Thursday, May 19, 2005

RToTD - Making Spread O's More Dangerous

The consensus on defending spread offenses seems to be to let the offense move the disc back and forth between the handlers as much as possible, but prevent the disc from getting to the downfield receivers. I'm curious if anyone has any insight on how to make a defense pay for basically poaching off (at least) 2 players. Say you're running an H stack with 4 recievers downfield, and 3 handlers. Defenses will poach off the two side-handlers, preferring to make the downfield throws more difficult. When the disc does get to the sideline, the downfield receivers are even easier to take away, especially if the thrower doesn't have the deep shot.

It seems like it would be in the offense's best interest to find a way to utilize the side-handler as a key component of the offense, since they know the defense will be poaching off them. Perhaps it's just a matter of having enough good throwers that you can have 3 back who can put the disc deep. I've approached it in 3 manners so far. First, just have the side-handlers get the disc back to the middle handler as quickly as possible. This is my least favorite solution as the side-handler position is devalued (and, regardless of skill level will likely become unhappy with their role). Second, I've tried putting stronger throwers on the side (someone with a big backhand on the backhand side and forehand on the forehand side). This is probably my favorite solution, but requires enough throwers to have 3 back (I've had trouble finding these in both college and mixed). The third option is to allow the 3 handlers to run a homey to get 'easy' yards against the poaching defenders. Again, you need the personnel to do this, and it can frustrate your downfield cutters. Do you make the downfield cutters run the whole time or just keep backing up? Perhaps a set play or two would, if effective enough, make the defense play a little more honest.

Have any of you addressed this issue? Is it simply a weakness of spread O's that can only be solved with better talent?

9 comments:

Edward Lee said...

I think that if your throwers aren't dangerous enough to make a team really pay for leaving them unguarded, there may not be much sense in leaving them behind the disc.

aj said...

I like how Tarr has the Purdue women deal with this issue. It's probably bad form to diagram their offense the week before natties though, so maybe we should hold off on this topic until after the show? I'm guessing that Tarr won't be oppossed to talking about how they handled it.

Tarr said...

Yes, I'd be glad to talk in great depth about this in a week and a half.

Also, I'm gonna be at natties on Friday, then take the redeye to my buddy's wedding. So I miss prequarters et cetera, but I'm there for pool play.

Idris said...

two strategy independant points:

1. make sure the poachers are actually denying the passes they think they are denying. too often people swing the disc to the sideline simply because the person is open. imagine a gnarly side wind and a team is trapping hard, the O usually has no issue simply refusing to throw it to the trapped side unless absolutely necessary. this same discipline should be applied to spread.

2. plan for it, period.

the funny thing about basic poaching in a spread O, is that it is basically the same everytime, yet most teams don't use it as an opportunity to ATTACK. they simply react to it. but it might as well be a non-audible play call. instead of the thrower yelling "play one", the team runs "play one", when the... imagine that... the defender on the open side handler poaches into the middle of the field.

that play can be 1 of several options, or it can be the same thing everytime.

some options, like you've already mentioned...

swing the disc to the poached handler (after they have repositioned themselves into the best place they can be... basically as far upfield and to the middle as they can go).

at that point you can:

-run a give go
-clear out certain downfield players (i.e. players on the near sideline) and iso others
-throw right back to the middle of the field

you can send the paoched player through... poached player runs at and by the poacher, forcing the poacher to make a choice.. stay in the lane or go gaurd the player who is now open for vertical yards.

this will open up opportunites to throw downfield passes towards the now vacated sideline for yards. this is a staple of Furious' offense, and they'll run this play even with out anybody being poached.

as with most O's, most things will work if you're on the same page... you just have ot have a plan and run it like clock work when the "suprise paocher" appears in the spot they have been all game/year long.

but like the first comment said... at the end of the day, if you cannot appropriately react to the paochers coming off your players, you are not ready for spread or any O that positions players in a poachable area. your best bet would be to simply have them rotate out of that position in some way. preferably in a way that makes them a threat.

Tarr said...

Purdue was definitely a lopsided team in the sense of having a handful of really skilled players, and then a pretty big drop-off. As such, I implemented a spread in an effort to get our best throwers making the majority of our upfield throws, and to make the cutting options relatively straightforward for the rest of our players.

This is maybe different than some spreads, where the goal is to get the disc to a receiver and then let the cutters move the disc the rest of the way while the handlers jog behind. We would get the disc back to a handler just about every other pass, and we used a handler weave to keep things moving when the cutters were not open.

As such, maybe poaching the handlers makes less sense against Purdue than it would against most ho-stacks. That said, at least one team was effective against us using handler poaches. I'll get to that later.

Looking at AJ's proposed solutions:

First, just have the side-handlers get the disc back to the middle handler as quickly as possible. This is my least favorite solution as the side-handler position is devalued (and, regardless of skill level will likely become unhappy with their role).

Also, this doesn't really do anything to discourage the poach. I agree this is not a good solution.

