A couple of weeks ago, disagreement over the pace of offenses was a major topic at SEC Media Days in Birmingham.
On one side, was new Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema, joined by a few others less vocal. Their position … Slow down offenses, especially the no-huddle, even by rule change if necessary, arguably to reduce the chance of player injuries.
On the other side, was new Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn, supported by other no-huddle coaches such as Hugh Freeze of Ole Miss and Kevin Sumlin of Texas A&M. Their position … Run whatever offense best fits your players and do a better job preparing defenses to stop it.
A survey of head coaches and players at the Mountain West Media Days in Las Vegas provided one solid suggestion to Bielema. If you’re looking for support for traditional offense, avoid heading west!
Unanimously, every coach and player questioned rejected the idea of any rule change involving the speed of the game or limiting offensive flexibility. Several used Oregon as an example, pointing out that twice in recent seasons the Ducks were effectively slowed down and defeated by well-prepared teams (Stanford in 2012 regular season, 17-14 loss … Auburn in 2010 BCS Championship Game, 22-19 loss).
Here’s what they had to say about a potential rule change due to up-tempo offense:
Chris Petersen, Boise State Head Coach:
“Of course, not. There should not be a rule change. You should be able to do what you want with your offense. It’s the defense’s responsibility to stop it. Sure, that’s our kind of offense, but we also have a defense that I’m concerned about, too. We have to practice and play against this type of offense.”
Tim DeRuyter, Fresno State Head Coach:
“I think it’s a red herring. When I was at Texas A&M, we ran a fast-paced offense and we played against that type offense. There were no more injuries than at other places. If defensive players actually do get more injuries and stats prove that, I think that would be known and acknowledged. A fast offense fits our personnel and we plan to use it until somebody tells us we can’t.”
Dave Christensen, Wyoming Head Coach: “Absolutely not, there shouldn’t be any rules changed. If anything, let’s speed it up; allow 20 seconds between plays rather than 40 seconds. To those that want to slow down the game, ‘get your act going’ is what I say. You’re not going to completely stop great offenses, so work on trying to contain them.”
Ron Caragher, San Jose State Head Coach:
“There needs to be reason on this. The referee needs to make sure that both teams are ready, that they can be lined up properly. We don’t need trickery, trying to rush plays before the defense has a chance to be back in place. But, we also don’t need to impede the flow of the game, not allow the defense to intentionally drag its feet to slow it down. We don’t need to legislate anything. The defense just needs to prepare for that tempo.”
Cody Fajardo, Nevada Quarterback:
“We play as fast as we can, all-signal, no-huddle. We would like to run a play every 13 seconds. If we play bigger teams, we plan to be quicker, get more push off the offensive line late in the game. The injury argument just seems like a way to cover themselves. If defenses can’t stop the no-huddle, they need to work on their defensive strategy. Fans love watching fast games and points on the board. They love games with high scores.”
Derek Carr, Fresno State Quarterback:
“We train for fast-paced play, offensively and defensively. And, we don’t experience more injuries than other teams. Sure, it’s harder if your defense hasn’t prepared right. Oregon has been beaten in a couple of prominent games when the defenses slowed them down. There are two choices – prepare for it or complain about it.”
Taylor Graham, Hawaii Quarterback:
“We ran a little of everything in the spring – some no-huddle, some spread, some pro-set. We want to be unpredictable, make the defense be prepared for everything on every play. We’ll run a fast offense because we have the personnel to do it. Coming from a quarterback who will be running some no-huddle, that’s the idea – wear down the defense. It’s up to the defense to decide how to stop it. I would hate it if I was told that I couldn’t take advantage of a defense that’s not in position to stop our offense.”
Derron Smith, Fresno State Defensive Back:
“That’s what you do on defense. It’s your job to get ready to stop the offense. Defense has to react to the whatever the offense does.”
Zach Vigil, Utah State Linebacker:
“You know, if you have a defense that can stop a fast offense, it doesn’t seem to be a problem. Of course, they shouldn’t outlaw the fast offense. There’s no reason to penalize a team that has speed and is in good shape. Look at our game against Louisiana Tech last year (won by the Aggies in overtime, 48-41). We ran extra before the game in preparation for their offense and were in our best shape of the season. But, by the second half, they still had us really tired and were having a lot of offensive success. That’s not their fault. The hurry-up offense isn’t really that complicated. The real question is if the defense can get off the field on third down. If so, you can win against any offense.”