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


With more offensive systems implementing the RPO (run/pass option) and PPO (pass/pass option) system, more responsibilities are getting placed on the pre and post-snap thought process of the quarterback. The communication between the quarterback and offensive coordinator has become as streamlined as possible because in tempo offenses one miscue can be catastrophic. In our latest research report, we talked to ten offensive coordinators about the verbiage they are using to get on the same page as their quarterback.

By Mike Kuchar
Senior Research Manager
X&O Labs
Twitter: @MikekKuchar



hendrixWhen directing a tempo offense, communication is everything and a simple miscommunication can result in travesty within seconds. There are two key cogs in running the tempo offense- the offensive coordinator and the quarterback and how these two individuals work together is in direct relation to how proficient the offense becomes. On a play-by-play pre-snap basis, the quarterback is asked to survey information, digest information and communicate information in a matter of seconds. All of this information is provided by offensive coordinators during the course of the game week. We wanted to research specifically how these communication is conveyed between the coordinator and the quarterback so we surveyed nine offensive coordinators at both the high school and college level to ask them the following questions:

  • How they teach their quarterback to identify defensive fronts and how many types of fronts he is expected to identify.
  • How they teach their quarterback to identify coverage and how these coverages are labeled in their system.
  • What landmarks these coaches use to define the “box count” and how a box is labeled.
  • How leverage is defined on the perimeter, particularly as it pertains to covered and uncovered receivers.
  • What these coaches are doing in the film room and the meeting room to teach their quarterbacks these concepts.

Their responses are left anonymous because, well…like we said communication is everything in their system. It’s the tight lipped, CIA style of these no-huddle signal callers to not tip their hand. But they did disclose the method by which they design their communication and we segmented their responses based on whether they are high school (prep) or college coaches. The participants to the study are below:  

Participants (in alphabetical order):

Dave Brown, Fort Lewis College (CO)

David Buchanan, Quabbin Regional High School (MA)

Dan Ellis, Great Valley High School (PA)

Bryon Hamilton, Shasta College (CA)

Jordan Neal, Henrix University (AR)

Chris Parker, Pikens County Schools (GA)

Mike Schmitz, Ohio Northern University

Joe Spagnolo, Iona Prep High School (NY)

Henry Stanford, Hiram College (OH)

Steve Steele, Pierre TF Riggs High School (SD)


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  • How these OCs are teaching their quarterbacks to identify defensive fronts and the tags they are using to identify them.
  • How these OCs are teaching coverage concept to their quarterbacks and how they label them.
  • How these OCs are teaching their quarterbacks to identify box count and an analysis of a number system vs. a landmark system.
  • How these OCs are teaching their quarterbacks to identify perimeter defenders and how they are defining leverage.
  • What these coaches are doing off the field to develop the cognitive process of the quarterback as it pertains to these areas.

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The no-huddle, tempo offense is a system and the system must run directly through the quarterback. If he’s not seeing what the offensive coordinator is seeing, problems will ensue. Having the proper verbiage in place to teach that quarterback about concepts such as defensive fronts, box counts, coverage identifiers and perimeter tells will only help the system run more smoothly. 



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