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westconn2By Mike Kuchar, Senior Research Manager, X&O Labs

The no-huddle system continues to advance and this season will be no different. As a follow up to our No-Huddle special report that XandOLabs.com released last off-season, we surveyed only those coaches with winning percentages over .500 that have used the system the past three seasons to see what they are doing differently this time around. We categorized their responses into 8 new advancements below, some of which may surprise you.


By Mike Kuchar

Senior Research Manager

X&O Labs

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westconn2Last Spring, XandOLabs.com releases its special report on the No-Huddle System.  Now that coaches have had another full off-season to retune their system, we wanted to present a follow up on how successful coaches are tweaking the no-huddle.   So, we polled those coaches with winning percentages over .500 over the last three seasons using the no-huddle and presented them with two questions:

1.  Are you making any changes to your no huddle approach this year?  Is so, what are you changing?

2.  Why are you making that change / what factors led to you feeling the need to make that change?

We presented the responses below based on 8 categories.  Within each category, we provide the change and the reasoning for the change.

Advancement 1:  Verbally Calling Out Motions


Some of the coaches we spoke with mentioned that common no-huddle tools such as big boards, wristbands and signals were too lengthy a process to get the call communicated.  So now, these coaches are moving towards sideline commands to get their players in the right spot pre-snap.  Their responses to our surveys are below:


Scott Burton, Marietta High School (GA)

“The only change we're making is we are now verbally calling out motions and shifts instead of using hand signals. We have always verbally called out the formation because we've felt this allows the kids to get in formation while looking for the signal.  To cut down on the number of signals, we've now decided to also include shifts and motions verbally.  We feel this will be more efficient, allow us to save time, and not overload the kids with excessive signals.”

Gary Jeffers, Payallup High School (WA)

“We need to go faster because that is the ticket to making defenses vanilla.  If defense is vanilla the advantage goes to offense.   Remove the boards, hand signals, etc. I may just yell in the concept number because it is faster.”

Advancement 2:  One Word Play Calls


Along the lines of a verbal cue, the one-word play call has now generated some steam among successful no-huddle coaches.  Now only one word (which can contain the formation, motion and concept) and be signaled in- or shouted out- to the entire offensive unit.  The coaches that are using this methodology share their responses below.


Erick Wills, Madison High School

“We have changed a few things this year.  We are getting rid of the wrist band and going strictly to key word signal calling.  We want to go even faster and yet simplify our play calling.”

Aric Galliano, San Jacinto High School, (CA)

“For our no huddle this year we are adding in a tempo series where we can get plays off in about 10 seconds by just saying a word. The word is the play, formation, and snap count in one. We will also have a built that we will automatically do when we have a play over 20 yds. Our whole goal of our no huddle is to run as many plays as possible. This also does not allow the defense to make changes and makes them play a vanilla or base defense with not a lot of adjustments.”

Drew Gibbs, Ramapo High School (NJ)

“If you are playing fast, try to find a way to play faster.  We like many other programs are adding more one word calls.  Meaning one word or signal gives the entire formation, motion and play call.  The NFL style of verbiage where the play call can be 12 or more words and there is a description or term for almost every player is out in favor of shorter calls that can be used week in and week out or modified to fit a specific opponent or game plan.”

Charles Bussey, Valhalla High School (CA)

“We are simplifying our base play calls to make them shorter and faster to relay.  We are also spending more time on procedure in practice then before like drilling the receivers and running backs to get the ball back to the middle after the plays instead of to the sideline judge instead of just talking about it.  More importantly, we will be drilling getting the center and receivers to sprint to the line after plays.  We typically haven't used wristbands because they slow things down but we will use them for more complex play calls and formations. When we aren't looking to go as fast, running the fastest tempo possible is very important to us.  Along with the typical reasons coaches always mention for a fast pace no huddle, our players just seem to play better when we go fast. Maybe it keeps them more focused or doesn't let them think too much, but some of it is unexplainable.  There is a very significant difference to the way our offense works when we are going fast as opposed to slowing down.  There are times however when you want to run a trick play or complex motions, shifts, or backside tags where a long drawn-out play call is necessary.  We will 10-20 of these a game that will be put on a wristband.   The rest of our plays take 2-3 words to call.”

Joe Metzka

“We are changing some verbiage both for the sake of brevity and because other guys in the league are figuring out some calls.  Limiting the package to game-planned "one word" calls and various combined concepts, such as stick-draw and option screens.   Too many teams are trending to all no huddle & it taxed the defense too much to provide any legitimate advantage in 2013.  I only plan to use it when a tactical advantage presents itself, either by game plan or as an in-game adjustment.  Mixing up tempos instead.”

Joseph Whipple, Schalmont High School (NY)

“We are making some changes. They simply are changes to make us go faster. We are going to one-word calls that include in them the play and motion involved with the play. Our formations will be based on boundary or field as well. In concerns with 1 word calls and signals, I will signal in "Hulk" which is our signal caller flexing like the Hulk-they know this play is our Green formation inside Zone read option play to the Left. "Superman" which is our signal caller putting his hands in the air like Superman refers to our Blue Formation and Zone Read to the Right.  We will have one word calls for our core plays-Zone Read, Buck Sweep, Jet Sweep, Midline, and Iso. Our quick game is simply our signal caller pointing a gun at them-hitch seam, out to the side-slant shoot, at himself-seam out, and down Curl Flat. Bottom line is we want to play fast as possible our goal this year is to get a play off every 7 seconds as opposed to last years 11 seconds. That will be on me, hopefully I can think that fast.”

