Everybody out for a long one!

A California high school coach has created an offense that's a sensation before its second year in action. Everyone's eligible.

Published July 25, 2008 11:00AM (EDT)

The series of tubes is suddenly sort of buzzing about a new football offense developed by a high school coach in Piedmont, Calif., called the A-11.

Deadspin and Yardbarker have had posts about it in the last 24 hours, which fully qualifies as buzz. An excellent explainer on Rivals.com is probably the spark for this week's football-nerd firestorm.

The offense is named for the idea that all 11 players on the field are potentially eligible, though only six are eligible on any given play. Piedmont High coach Kurt Bryan and director of football operations Steve Humphries developed it before the 2007 season to help the undersized school compete against rivals with larger bodies drawn from larger student bodies. Piedmont is a small, affluent town completely surrounded by Oakland.

Bryan installed the offense for 2007, and after two losses while, Bryan writes, "working out some kinks," the Highlanders reeled off seven straight wins before losing their last two, including a playoff game.

The offense is a variation of the spread and the run-and-shoot, with two tight ends surrounding the center, three split ends on each side and two shotgun quarterbacks, one of whom has to be at least seven yards behind the line of scrimmage. That way, the formation qualifies as a scrimmage kick formation, which makes it legal.

Whether the whole thing was legal was Bryan and Humphries' biggest question last year. They got approval from the National Federation of High Schools and the California Interscholastic Federation, Rivals.com reports.

In a blog post, Bryan writes:

  • The A-11 allows smaller teams a better chance to compete vs. larger opponents by spreading out the defense. And it emphasizes speed and precision combined with effective physical movement
  • The A-11 makes the game safer for the players, as smaller athletes are not forced to bash heads against physically superior opponents every play ...
  • The A-11 is fun for the players and coaches, and exciting for the fans

  • Because the A-11 forces all 11 players to be able to get downfield and possibly catch or carry the ball, it discourages the use of immobile blocks of lard on the interior line. Bryan -- who has produced instructional DVDs and an "installation manual" for coaches who want to adopt the scheme -- mentions on the A-11 Web site that Piedmont moves its traditional offensive-line types over to the defense so they'll still get a chance to play, with the bonus that the defense has more players and stays fresher.

    But an offense that emphasizes speed and quickness at all 11 positions would lead to fewer jobs for the 350-pound behemoths who are pro football's greatest health risks. That's aside from it being -- I'm assuming here because I've never seen it in person, though I'm planning a transbay trip this fall -- exciting and fun to watch.

    In other words, as soon as an NFL team starts thinking about using it, the league will ban it.

    By King Kaufman

    King Kaufman is a senior writer for Salon. You can e-mail him at king at salon dot com. Facebook / Twitter / Tumblr

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