Amherst football on Grantland

Today, an essay by THE Chuck Klosterman recognizes the beauty of D3. His writing makes Amherst football sound as elegant as ballet and as primal as Troy…

That’s good writing. Read the whole thing here.

Money quotes:

“Watch a major college game, and the action gets weird. You immediately see plays that simply can’t happen1 in a pro game. At the subdivision and Division II tiers, things get stranger still. And by the time you hit Division III, you begin to see football games that are more philosophical than technical. With no athletic scholarships and extremely limited resources, football becomes a game in which the system matters more than the play calling or the personnel. The polarities become acute. This is where you find the most extreme versions of contemporary football: This is where you find teams that still live in the 1950s and teams trying to play basketball on grass. This is the level where football changes — and also where it doesn’t change at all….

Even after its 40-27 loss to the Tigers, nobody disputes Oregon’s status as the fastest team in the country. But it’s not the only team that plays like that — it’s just the one people want to copy. Amherst College3 is one of those programs. The Lord Jeffs’4 2010 statistics aren’t as mind-warping as Maine Maritime’s, but they’re almost as dominant: They outscored their opponents by about 16 points a game (they put 70 on the board versus Tufts University). What’s especially intriguing about Amherst is its rapid evolution from the past to the future, skipping the present almost entirely. When Amherst coach E.J. Mills took over the program in 1997, they ran a two-back, pro-style offense that mostly involved handing the ball to the tailback and eating the clock. It was almost an “anti-Blur” posture, and it was fairly successful. But one mediocre autumn was all it took to scrap everything…

“I suppose it’s kind of a chicken-or-the-egg situation,” Faulstick admits. “Do you play better when you play fast, or do you need to play well in order to play fast? That’s the question.”

“For Division III schools like Amherst, implementing the Blur as a system isn’t as complicated as actually operating it, simply because they don’t have athletic scholarships (and therefore can’t fill positions with precisely what they need). Their roster includes players who run the entire spectrum of athletic ability, and that throws things out of balance…For a Division III receiver, he’s a beast. There might be certain pass plays that work only with his specific skill set.”

… Yet limitations sometimes spur innovation. One thing Amherst does that’s particularly forward-thinking is the way it calls the cadence — instead of by the QB, it’s called by the center. Once the quarterback has informed the lineman of the play, his only presnap responsibility is making sure everyone is lined up correctly and “mentally visualizing” what he needs to do next; he doesn’t have to worry about getting the ball snapped. Now, does this actually allow the Jeffs to play fasterthan other teams? That’s unclear. But it does create other advantages that will probably be copied by other coaches over time.”

Amherst Football

Looking good #12


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