BOWLING GREEN - At a spring football practice this week at Bowling Green State University, the thermometer read a fairly comfortable 54 degrees with partly sunny skies.
But when gusty winds swept across the Falcons' practice fields outside Perry Stadium, as it always seems to do, it made it feel like a very chilly late autumn day - perfect for running the football.
In years past, operating with a pass-first shotgun offense under departed coach Gregg Brandon, the Falcons would have probably continued to chuck the ball downfield.
That all may change under first-year coach Dave Clawson.
With seven practices under their belts, the Falcons are nearing the completion of Clawson's first goal of the spring: installation of his multiple scheme offense, which at its core is a version of the West Coast offense.
What that translates to on the field is BG quarterback Tyler Sheehan getting under center quite a bit more and running backs Chris Bullock and Willie Geter getting a few more carries than they're accustomed to.
"It's something we're not really used to, but it's something we can adapt to to make ourselves better," Sheehan said. "I think it's going to make us harder to game plan for because we're going to have multiple formations, multiple looks."
Sheehan didn't get under center at all last year and sparingly abandoned the shotgun his sophomore season, so it will be an adjustment for him.
"It's a little different process making reads from there," Sheehan said. "You can't see as much. You have to move your head side-to-side if you want to get all the looks."
Returning senior wideout Freddie Barnes - one of seven returning starters on offense for the Falcons - said he actually prefers a scheme with Sheehan under center that utilizes a running game for a more balanced attack.
"It makes it fun because you never know what play is going to be called," Barnes said. "We get to do more play-action pass, which gives me an opportunity to get a step on the defense, and I welcome that a whole lot."
For Clawson, the impetus to implement a running game is two-fold.
"Part of it is, you have to run it so the defense sees it," Clawson said. "If you don't ever get under center or line up with a fullback or tight end, the defense knows it won't have to defend that stuff."
The other half of Clawson's reasoning comes down to adapting to your home environment.
And in northwest Ohio in late November when championships are won and lost - as the Falcons found out last year in a home loss to Buffalo that allowed the Bulls to clinch the Mid-American Conference East division title - it's often cold and windy.
"To win championships in cold weather, at some point you have to have the ability to run the football," Clawson said. "If your offense is dependent on 80 degrees and sunny, this probably isn't a great place to do it."
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