Third-year coach Xarvia Smith is installing the spread option offense after running the Wing-T the past two seasons. He wants to spread the field more, because were too many defenders in the box with the Wing-T, making it a challenge to move the ball with any real authority.
Smith and his staff made the trip to Auburn’s spring practice to get a few pointers on how first-year coach Gus Malzahn runs the spread offense. Malzahn was Auburn’s offensive coordinator in 2010 when Auburn won the national championship behind quarterback Cam Newton.
“I was impressed with what (Auburn) had talent wise,” Smith said. “The speed and the way they did things were unreal. They do a great job in having those kids organized.”
Smith also said his Cardinals will play “fastbreak” football, which means they’ll likely run a no-huddle offense.
Osborne lost six starters on offense from last season’s 2-8 team but is returning a stout offensive line. Tim Crawford is a 6-foot-2, 325-pounder who can bench press more than 400 pounds. Toni Castillo (6-1, 280) is also back on the front line and both have gotten college attention.
“The offensive line should anchor our whole team,” Smith said.
The Cardinals have two rising sophomore quarterbacks — Craig Robinson and Ayo Ishia — competing for the starting position with Robinson the leading candidate as of spring.
Both quarterbacks responded well to the new spread option offense as did the skilled players around them.
“They’re loving it, they’re excited about it,” Smith said. “They’re all on board and they can’t wait. Out quarterbacks are working very hard to get it installed. They been throwing after practice and on the weekends.”
Osborne’s defensive line is expected to be another strength going into the 2013 season.
The Cardinals will have experience at defensive end with Chi Achibuem coming back and have experience returning at linebacker with Jauan Alvin and Blade Clonts.
Osborne not having won more than three games over the last 12 seasons, Smith is looking to change that trend.
The closest Osborne came to breaking that trend was 2011. The Cardinals were 2-8 that year but five of those losses were by 11 points or less and were still in position to make the playoffs late in the year.
The new spread option could help take the Cardinals to the next level in the fall but one thing working against them is the low numbers. They had 36 players on the roster last season and had 46 come out for spring.
“I believe we have an outstanding chance (to have a great season),” Smith said. “The problem is that we need a couple of more bodies. We’re another three kids away on both sides of the ball from being a solid football team.”