People forget it today, but back when Urban Meyer took the Florida job in the winter of 2004 there was real skepticism about whether his fancy-boy spread offense could work against the big boys in the ESSS EEE CEEE. Steve Spurrier conquered the conference in the 1990s with his Fun 'n' Gun attack, but a ground-based spread attack, out of the shotgun, with heavy quarterback involvement was a revolutionary concept in the SEC.
Fast forward 15 years later, of course, and now Nick Saban and Ed Orgeron are gearing up for the biggest game of the year, where the first one to 40 wins.
But while Meyer popularized the power spread and did more than anyone else to prove its legitimacy in major college football, he did not invent the offense. That credit goes to someone you may not expect.
"I really believe it was Bill Snyder," Meyer said. "It was 1990, '89, right around there. Michael Bishop, he was at Kansas State and they ran something where he read the defensive end. That was the first time I saw it."
Meyer is getting his dates mixed up there -- Bishop played for Kansas State from 1997-98 -- but everything else is correct. Bishop was a transcendent talent who took K-State to No. 1 in the polls and within an eyelash of playing in the first BCS title game while finishing second to Ricky Williams -- who broke the NCAA's all-time rushing record that season -- in the 1998 Heisman voting.
"A lot of people like myself, a young coach, start studying, saying 'What are they doing?'" Meyer continued. "The idea of I'm going to equate numbers by reading one defender, and so the first play everybody started to put in in the '90s was inside zone read. The perfect spread run has a way to attack the inside and the perimeter."
Meyer then explained to BTN's Gerry DiNardo his favorite spread play -- Bash -- which flips the traditional formula of the tailback taking the inside run and the quarterback running around the perimeter. "The quarterback is now the inside runner," Meyer says, "your tailback is the outside runner."
College football is collectively biding its time until Meyer inevitably returns to coaching, and if and when that happens it'll be a great day for the school that hires him and a sad one for everyone else, because Urban is great on television.