It’s impossible to write about an impending football game against Georgia Tech and not remind readers about the spread-option offense. And if you’re Duke, and you haven’t beaten the Yellow Jackets in 10 years, well, it’s still worth talking about how you plan to stop one of the oldest offensives schemes in all of football.
Listening to questions for David Cutcliffe in Tuesday’s press conference, you’d think that Paul Johnson had never lost a game with his scheme (he’s actually 52-32 in his seven years leading the Yellow Jackets). If you overcommit to stopping the run, Georgia Tech can throw the ball and exploit 1-on-1 coverage! If you overplay the option pitch, the Yellow Jackets can run a reverse (like they did to open last year’s game with a 15-yard gain)! And so forth and so on.
And, yes, preparing for Georgia Tech is significantly different than preparing for all the non-option teams on the schedule, the Blue Devils confirmed (sometimes it’s good to check on these general assumptions). So all that said—why don’t more teams run the spread option?
Cutcliffe bluntly broke down the disadvantages.
"No. 1, you’ve got to have the knowledge of anything you run," Cutcliffe said. "There are less people that have been around it. You don’t go teach something that you’re not sure what you’re teaching.
"Other part of it is that it’s a little more difficult to recruit high-end players. Because, if you’re a defensive player on that team, you’re really not excited about spring practice. You’re not seeing what you’re going to see in pro ball, if you think you’re a pro-type of player. If I’m a receiver, why? If I’m a big-time back, still, you’re not doing anything like what you hope you do in the National Football League. Offensive line, I mean. So, hat’s off to them, they’ve done a great job getting players that fit their system and coaching them very, very well and being very successful."
He’s not lying.
And, just as a footnote, Georgia Tech’s two most famous current NFL wide receivers— Calvin Johnson and Demaryius Thomas—were not recruited by Johnson (Thomas did decide against transferring when Johnson arrived after his redshirt freshman season).
"None of them would have gone to Georgia Tech in that offense," Cutcliffe said of Thomas and Johnson. "End of story."
Update: Paul Johnson responded, saying Cutcliffe “ ought to worry about his own problems.”