- How would an offense with run oriented personnel execute the spread offense?
- What is the spread?
- Who is Mike Dunbar?
- Is Adam Weber capable of leading an offense, much less a spread offense?
I think many of these questions were answered last year and heading into 2008 the offense is one area where Gopher fans have few questions and high expectations.
To find what we can expect from Mike Dunbar in his second year as the offensive coordinator I think it helps to look back at his previous track record. Dunbar has been running the spread at the Division I level since the early 90's and has been setting records at every stop.
A common misconception about the spread is that many think it is a pass heavy offense. In truth there are many variations of the spread. Teams like Texas Tech throw the ball more than 75% of the time, but the famous Rich Rodriguez spread at West Virginia ran the ball 70% of the time finishing third in the nation in rushing and producing two 1,000 rushers. At times Dunbar's version of the spread has been labeled the Spread Coast offense. This of course references a spread version of the West Coast Offense. During his BCS years, Dunbar has nearly been 50/50 in run/pass and last year passed 51.1% of the time.
After seeing the Minnesota offense in 2007 I think we can expect to see two things in 2008.
First of all, I expect that we will see a running back finish as our leading rusher. Dunbar has been running the spread at the BCS level since 2002 and in each of his five seasons not at Minnesota his offense produced at least a 1,200 yard rusher. In his first season at Minnesota, the athletic quarterback, Adam Weber, was his leading rusher. I just don't see this happening again.
I know that we don't a stable of great backs, but if Dunbar was able to get 1,300 yard seasons out of two Northwestern running backs against Big Ten defenses there is no reason he can't get more production from either Jay Thomas or Duane Bennett.
Secondly I am very anxious to see how this offense progresses and grows in complexity in the second season of Dunbar and Weber.
I do not have a deep knowledge of complex offensive schemes but one thing I really enjoyed seeing last year was how certain plays were run early in games to set up the defense for a counter play in the second half. I expect to see more of this in 2008. Dunbar was working with an entire team that lacked experience in the spread and his quarterback was a redshirt freshman. I imagine the offensive gameplan was rather vanilla by Dunbar's standards and he must be excited to open chapter two of his playbook on Big Ten defenses.
Last year was a season of struggles and questions for head coach Tim Brewster, but the hiring of Mike Dunbar may have been the best move he made in his first 12 months on the job. Dunbar's offense is a key for recruiting offensive skill position players (read: MarQueis Gray) and should produce an offense that is fun to watch.