Second, I've tried putting stronger throwers on the side (someone with a big backhand on the backhand side and forehand on the forehand side). This is probably my favorite solution, but requires enough throwers to have 3 back (I've had trouble finding these in both college and mixed).

Definitely my preferred solution as well. I would say at least 85% of our deep throws came from two players (Lucy and Michelle), and they were the wing handlers most of the time. Any situation where they could get the disc without a mark was OK by me. And since Michelle is a lefty, they both got the backhand down the line as their huck.

The third option is to allow the 3 handlers to run a homey to get 'easy' yards against the poaching defenders.

We did quite a bit of this as well. Teams that played us got really tired of seeing Katie going up the line.

The key for us was to have structure even in the homey. The third handler's cut was determined by what the middle handler did, and the give-and-go was required in certain situations.


Again, you need the personnel to do this, and it can frustrate your downfield cutters. Do you make the downfield cutters run the whole time or just keep backing up?

I guess the "secret" of Purdue's offense this year, insofar as there was a secret, was how structured it was. There was a very specific way the handlers were expected to rotate, and the cutters only had a couple different cuts they were looking to make at any given time. All cutter motion was triggered by handler motion.

So, when there was a cut up the line from a handler, the cutters knew exactly what cut the handler would be looking for after the catch. Ditto for a dump or breakmark swing.

Perhaps a set play or two would, if effective enough, make the defense play a little more honest.

I tended to stay away from set plays. However, I did use them to deal with poaching on the cutters. The most common poach we would see there was teams sandwiching the ho-stack, putting two in front and two behind. We had a play to flood this and get an easy in-cut.

NC State actually used a 3 back, 1 in front arrangement on the cutters. This required a different set play, but it could be dealt with. Basically, we could deal with any poaching arrangement on the cutters as long as we knew what it was and we could plan for it.

The most effective poach we saw all season was from Illinois in pool play at regionals. When we had the disc on the line, they would have the far handler's defender cover the middle handler, and the middle handler's defender play in the lane. They were very good with the switches - they had clearly worked on it.

We were eventually able to adjust by being more agressive about throwing directly to the far handler and getting yards up the break side. This required either throwing the big swing right away, or having the middle handler draw her defender out of the way so the third handler was open for a short break throw.

Tarr said...

One more comment -

The only team that played a significant amount of spread O against Purdue this year was Rutgers. But they run a different formation. Purdue runs 3 handlers back with 4 cutters in a horizontal stack. Rutgers runs the "German" O: 4 handlers back, an isolated middle cutter, and two deeps.

Unlike Purdue, where all three handlers back are skill players, Rutgers was basically hiding new players at the side handler spots. (Rutgers was the only team at nationals with fewer players than Purdue.) The goal of their offense was basically to get the disc to Linda Dolan in the middle, and let her launch it to one of the deeps.

As such, I told the defenders of the side handlers to poach completely off their players, and get between the disc and Linda. This worked pretty well, as we forced several bad deep throws thanks to the poach, and they turned it over a few times trying to throw the big crossfield swing.

Ideally, I'd have wanted to run more handler switches (a-la the defense Illinois played on us) so that the poach would come faster, and so that we could recover more quickly when they did swing. But we got away with it because their side handlers weren't willing to make big throws to hurt us. This goes back to what Ed and Idris said, I guess.

Anonymous said...

There are 3 varieties of effective spread d that I've seen:

1. Trap on both sidelines and run a variety of poaching/switching on the handlers, as discussed above.

2. Trap on the sideline and go into a trap-zone defense. And at least one team snapped into a zone on one side of the field and transitioned to more of a man look on the other side of the field. It was strange, to say the least.

3. Force middle, poach off of the handlers into the cutting lanes, have 3 in front of the downfield cutters, and one behind. A 3-3-1 defensive matchup zone, essentially. In the middle, the marker works to deny the inside break while poaches help with the around breaks. On the outside, the poaches sag to the middle and the marker must deny the up-line throw. All handler poaches snap to tight man d somewhere in the neighborhood of stalls 4-6.

Which of these have y'allfound to be most effective in slowing/stopping a spread? Most teams seem to run a variety of #1. I've seen some Carolina teams run a very effective version of #3. #2 I haven't seen enough to make an observation of.

I ask because I find that on offense, so long as you're all on the same page, you can run just about anything you like. On defense, certain choices seem to be more effective than others.

Anyone still reading this thread?

aj said...

I talked about how I like to defend spread Offenseshere.

aj

Tarr said...

I assume the "Carolina teams" you refer to mostly hail from Wilimington?

Mike G's rec.sport.disc posts usually contain more heat than light, but on force middle, switching D to defend the spread is a big exception. (Please excuse my tounge in cheek comment in that thread.)

I'd also add that if you're forcing one way, you could use a #1-type defense when the disc is on the trap side, and a #3-type defense when it is not. Takes some practice, but it's entirely do-able.