Send Lappano to Gainesville this summer
Desperate times call for despot measures
Richard Linde, 27 April 2005
At Saturday’s scrimmage, Washington’s offense stunk up the
joint. Offensive coordinator Tim Lappano may have thought so too, saying, "To
me, the most disappointing thing of the whole scrimmage was our inability to do
what we've talked about doing, to be physical and bring back the two-back run
game to the University of Washington."
He said that knowing the two teams were divided evenly with
the best offensive and defensive players split apart on each side. Certainly,
the best offensive players weren’t wearing Purple when it went three-and-out on
the first possession of the game. However, the Purple wasn’t playing against the best defense
either. Collectively, the two defenses had six potential starters absent because
of injury or illness. The two teams split three scholarship cornerbacks between
During the scrimmage, the Huskies
rushed for just 42 yards on 34 carries overall and got 82 yards on 21 carries
from their running backs.
"Our identity on offense will come from our ability to run
the football," Lappano said, early into the spring practices. "When we throw,
we'll get the ball off quickly and throw what should be a high-percentage pass…I
think we need to make a commitment to the run. The players have to believe in
it. The coaching staff has to believe in it. We have other stuff and we will do
some of that other stuff. But we are going to be a power-run football team
The coaches are installing power-running for a
team that finished sixth in conference rushing last season? Give me a break. The
Huskies haven’t had a decent rushing attack since the 2000 season when they
averaged 211 yards per game.
Since then the Huskies have averaged 106.5 yards per game
carrying the ball over four seasons.
Lappano has talked about a multiple offense run out of
multiple sets: running with a single back and with two backs, spreading the
field at times, using the West Coast offense at others.
That sounds like a typical Pac-10 offense. But Washington
is an atypical conference team; next season’s running attack will implode faster
than you can say "Todd
Turner" unless some pizzazz is added.
What’s missing from Lappano’s offensive plan is the option.
Back in the Huskies’ 2000 season, Marques Tuiasosopo (photo above) ran the option almost to
One year earlier, former coach Rick Neuheisel went to the
option after losing the first two games to BYU and the Air Force Academy. In a
game played against Stanford later in the season, Tuiasosopo passed for 302 yards and ran for 207
yards, becoming the first player in NCAA Division I-A
history to rush for 200 yards and pass for 300 in the same game.
After Tuiasosopo’s remarkable
game, then-Tree-coach Tyrone Willingham said, “It was not so much the option that was making the
difference, but the quarterback. He (Tuiasosopo) made some outstanding plays.”
Coaching the UW now, Willingham has two quarterbacks who
are more than capable of running an option attack: Isaiah Stanback and Carl Bonnell.
So, why not install the option? (For one, it chops the
quarterback derby in half.) Better yet, why not make the option part of the shotgun and
spread the field out, using the attack Urban Meyer made famous at Utah.
Meyer’s offense spreads
the defense horizontally with the threat of an option game (double and triple
options) and vertically because of the threat of 3 or 4 quick wide receivers; it
features five basic runs: the zone dive, the trap, the trap option, the triple
option, and the speed option. The passing game consists of play action and
sprint out passes. Although neither Stanback nor Bonnell may be an Alex Smith,
who went first in the NFL draft, both are capable of running and passing.
In his article describing Utah’s
spread offense, Brian Smith says, "Because an opposing defense is unable to
stack the line of scrimmage with eight men due to the four and five wide
receiver sets, the quarterback has a smorgasbord of options with the running
game alone. You will see the quarterback run the ball himself on draw plays,
traps where the offense guard will pull and be a lead blocker, and even an
occasional quarterback sweep."
In the spread offense, the
threat of the passing game forces a defense into nickel and dime packages,
making it easier to run against. The offense allows teams with weaker personnel
to move the ball against superior players because all of them need not be
The UW has reached a critical juncture in its storied
football history. Its coaches need to earn their salaries with creativity
and innovation -- which will require hard work on their part. Going with the
current running game and relying on defense and kicking to keep the UW in its
games is a recipe for mediocrity.
Being conservative may pay the dues at the country club in
the near future but it won't pay the bills due at the athletic department in
the long run.
As a Dawg, should he have replaced Keith Gilbertson, Meyer would have frothed at
the mouth chasing the quick feet of Stanback and Bonnell this spring.
Tying feet to turf, the idea of ignoring your playmakers surely walks the path of the buffoon.
(Playmakers all, Stanback, Bonnell, WR Corey Williams, WR Craig Chambers, RB
Louis Rankin, and RB
Shelton Sampson need to see the playing field big time).
Willingham wants 90% of his
troops to stay in Seattle for summer workouts. This summer, he needs to send
Lappano to Gainesville for some working sessions with Urban Meyer.
I know all of this may sound whimsical, but desperate times
call for despot (Willingham?) measures.
Richard Linde (a.k.a., Malamute) can be reached at