A new way of thinking about Offense
By Bruce Pielstick, Offensive Coordinator
MidAmerica Nazarene University
Every offensive coach in America is looking for the edge or a way to get ahead of their opponent’s defense. There is no question that conducting an organized, quick, efficient offense in the fastest manner possible is a great way to produce a higher amount of yardage and points. What has been used at this point to speed up the play calling with these types of offenses are very few formations, motions, and schemes. The advantage of doing this offensively is that it simplifies what the athlete is required to learn, which allows him to gain confidence in what he is doing on each play, the repetitions during practice are also increased, which allows for an increase of knowledge. So, the strength of this offensive style is to allow your athletes to be athletes, and to try to catch the defense unprepared or simplified. However, the weakness as I see it, is that it reduces the depth of what the offense can do, which in turn simplifies what the defense will be required to prepare for.
What has not been discussed enough when talking about these types of offenses (and every offensive coordinator knows this) is the fact that this style of offense creates a greater stress on your own defense. Whether you score quickly or go three and out quickly, this style puts your own defense back out on the field quickly, so that means more snaps for your own defense too. Hypothetically this means that if both teams are using this style of offense and are successful at it then it will turn into a “track meet” style of high scoring game. However, if only one team is having success offensively, then the team that can’t score enough will usually get blown out. So, this means that whoever has the best talent will win, which has nothing to do with the style of offense you are using.
The question I have for you at this point is, what if both teams have equal talent but one team runs the fast paced offense while the other has a more diversified offense to defend and can also move at a fast pace. Who would have the advantage?
What I am asking is can you have a multiple and diverse style of offense that can also move quickly and run at a fast pace? I believe you can. Running a Multiple Pro style of offense allows you to utilize all your athletes’ many talents. It also uses a higher number of formations, shifts, and
motions, and have more schemes available. This would multiply what your opponent would prepare for and now by increasing the pace at which you do this would create even greater opportunities for success. This would be the “Ultimate” offense.
The next question is, what is the most important element in your offense: speed of play, that ability to audible to the best match-up opportunity, or the scheme you use?
I say, why not have it all. That’s right, why not utilize all these options including doing this at a fast pace. Since the play calling duties are usually on the OC (with the QB having options for run or pass, or different runs or different passes within the play call), then why not allow the offense to get into whatever they want and run whatever they want, however they want, at a fast pace? All of this will create even more “doubt” or “unknown”, which is what every offensive coordinator is trying to create for every defense and what every defensive coordinator is trying to eliminate. This will give your offense the advantage and will also help keep your defense off the field too.
Those that are using the high speed, no huddle offense already have found that there is an increase of repetitions of plays that are practiced and that there is also an added element of an increase of conditioning. However, what I am adding to this is that because of gaining a greater amount of repetitions of plays during practice, it also allows for a greater number of plays to be used in your overall game plan because you have time to practice and prepare them. What seems to be lost in the understanding of the benefits of a high speed offense is that these advantages can be created within ANY offensive style, not just a spread style offense.
So here’s my thought: Why don’t we see OC’s putting these together more often? I do see a trend heading that way. As you watch the top level college teams perform, both elements are being increasingly used together, especially when they are matched against a tougher opponent then what they usually see. However, in doing this there are some obstacles to overcome for your offense to still perform smoothly. Such as:
1. Because of the desire to perform plays quickly, how do you switch your personnel in a smooth organized manner?
a. First, you must have code words/signals to insert your next personnel group, quickly and efficiently.
b. Secondly, you must be able to have the methodology to do this immediately after the previous play.
c. Thirdly, if you must “pause” before your next play call because of the down/distance and or yardage situation, then either you result in a “regularly” timed play or you must have a grouping prepared that will fit into any possible situation.
2. How do you communicate multiple formations, variations, and even motions without the defense catching on?
a. First, formations are what a defense will practice against the most. It is the variations and/or the motions that the defense have the hardest time emulating in practice. This is also what the offense is more apt to change from week to week. So keep your formation calls simple. Many no huddle teams have gone to a coded system, whether by using a sideline board/signals or coded/packaged words. In my opinion either will work effectively.
b. Second, the variation and/or motion is typically communicated with the entire call. So, if the defenders are busy listening for any variation and or motion then they could miss the actual play call. However, using a coded system can help you stay confident that the defense won’t know what is happening before the snap of the ball.
3. How do you communicate multiple play styles without tipping your hand?
a. First, I believe your terminology must be different than anybody else’s. If you are doing the same thing as everyone else then your coded system is no longer coded, and it becomes the norm. So be unique. This is where you get to put your own stamp on your offense.
b. Second, to prevent teams from understanding what you are doing before you do it you must be able to change your terminology from week to week and yet stay the same. This means you may need to use multiple verbiage for the same play call.
4. How do you do all of this regularly, without overloading your players with additional information?
a. First, doing this everyday makes all of this become the norm, just like the hyper speed spread offense does.
b. Secondly, your terminology must explain different things to different positions. In other words, what a “banana” call means to an offensive lineman will be different than what it means to a wide receiver.
i. Once this is learned at the basic level it can now be applied with “tags” and “switches” or new “twists”. These will help communicate needed adjustments for a certain opponent’s style of defense from week to week.
c. Thirdly, the increase of information that is changed each week must mostly be put on the coaches, not the players.
i. This is done by “clarifying” to the players how each term is used or understood. This “clarification” helps explain exactly how each position will “adjust” against the varying defensive looks.
d. What becomes increased if you are the OC, is the time to prepare the daily scripts with every play written out for practice.
i. If you can manage this time issue, then why choose the spread only version of offense? Why not use a Multiple Pro style that creates many more options that can be used for each week?
If an offense can be fast paced, but still be multiple, it would be and should be the ultimate way of creating new looks with a fast tempo. I believe this is the offense of the now and of the future.
Advantages of the Multiple Pro Offense:
Multiple formations, shifts, and motions, can provide a new window dressing to the same idea from week to week. This can cause doubts by the defenders and slow the reaction to a play, which will allow a greater opportunity for success for the offense.
Advantages of the fast paced Spread offense:
The fast paced tempo offense is simpler to learn and execute. It can create additional opportunities because it lengthens the game by squeezing more plays in less time used. It can also add a level of confusion for the defense which can add another level of doubtfulness for the defender to deal with.
Now put these advantages together and you have multiplied the opportunities to stay ahead of the defense. By doing this you have created your own “Ultimate” offense.