As I got more and more psyched about the reality that the Rich Rodriguez Era really is upon us and that the Wolverines will actually be rolling out on Saturday I wanted to find some X’s and O’s stuff on the spread as a way to brush up and get ready for what we will be seeing on Saturday. I came across a couple of very good articles in the archives of ESPN written by Bob Davie
breaking down various aspects of the spread, bubble screens and a piece that tried to explain the things that made Rodriguez’s version of the spread better than everyone else’s.
What got me pumped about what Davie had to say was not so much about Coach Rodriguez’s unique X’s and O’s packages, but the way in which he ran his program at West Virginia. Here’s what he had to say:
"Just about every offense in the country has incorporated some element of the spread in its package. As a result, defenses are now more comfortable defending the scheme. However, Rich Rodriguez has done a great job of staying one step ahead of the defenses.
What's different about West Virginia?
In watching WVU over the past several years, several things set it apart. Everyone wants to know about the X's and O's first, but some other important factors stand out.
The Mountaineers are physical, intense and play hard. WVU operates a lot of new-school concepts in the spread, but the team plays with old-school principles. Everyone coaches playing hard and with great effort, but WVU constantly demands it. Rodriguez talks about playing with a hard edge -- and the Mountaineers practice that way. The two worst words you can be labeled with in their program are soft and lazy. [empasis mine]
2. Team building
West Virginia does a great job with team building. The Mountaineers' staff does some different things to develop unity. WVU's team building ideas include some simple rules:
• No cell phones in the football building
The staff wants players talking to each other, not girlfriends or friends, during football time.
• Name game
Every player must know the name of every person involved with the program, including cooks, janitors, managers, trainers, secretaries, etc. That sounds simple, but when you have over 200 people involved in a program, it is not. Rodriguez hands out pictures to help the players identify the staff, and then tests the players.
In the offseason, Rodriguez divides his team into eight different groups consisting of players from a variety of positions. Then he sets up a point system under which the groups are rewarded or punished based on individuals' academics, offseason program and off-field issues. This makes players accountable to each other in the offseason.
3. Tweak scheme to fit personnel
With 15 years in the system, the foundation is not going to change, but Rodriguez does a great job of tweaking the system based on individual personnel. Every fall, he will do one or two significant things to highlight that team's talent. For example, with Pat White returning to direct the offense, quarterback runs and the option are major parts of the scheme heading into the 2006 season."
I love hearing that about “soft and lazy.” And from everything that we have been hearing out of camp, he has carried the practice hard doctrine to Michigan as well. And if he does some of these other things, I would be even more impressed. I especially like the “learn everyone’s name” mandate. It is definitely a way to instill character. And I am really encouraged that Davie feels that Rodriguez is able to tweek the spread and what he is doing to keep himself one step ahead of everyone.