Indiana's Canada talks wideouts and the spread

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Many consider the spread offense to be the great equalizer, and Indiana is living proof. The Hoosiers went 14 years without reaching a bowl game until 2007, when they broke through behind a dynamic offense led by quarterback Kellen Lewis and wide receiver James Hardy. Matt Canada's first season as offensive coordinator brought record-breaking results in Bloomington. Now in his third year as Hoosiers coordinator, Canada recently took some time to discuss the spread and specifically the roles of wide receivers in the scheme.

Do the responsibilities of the wide receivers change in the spread offense versus a more conventional scheme?

Matt Canada: It's probably unique to every offense. They're going to learn their roles, what they're doing week to week. We may have guys who play inside or outside, it just depends on the matchups. I don't know if it's that big a difference. The routes you run and the things you ask them to do are probably different. If you're more on a pro-set, you're going to have more play-action, more down-the-field things. In the spread, it's more of a quick-passing game, you've got more of the screens.

Does it change your recruiting at all, spotting certain guys who are better fits in the spread?

MC: Obviously, we had a lot of success with [James] Hardy, a big-body guy. You're going to want that guy in a traditional pro offense, too. But there's a need for that little bubble [screen] guy or that little guy running the jail-break screen. You're going to try to find that guy, but playmakers are playmakers. We're all competing for the same kids.

James obviously had a lot of ability. Did it surprise you how well he did in the spread, being a bigger receiver (6-foot-7)?

MC: He's a good player. Spread or not, I mean the [Michael] Crabtree guy was a pretty good player in the spread, right? What the spread can do for you is it gives you the ability to move a kid around if he can handle that. But it's no different than in the pro-style where you're going to motion and do different things to match him up.

Is it easier to move a guy around in the spread, from running back to receiver or even what you did with Kellen, quarterback to receiver?

MC: It gives you more versatility for sure. But how much can you do and what do you want to do? Whatever you do, you're going to give up something else. I'm sure the pro-style guys would say, 'We're going to line up and run the ball and we're going to get real good at that.' To your ability and to your strength of what you have on your team at a certain time, specifically at the wideout position, you're going to find ways to get players the ball.

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. It's a matter of practicing it and doing it.