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Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Running the spread in the SEC

Posted by's Chris Low

If you're looking for a model of how the spread offense should be run, look no further than Florida.

The guy calling the offensive shots there the last four years, Dan Mullen, has moved on.

He hasn't moved far, though. He's now the head coach at Mississippi State, which will also unveil a version of the spread offense this season.

I caught up with Mullen recently to get his thoughts on what's made the spread offense the new rage in college football.

What type of player are you looking for at the skill positions?

Dan Mullen: 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. Guys who have multiple skills make it hard for defenses to match up on you.

How important is finding the right balance with players in the spread?

Dan Mullen: You might have a guy who's a great wide receiver, but doesn't have the other things. You have to put him in a position where he's just a receiver and look for another guy who's tremendous after the catch or a ball-in-the-hands guy. The spread gives you the flexibility to get the best players you can find and put them in a position to be successful on the field.

When you have several of these hybrid players, why does it make it so difficult for the defense?

Dan Mullen: One thing we're hoping to get to here at Mississippi State is where you don't have to change personnel groupings very often. Everybody has the same skill set, which makes it harder for the defense to pick up on what you're doing. You don't have to substitute to run different things.

Does the spread help younger players get on the field quicker?

Dan Mullen: If we have guys we think can do certain things with the ball in their hands, they don't have to know the entire offense to be proficient, and the spread allows that. Take Percy Harvin as a freshman. He played 18 to 20 plays a game, but we had ways to get him the ball when he was on the field. That's a lot different than a freshman tackle, who might have to play 70 plays.