Out of control offense leaving teams defenseless

Ralph D. Russo

The Associated Press

Published: Saturday, Aug. 10 2013 8:00 p.m. MDT

In this Sept. 8, 2012, file photo, Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel celebrates after a touchdown run during the second quarter of an NCAA college football game against Florida in College Station, Texas. Points have never been more plentiful in college football. If touchdowns could be weighed they'd be measured in tons. And yards? The days when a QB was a rare commodity if he could run AND pass well are long gone.

Dave Einsel, AP

Offense is out of control.

Points have never been more plentiful in college football. If touchdowns could be weighed they'd be measured in tons. And yards? On some Saturdays it seems you could get to the moon and back with all the ground that gets covered.

Quarterbacks are better trained than ever before and their skills more diverse. The days when a QB was a rare commodity if he could run AND pass are long gone.

Offensive coordinators aren't afraid to blend eras and philosophies if it'll get them a first down. A little triple-option here. A little West Coast there. A dash of run-and-shoot for flavor.

"Every Saturday you're seeing all of football history in every game," said Chris B. Brown, the author of "The Essential Smart Football" and the Smart Football blog.

And to top it all off, they're running plays almost as fast as Usain Bolt can run the 200.

Outside of Tuscaloosa, Ala., and a few other spots around the country, defenses have become defenseless.

"In the early 90s, the defenses were ahead and Miami was dominating defensively. Things kind of evolved," said Arizona State coach Todd Graham, a former defensive coordinator. "But I will tell you, the last 10 years, man, it's been steadily, steadily, steadily the offenses having the edge. The game has changed."

How does a defensive coach deal with it?

"It's hard," UCLA coach Jim Mora said, his eyes widening and his voice rising. "It's crazy."

Mora, a former NFL defensive coordinator, is one of the many feeling flummoxed.

Defensive innovators haven't been able to counter with Xs and Os. They're hoping a different approach in recruiting might help or possibly doubling down on fundamentals. Something to turn around a trend that's been developing for years.

In 2008, FBS teams averaged 27 points per game and 371.6 yards. Last year, those figures jumped to 29.5 points per game and 409 yards. Plays per game from scrimmage have increased from 67.7 to 71.5 per team. And yards per play has risen from 5.48 to 5.72.

Even in the Southeastern Conference, which boasts of its defensive prowess, the offenses are taking over. SEC's teams averaged a league-record 402.4 yards per game and 30.4 points, a bit shy of the record of 31 per game set in 2010.

And with more SEC teams picking up the pace of play these days — despite the protests of Nick Saban and Bret Bielema — don't be surprised if the record book is rewritten again in 2013.

So what in the name of former SEC defensive guru Joe Lee Dunn can be done to shift the balance of power back the guys on the other side of ball?

Three areas need to be addressed: player development, recruiting/personnel and schemes.

PLAYER DEVELOPMENT

The rise of seven-on-seven football, a scaled down version of the game played by high schoolers during the offseason without linemen, full pads or tackling to the ground has coincided with improvements in the passing game.

"It's all about the development of quarterbacks," said Cincinnati coach Tommy Tuberville, who rose through the ranks as a defensive assistant at Miami and Texas A&M.

When they get to college campuses, they're ready to play. Johnny Manziel became the first freshman to win the Heisman last year, but it came just a few years after Tim Tebow was the first sophomore to win it and Sam Bradford became the second.

While quarterbacks are working on their games year-round, defensive players are tackling less and less because of injury concerns.

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