By John Helsley
From the outside, OSU’s spring practices focused almost entirely on new offensive coordinator’s Dana Holgorsen’s spread attack that took OSU’s old spread to a different level, a more air-it-out level.
Friends and fans all wanted to know the same things:
How does it look?
Are the receivers a fit?
Will the Cowboys still run?
The one question — and a vital question — never asked: How will the new look impact the Cowboys defense. The change in philosophy affects both sides of the ball in practices. Outside of the scout team offense, the Holgorsen spread is all the defense will see from a quality standpoint.
That means dealing with a lot of finesse and speed and little, if any, time going mano-a-mano against a physical power running game.
We always wonder why defenses attached to spread teams — like Holgorsen’s at Texas Tech and Houston — have rarely been effective. Maybe they’re soft. Maybe they’re just unprepared for what’s coming.
Cowboys’ defensive coordinator Bill Young, who must replace a slew of starters, downplayed any concern.
“That’s going to make us better and better in the secondary. There’s a give and take playing an offense like ours. You’re not as physical playing the run, but you get so much better playing the pass and tackling in the open field. If you don’t, you’re going to get scorched.”
More and more teams and plenty of Big 12 programs operate out of some version of the spread. Quick, name the great running games or running backs in the Big 12. Not so easy, huh? So maybe the benefits will outweight the negatives.
Cowboys defensive tackle Shane Jarka knows this — the defense will surely be in shape.
“It definitely pushes you to a different limit. They’re so sideline-to-sideline and they’re so fast-paced. You really have to learn a lot about yourself and find that other gear and keep pushing. It’s so tiring and you have to keep going.”