Whiteboard Wednesday: How Norvell uses unbalanced formations

The art of finding the right matchup

NCAA Football: Florida State Spring Game Melina Myers-USA TODAY Sports

Florida State Football’s head football coach Mike Norvell runs a spread offense much like virtually every other coach in the country. As the name implies, spread offenses are looking to extend the area the defense has to defend from sideline to sideline in hopes of getting their playmakers out in space, but the way teams accomplish this and how they exploit the defense when they do makes all of the difference.

Broadly speaking spread offenses can be split into two categories. The first looks to spread the defense out in order to find open field or “grass” for their playmakers to operate in. These offenses are often offshoots of the West Coast Offense that was really the first to think of the short passing game as an extension of the running game. These teams like to call a lot of triangle concepts to space the defense out horizontally and make easy passes for their quarterbacks.

The second category, and the one that Norvell most often falls into, uses the spread spacing to hunt for matchups. Whereas in a system like the air raid receivers are seen as interchangeable cogs in the machine, in Norvell’s offense each receiver has a role. He recruits tall outside receivers and shifty slot receivers and he positions them throughout the field wherever he thinks he can exploit some weakness in the defense.

One of the ways he can get his players the matchups they need to be successful is through the use of unbalanced formations. In the recent spring game, this was shown to full effect.

If you want to hear more about the styles of spread offenses and how they pertain to the modern passing game refer back to a video done last summer.