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Rich Rodriguez's Pro Set Talk More Than Empty Rhetoric


Rich Rodriguez's suggestion at Pac-12 Media Day that the spread offense was becoming "the new pro set" raised eyebrows, elicited laughs and in some cases, rolled eyes, then was forgotten. The way in which Rodriguez and staff have utilized Matt Scott early in the 2012 campaign suggests that statement was more than empty rhetoric.

Scott's place in the Arizona offense bears a greater resemblance to what was seen on Sunday across the NFL than it does the responsibilities typically associated with an option quarterback. Scott has passed 87 times and ranks No. 9 nationally for completions in this young season. Those who have connected on more attempts include David Piland (Houston), Colby Cameron (in former UA offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes' Louisiana Tech offense), and Geno Smith. That's not exactly option company Scott is keeping.

Of course, it's not as though Scott is a Peyton Manning-like statue in the pocket. His 33 carries are the second most among all Wildcat ball carriers by a healthy margin. The redshirt senior is tucking the ball and running, but he's doing so within the flow of the game and predicated on what the defense presents.

It's more like watching a 2012 NFL broadcast than a 2005 West Virginia tape when Pat White rushed more than he passed.

The obvious example in the NFL Week 1 was Robert Griffin III's Redskin debut. He lined up out of shotgun, oftentimes with just one one or no running backs alongside him -- which you had to know was just killing Mike Shanahan. He flourished, passing effectively and running when necessary. The critique on running quarterbacks previously was that NFL defenses were simply too talented, too aggressive, and such quarterbacks would wear out quickly.

And indeed, there's still truth to that. The key that is finally being embraced professionally and evident in Scott's play is balance.

The evolution of pro offenses to a style more closely resembling those prevalent on Saturdays goes far beyond the last two Heisman Trophy winners.

The Baltimore Ravens erupted for 44 points in Monday's win over the Cincinnati Bengals. Six of those were defensive, but the rest were the result of a modernized offensive approach. Once the NFL's gold standard of the traditional Pro Set philosophy, Baltimore abandoned the strict, two-back, double-tight formation for something more wide open and it produced results.

Joe Flacco didn't exactly become Cam Newton in the off-season, but he did have one of his best professional outings with a more spread out formation and no-huddle approach -- a no-huddle similar to what UA employed in Saturday's win over Oklahoma State. While Flacco won't be breaking off Rodriguez offense-worthy rushes any time soon, his back-up is Virginia Tech alum Tyrod Taylor. He will.

Quick, quick, quick: that's what Baltimore unleashed, and that's the prevailing professional offensive philosophy now. It took the NFL some time to catch up to the prevailing mindset in the college game, but now that it's made its way to Sundays it looks like it has legs.

This hybrid style might also be in the desert to stay, too. Scott's eligibility expires at season's end, and he's the last quarterback link remaining to the Dykes-era, pass-happy version of the spread. But four star Wildcat signee Anu Solomon is employing a style similar to that of Scott at Bishop Gorman. Solomon passed 41 times in the Gaels' first two wins, almost four times as often as he's rushed.