Chris Jaax

“Yes, we are changing the play calling at the line of scrimmage to shorten the communication between the quarter back and the offensive line.  We are removing all numbers from our plays and giving each run and pass blocking scheme a specific word.  We are making the change because:

    a. The quarterback had a difficult time communicating the play call and two dummy calls to the offensive line.  Additionally, we had situations were the play was more than a single word, which meant that on certain plays the hot call would be two words or even three words.  On other plays it would only be one and the rest would be dummy calls.

    b. Changing the play at the line of scrimmage became difficult because of the amount of words it took to communicate the play and then the change to the line.”

Scott Girolmo, offensive coordinator, Liberty High School (VA)

“Yes, I have streamlined several of our offensive code words to provide our QB with more options to audible with at the LOS. We are going to be much more reliant on him attacking defenses when they provide what we call an "opportunity look". We have spent a great deal more time in that this spring.”

Tyler Whitley, the Taft School (CT)

“I will be installing more "fire" plays- one word plays that our players can easily recognize and align immediately after hearing the trigger word. For example: the word "rhino" may signal spread inside zone right. We will likely have 6 or so of these plays in addition to our freeze play, run the same play, flip formation run the opposite direction, etc.  I am adding more of these plays in order to increase the speed of the offense and continue to keep the defense off balance. In addition, if a team has gotten used to hearing how we call or run or pass plays, we can surprise them with our fire plays.”

No-Huddle Study: New Research Reveals Why No-Huddle Teams Get More Snaps, Get More Yards and Score More Points. Go Here.

Advancement 3:  Simplifying Run/Pass Concept Verbiage


This category is similar to the one-word play calls mentioned above, except now coaches are finding ways to package their play calls together.  For example, a particular pass concept can include the formation, protection and route numbers all in one signal while a run concept can include the run, direction and formation all in one signal as well.  Some examples are below:


Drew Ryan

“A few explanations of how we use no huddle. We are a Pro I team. We use no huddle exclusively in 2 min. and hurry up/ change up situations. We pick 1 formation (either a 3x1 or 2x2 formation) for each week and run it exclusively for all no huddle situations that week. We typically only get one coverage, and minimal pressures because it is not our base offense. We feel like giving the QB one formation against one look allows us to make consistent calls and consistent reads and be successful. Also allowing us to adjust easier on the fly to exploit weaknesses. Even if the D gives us a different look/coverage then we anticipated. Adjustments are basic and across the board.

We are using a more "route concept" based approach. We used a route tree exclusively in the past.

Last year  Ex. Play call was "Formation -Protection -route numbers" 'Trips Rt BOB 3853'

This year  Ex Trips Rt BOB Levels

Since we stick to one formation and now one protection in no huddle. We can quick call "levels" and everyone knows routes and play understanding. Teaching more concept based passes has helped receivers understand spacing, relation to each other and reads much better. This also allows us to call multiple plays in the huddle clearer." Levels then Scissors then TB Draw. " Our calls in the past may need to flip based on wide side after the first play. That is all understood within the concept now.

We were very successful in the past with our simplified no huddle. We can now communicate clearer and quicker and this will certainly help.”

John McSweeney, North Hunterdon Regional High School (NJ)

“We have two new additions.  First is what we call shotgun (hand signaled in).  This is a series of plays that we package together that week based on game plan and we practice.  When we say shotgun, the offense knows we will run those three plays right in a row as fast as possible.  This is something we started doing mid season last year when we saw teams had a very difficult time defending our tempo.  The other wrinkle is packaging plays (everyone does it) and combining them into one hand signal.  For example we use the Snag/Draw package that teams like WVU run.  For us the name of our Snag concept is actually called Mountaineers so now we will signal it in calling it Mountaineers Read, so the QB knows he's reading snag to draw.”

Rick Bouch, Waterford Mott High School (MI)

“Yes, we made a change from using a signal system to a wristband. Our plays will be called from the sideline using a certain set of numbered cards. The numbers correspond to specific plays on the wristband. The cards also give the play's cadence.  We decided to change because we believe it is easier on the player. When the player looks at his wristband, his individual responsibility is on the band. When an individual player looks at his wristband, it will tell him where to line up and what to do.”

Doug Taracuk, offensive coordinator, Dublin-Scioto HS (OH)

 “We have several of our ex-staff members coaching against us this season, so we now have two more ways to communicate the play direction. We think the play communication is tough enough to detect and communicate from the sideline to the defense or among the defensive player.  The play direction was something that a defense could hear and decode. We still try to snap the ball within twenty seconds of the "end of play" whistle.  This is usually about 15 seconds or more left on the 24-second play clock. In 2012, if you divide our time of possession by the number of offensive snaps, we averaged just over 21 second per play. We are also a "no check" team more than a "set and look" no huddle. Since we committed to this pace, we changed the play at the LOS about 10-15% of the time.”


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  • How staffs like the one at Western Connecticut State University are streamlining their wristband protocols to take the guesswork out of players hands.
  • Why some programs are using up to 7 tempo structures just to keep defenses off-balanced.
  • How the use of dual reads in RPO’s (Run/Pass Options) stimulates pre-snap reads and post-snap tempo.
  • Details on the “sugar huddle” that Auburn University used last season to shield defenses from spying the formation and matching personnel on the field.
  • Plus more…

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The no-huddle system is constantly evolving and while it is by no means a “new” trend in football, defenses are doing its best to continue to keep pace with tempo.  These are just a few items that coaches are finding to help with keeping their tempo “sacred.” 



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