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SportHow running the spread can help you win the transfer portal

21:35  11 february  2019
21:35  11 february  2019 Source:   sbnation.com

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How running the spread can help you win the transfer portal© Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports Five-star ATH Bru McCoy transferred to Texas shortly after signing with USC.

While much of the discussion about the NCAA’s new transfer portal surrounds the blow struck for player agency, it’s likely there are other changes afoot. An easier transfer process is going to drive the evolution of the game like the monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey, imbuing particular programs with new weapons.

The college game has already cycled through updates such as the hurry-up, no-huddle spread. The HUNH spread made the game simpler, allowing the offense to wait until the defense was set before checking into one of a few limited options.

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One of the more stunning aspects of Clemson’s dominating win over Alabama was the role played by freshmen Trevor Lawrence and Justyn Ross. Lawrence hit Ross six times for 153 yards and a score on 10 targets.

But while they were both amazing high school talents, they still offer a takeaway for teams looking to plug any kind of talent into an offense. Modern spread attacks like Clemson’s make it easier to install new players, whether they’re freshmen or transfers.

College football is already close to becoming “basketball on grass” on a national scale.

Seven-on-seven travel teams and the proliferation of private skills coaching have a lot to do with modern development, and many states include big private high schools that accumulate top talent and channel it into the college ranks, particularly in talent titans Florida and California.

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The advancement of skill level amongst HS players increased the lethality of the college passing attack. Young players often get high-level instruction and year-round reps making reads and throws.

The story brewing for the better part of this decade, obscured by Alabama’s dominance, is that the spread passing game is becoming the best path to blue-blood dominance.

In the past, the particular privilege that superior recruiting offered to blue-blood programs was the ability to build the biggest, baddest run game. Having the first pick of the most athletic 300-pounders afforded major programs a unique shot.

Now many of the top talents coming out of high school were trained in up-tempo spreads. Rosters are full of players versed in such systems.

Florida State and Clemson won three titles this decade by using matchup-based, spread passing attacks to overpower run-centric teams from SEC land. Both flooded the field with NFL-bound skill athletes and hammered defenses that couldn’t match up.

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Each team had a pair of tall mismatches and a pair of fast targets. Defenses couldn’t get a good matchup across from all four and were picked apart by young, skilled QBs Jameis Winston and Lawrence.

FSU landed a crushing blow against Auburn with a double slants play:

How running the spread can help you win the transfer portal© Provided by Vox Media, Inc.

After the snap, it was simple for Winston, checking the leverage of a defender and throwing a ball to give his man the best chance. On the other side, the Noles had Kelvin Benjamin as the intended target on the same concept, had Auburn shaded numbers to the right.

When the defense is overstressed by all the good targets on the field, it becomes a matter of execution. If every play carries high stakes, the defense is in trouble.

It’s going to be hard to beat that model for team construction. This style is exceptionally hard to stop. And it’s hard to outscore, if your focus is on running the ball.

Together, the transfer portal and the spread can make a plug-and-play offense a lot easier to develop.

The 2018 Big 12 season was an illustration of how the sport’s moved. The four strongest teams in the conference benefitted from increased skill development at the high school level and blue-chip skill players transferring in.

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Oklahoma won the league with Kyler Murray, a former five-star QB at Texas A&M and the heir to another transfer (Baker Mayfield).

Texas was the runner-up, guided by a true sophomore QB in Sam Ehlinger, a four-star recruit and three-year starter at Texas HS powerhouse Westlake, coached by innovative spread QB developer Todd Dodge and which once produced Drew Brees and Nick Foles. The Longhorns covered his blindside with grad transfer left tackle Calvin Anderson, another former Westlake player who came up from Rice.

Third and fourth place went to Iowa State — guided by three-star Brock Purdy, a true freshman from Arizona — and West Virginia, led by Florida transfer and former four-star Will Grier.

All four leaned on spreading opponents out with big matchup problems. That lends itself to simplicity, and so long as the QB is a savvy distributor or a dominant athlete, it’s all too easy for the offense to create isolations. Plugging in new players every year becomes more straightforward, especially if the QB and main WRs can enjoy a full offseason together.

A national mood toward encouraging player agency is making it increasingly easy for teams to assemble new, talented units. If you operate a system like this, it’s hard to avoid being a destination for talented skill players. If you don’t, it gets harder to woo them.

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By promoting Ryan Day and embracing his pro-spread passing attack, Ohio State released the portal’s energies upon a Big Ten that has only just barely caught up to the spread run game, adding Justin Fields, a transfer QB once ranked right behind Lawrence.

Texas opened the portal and had a five-star true freshman spill out, setting up some incredible contests with Oklahoma in the aptly named Red River Shootout.

Teams that shy away from basketball on grass are going to have a difficult time convincing top passing-game pieces to sit still (or to join them).

There are fewer opportunities for receivers in other systems, and it takes longer to incorporate young QBs without the handholds of the hurry-up spread. Expect players to continue to transfer toward simple, modern systems.

Up-tempo spread teams will lose players to transfer, but the increasingly ubiquitous offense makes for a universal fit. It’s feasible for a team like that to plug in an early enrollee freshman or impatient sophomore from another school, whereas a more complicated system has both a longer development curve and a tougher time finding a good fit.

College football’s already accelerated toward the spread. The transfer portal’s only going to make it harder for teams to run anything else.

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