- Ivan Maisel, ESPN Senior Writer
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The origin of the offense that has helped Urban Meyer move from Bowling Green to Utah to Florida over the course of five years won't be found in any textbooks. For one thing, it's an amalgam of ideas Meyer began to assemble when he took the Bowling Green job, and has continued to refine. For another, Meyer guards it the way Coca-Cola guards its recipe.
The simple explanation is, as Meyer put it, "You are a talented guy. I have got to get you the ball. That's what I do well. How do we do that? It changes every year."
Those bland truisms really are the basis of Meyer's offense.
"When Urban and I worked together at Notre Dame," said UNLV coach Mike Sanford, who spent the last two seasons as Meyer's offensive coordinator at Utah, "we had two offenses. We had the I, and then we had the shotgun. Jarious Jackson would take a direct snap and read the backside [defensive] end, either pitching it or giving it."
When Meyer got the Bowling Green job before the 2001 season, he began to travel to visit coaches who ran offenses he admired: John L. Smith at Louisville, Joe Tiller at Purdue, Randy Walker at Northwestern, Rich Rodriguez at West Virginia.
"We brought it back with us, took some option and combined it," said Florida offensive coordinator Dan Mullen, who worked for Meyer at Bowling Green and Utah as well.
"When we were at Bowling Green, we had a quarterback [Josh Harris] who could run. When we got to Utah, we needed to put in more option. That way, Alex [Smith] would have someone to throw to if he got in trouble."
You could call it half West Coast, half wishbone, and you wouldn't be far off.
"Bowling Green throws it all over the place," Mullen said. "We want to be 50/50, run and pass."
If you want a more detailed tutorial, get in line. Coaches who make a pilgrimage to learn from Meyer or Sanford don't get much. Texas A&M, Oregon and Louisiana-Monroe are the only staffs that either Meyer or Sanford allowed to come in for a tutorial, according to Sanford.
"We limited colleges to people I know and I trusted," Sanford said. "We were very limited in what we said. Urban and I have kind of made an agreement about sharing. It's one of those deals where there are a lot of little nuances that people who try to pick it up on tape won't get."
Added Mullen, "If I explain how we put it in, you see the general part of it. Coaching through the play, when so many different things can happen, at that point, we keep a little bit for ourselves. A lot of it comes with experience of how we've been dealing with defenses."
Ivan Maisel is a senior writer at ESPN.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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