The goal is to spread defenses out and be able to score quickly.
By JAMAL THALJI, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times, published September 6, 2002
NEW PORT RICHEY -- This isn't another rebuilding year at Gulf. The Buccaneers are remaking themselves.
Another school says so long to the Wing-T. Gulf has ditched the old-fashioned scheme of run on first, second and third down for a newfangled balanced passing attack.
Meet the Spread-I formation, a three-wideout set with the fullback and tailback lined up behind the quarterback. Coach Keith Newton wants to spread defenses out, create running lanes and, most important, score quickly when the chips are down.
At Gulf, which has won 11 games in the past seven years, the chips have indeed been down.
So, with 17 juniors, including returning quarterback Jeff Blanchette, Gulf has a new look.
"Instead of lining up eight, nine guys in the box, we'll force the defense to spread out a bit," Newton said. "In the Wing-T, people lined up eight, nine people in the box to come get us, and we haven't been able to run against that."
The offense is the brainchild of Gulf's most famous football alum, former Florida lineman Jimmy Watson, who volunteered to install the new system. Another reason for the change is necessity: The Bucs often fell behind more athletic offenses, have no true tight ends, and know the Wing-T can never dig them out of a hole.
"The throwing game out of the Wing-T is not very versatile," Newton said. "We just felt it was not a catch-up offense. We felt we wanted to do a better job when we get behind of catching up to people."
Blanchette is a confident passer and tough enough to run the option. Combine his ability to run the option with a three-wideout set, and Newton hopes to keep defenses honest.
"Jeff is a very confident quarterback. He doesn't get upset easy," Newton said. "Not only is he a very good technique-thrower, but Jeff is a tough runner. He's not afraid to come out of the pocket and move and he brings good speed.
"He brings something people are going to have to deal with on the ground and in the air."
Fullbacks Fernando Rodriguez and Tim Tracy and tailbacks Taylor Cottrill and Chris Whytsell line up behind him. Rookie wideouts Sean Collins, Sean Jones and David Montanez will make up what they lack in speed with precise, exacting routes.
"They're all brand-new people," Newton said. "But we've got some nice hands with some decent speed. We've got some kids doing a very good job of catching the ball, and we've spent a lot of time with the receivers and the QBs working on the new stuff."
OFFENSE: The Spread-I formation is a balanced attack, one Gulf hopes leads to quicker scores if the team falls behind. Split end Sean Collins, the X receiver, lines up on one side; on the other side is the Z receiver Sean Jones on the line and Y receiver David Montanez in the slot. The defense has to respect the spread, keeping the strong safety out of the box and blunting the corner blitz or safety blitz. QB Jeff Blanchette can run or throw from this formation, so expect to see some power running, some option attack, and a lot of varied routes, both short and deep, all over the field.
DEFENSE: The first reads in the five-man 50 defensive line are made by nose guard Hakija Halilic, weakside linebacker Jordan Stewart and strongside linebackers Tim Tracy and Chris Whytsell. They see the ball, then the guards and fullback. The Bucs like to play Cover-3, bringing the strong safety up to the two-receiver side and leaving the strong cornerback to guard a quarter of the field, the free safety to hang deep covering his quarter, and giving the weak corner the other half. Gulf also plays Cover-2 with both safeties back, and "Tennessee Umbrella" disguising Cover-2 as Cover-3, rolling the safety to the strong side at the snap.
AT A GLANCE
COLORS: Green and white.
CLASS: Class 3A, District 7.
PLAYOFF HISTORY: None.
HEAD COACH: Keith Newton (11-49, seventh season at school; 26-75 in 12th season overall).
ASSISTANTS: Mike Smith, Shuan Wiemer, Travis DeWalt, Mike Quarto, Sean Davis, Jason Birt, Dan Fagan.