Discussion of Spread Offense

The Spread Offense is a conundrum: it is the simplest of schemes, and yet is the most counter intuitive. Veteran players have the most difficulty learning it because they essentially are genetically programmed to stack. The Spread does not use a stack at all. The middle of the field is left open to be used by the Handlers (H), or one of the Middles (M) or Longs (L) at a time (see figure).

Two or 3 Handlers may be used (3 are shown in the diagram above). Using 2 Handlers allows a 3rd Handler to occupy a Middle position, thus increasing the chances for completed passes as the play progresses upfield. When 2 Handlers are used, a 2nd Long sets up on the sideline further upfield (see figure below).

Using 3 Handlers often will allow the first pass to be longer should the Pull be one that quickly covers the length of the field; the remaining two Handlers can then set up a little further upfield in such a case. A strategy which would accomplish this while, at the same time, allow the 3rd Handler to occupy a Middle position is to have a weaker thrower take the Pull, and make the first pass. This strategy might backfire if the Pull goes out of bounds, or if it hangs in the air, and allows the defense to mark up (if that occurs, the weaker thrower can be sent upfield).

The Spread Offense has the following objectives:

  1. Open up the field and, hence, the cutting/passing lanes.
  2. Reduce poachability.
  3. Give the receivers more room to cut.
  4. Set up subsequent throws from an endzone-facing position.
  5. Offer greater opportunity to take advantage of mismatches.
  6. Defuse the standard defensive alignments, and make the defense have to think instead of just react.
  7. Offer a framework for several offensive plays.
  8. Involve the Middles and Longs to a greater extent.
  9. Position fewer players in the Red Zone, thus increasing the chances of scoring.

Keys to Success

Near the endzone

The real benefit of the Spread lies in having the disc within 20-25 yards of the endzone. If a Long's defender looks for the disc, the Long can head to the endzone. If a Long's defender looks only at his/her mark, one fake should make for an easy pass to that Long (see figure). Yep, it's the Endzone Play being run at an angle.

Keep in mind, there are no other defenders to help out against either the right Long or left Long in the endzone. It's basically 2 on 2 by the time it gets to that point, and the advantage is heavily in favor of the offense then. When in doubt, run the Endzone Play.

The Gauntlet

The simplest play that takes advantage of the open field is to have the Handlers Give & Go all the way to the endzone. This works especially well if there is a significant 2-person or 3-person mismatch. A fun example is for a team with strong women to Handle, and the men occupy the sidelines and stay out of the way. (In such a women-as-Handler situation, the typical pattern is that the Longs' defenders will want to poach to protect the endzone, leaving the Longs for open passes to either corner.)

The Gauntlet works because there is so much room for passes to be thrown and received. It's as if you were playing 2 on 2, or 3 on 3; there is nearly always a place into which to cut.

A Side Note on the Give & Go: if it breaks down, there are 3 ways to recover:

  1. Use the Dump
  2. Have the Handler furthest upfield stand still, and run the Iso (Endzone) Play
  3. Pass to a Middle or Long

Following a pass to a Middle or Long, there are 2 options. If the pass goes to a Middle on the sideline, the Handler can cut further upfield for a return throw right back, thus continuing the Gauntlet (see figure).

Or, if the Middle (or Long) received the pass in the middle of the field, s/he may then look to throw to the other Middle or Long (see figure).

A key point to remember is that the person with the disc (whether a Handler, Middle or Long) is responsible for determining who gets the disc next. If need be, the thrower should call out the next receiver, or call for the Iso ( Endzone) Play.

Middles and Longs

You will notice that as the disc progresses upfield, the Middles and Longs will maintain their relative position to the disc by sliding up the field toward the endzone. Only one of them, however, will actually enter the endzone (the other players position themselves on the goal line, on the sideline). If a Middle takes a pass from a Handler (or the other Middle), a Handler will take that Middle's vacated place on the sideline (see figure).

Mismatched and Featured Player

One of the main benefits of the Spread is to have a featured player who is a Middle or Long. Usually, this person is someone who has a mismatch, whether it be speed, height or savvy. Or, the Featured Player may simply be someone who hasn't touched the disc in a while.

Once the Handlers move the disc upfield a ways, a Handler can then look for the Featured Player to cut; the other Middles and Longs stay on the sideline. The Featured Player can:

  1. Start a cut long at a 45 degree angle, then cut back to the disc.
  2. Start a cut back to the disc, and cut at a 45 degree angle across field.
  3. Cut straight across the field. (see figure)
  4. Run the Iso (Endzone) Play right in the middle of the field; starts by standing still.

After the Featured Player receives the pass, s/he simply turns and looks for a Middle or Long for the next cut (keep in mind that the thrower of the pass hangs back, probably to become the Dump). There is no hurry; none. The isolated defenders are in trouble. Only a bad throw (e.g., hanging the disc up) or a cut that is broken off will cause a problem.

Voila! You have just taken the Spread Offense course 101. It's up to you now to make it work, and to create your own plays and variations on this theme.

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