In case you haven’t noticed, there has been an increasing
number of calls from some college football coaches to
slow down or neutralize the fast paced offenses played at
places like Oregon, Texas A&M, and Auburn University.
The latest to add his voice to the debate is Arkansas’s
new coach, Bret Bielema. While not the first coach to air his complaints, his voice may carry more weight than some of the others.
The fact that he has taken his position is of more significance than when others have complained. You see Bielema is on the NCAA’s Playing Rules Committee. This week he submitted a proposal to change the rules to give the defense 15-second substitution periods after each first down – even if the offense doesn’t substitute.
The Ex-Big 10 coach wants to slow down the hurry up offenses ostensibly to make it a safer game for the defensive lineman.
But there is no evidence to support his position that hurry up schemes result in more injuries to defensive players. Besides the offensive lineman are on the field just as long as the defense. Since they don’t substitute in and out, the only thing that can be surmised from his proposal is he wants to take away the competitive advantage of teams that run a HUNH (no huddle -hurry up) offense.
The HUNH offense is the biggest nightmare for opposing coaches to deal with since the wishbone was used so effectively by Texas, Alabama, Auburn, Oklahoma and others during the 70′s and 80′s.
One can only imagine the headaches it causes for a defensive coordinator. The HUNH offense not only makes it hard to substitute fresh players, it makes it difficult for defenses to huddle between plays; both of which throws the defense off balance. After awhile as the offense keeps showing different formations, the defense not only gets physically worn out but also becomes mentally fatigued. In short, the faster the snap, the more the offense can foul up the opposing defense.
However the answer is not in changing the rules. The answer is in making sure your defenders are better conditioned. The teams that run a fast paced attack spend a lot of time making sure their guys are conditioned for the 80+ plays they run per game.
So teams they face can neutralize the HUNH’s advantage by doing a couple of things. First, make sure their defense is conditioned to stay on the field for longer periods of time. Second, stop the HUNH on third down, get them off the field and then let your offense control the clock. The HUNH offense can’t do any harm if they are not on the field.
Besides, one of the best things about the game of football is the battle of wits between what advantages the offensive coordinators try to take against opposing defense verses the strategy of the defensive coordinator’s to neutralize those advantages.
What might be a better strategy for Bielema is to stop whining about the fast paced offenses and deal with it. Work to come up with a way to defend it without asking for a change in the rules.
That’s what coaches did in the past when the wishbone craze was sweeping the college football world or when Steve Spurrier was using his “fun and gun passing game” at Florida to dominate the SEC.
If a coach comes up with a way to run an offense that is hard to defend – good coaches find a way to defend it. Always have and always will.