Originally created 09/22/00

A passing fancy



Eric Parker remembers his days as a defensive coordinator some 10 years ago when it was considered unusual for high school teams to throw the football.

"A team that can throw the ball successfully can put a defensive coordinator into a tail spin," Parker said. "Most people look at it this way -- if you can throw the football, you have the ability to make a big play."

Little did Parker know that about a decade later, he'd become the architect of a high-octane passing attack at Laney.

Parker isn't the only one who is airing it out.

Greenbrier's Mickey Derrick, whose Wolfpack is averaging 299.3 yards passing through three games this season, has taken to the air.

Butler's David Land has tried it. So has Westside's Gerald Barnes.

It seems more teams are scrapping the traditional rushing offense for a wide-open, spread-the-field type of offense.

"They've always thrown the football in the pros," Land said. "But I think the (San Francisco) 49ers and the West Coast offense made it famous. Now it's trickled down to the high school level."

Before it reached the high schools, there were the Brigham Young's and the Hawaii's that made 300-yard passing games the norm. Then Steve Spurrier instituted his version of the offense, the "Fun 'n Gun," when he became head coach at Florida in 1990.

Hal Mumme put Valdosta State and Kentucky on the map with his short quarterback drops and short pass patterns that result in lofty numbers.

But for every passing team, there still are the traditional rushing offenses, like Thomson's Luther Welsh, who has had phenomenal success with his Wing-T formation.

"The old philosophy most coaches had was like this -- there were three things, one good thing and two bad when you passed," Parker said. "The one good thing about passing was that you could complete the pass. But the other two things that were bad is you throw an incomplete pass or you throw an interception.

"But then I had a chance to listen to coaches like Hal Mumme and Steve Spurrier, and their philosophy was different. They said there were two good things that could happen when you pass. The one bad thing is throwing an interception. But the two good things were throwing an incomplete pass or completing the pass. An incomplete pass gives you a chance to play with it again."

Derrick attended a clinic with coaches from Valdosta State and Kentucky during the off-season and figured he had the personnel to run the wide-open offense. The first thing he did was scrap the Wing-T system the program was running.

"A lot of the stuff we got was from Kentucky," Derrick said. "We saw what they were doing and the success they were having throwing the football. We knew we had a quarterback who was smart and who could pick up the offense.

"As most know, our offensive line is not the biggest in the world. We felt like we'd have more success running this offense than lining up in the wing-T."

Parker says the game is constantly changing, and as defenses find ways to stop teams from throwing the ball, more teams may return to the rushing offense.

Or will they?

"What teams are doing in the NFL eventually trickles down to college, and then from college it makes its way down to the high school level," Parker said. "I remember watching the pros, and it wasn't nothing to see a 300-yard passing game.

"I think now, though, the NFL has gone back to running the football. These things seem to be working in cycles."

Top Five single season passing records in Georgia history

1) Fabian Walker, Americus, 1998...........3,187 (12 games)

2) Mashard McKnight, Ware Co., 1999........3,101 (11)

3) Al Pinkins, Mitchell-Baler, 1989........3,090 (15)

4) Matt Wyrick, Norcross, 1991.............2,913 (13)

5) David Rooks, Carrollton, 1997...........2,863 (15)

Top local performances this season

1) Will Caywood, Greenbrier, 9-8............364

2) Will Caywood, Greenbrier, 9-15...........301

3) Michael Johnson, Aquinas, 9-8............233

4) Will Caywood, Greenbrier, 9-1............229

5) Kyle Findley, South Aiken, 8-25..........211

6) Antjuan Welch, Butler, 9-15..............193

7) Jamie Williamson, Silver Bluff, 9-8......173

8) Nick Figgs, Laney, 8-25..................158

9) Kyle Findley, South Aiken, 9-1...........158

10) Sterling Howell, North Augusta, 9-8.....157

Reach Tim Morse at (706) 823-3216.