By Joe Loth
Head Football Coach
Western Connecticut State University
We currently use a combination of offensive wristbands and one-word plays on offense at Western Connecticut State University. The wristband system has allowed us to run a high volume, alignment specific offense without having the meeting time a major college program has in the season, off-season, and summers. We will lean on our wristbands if we are a young team and utilize more 1-word calls if we are a more veteran squad. It allows us to operate seamlessly when there has been offensive staff turnover. Most importantly, it removes a tremendous amount of rogue memorization for our players which allows them to play faster and handle a larger volume of offense.
We have been running our core spread offense since 2007 when I was the head coach at Otterbein University. Starting in 2006, we originally used a simplified wristband process with only our quarterback wearing one. He used the wristband like how the NFL uses their wristbands. We signaled in a wristband number to the quarterback and he read the formation and play to the offense in the huddle. The biggest challenge we had back then was having to put 2 calls on the wristband for every play to account for what hash the ball was on. It also did not allow us to go fast. In addition to finding a play to call we had to match the hash to the call in. In 2012 when I became the head coach at Western Connecticut, we transitioned our offense to a true no-huddle, signaling in the formation and play from the sideline. We utilized that for one full season but ended the season frustrated when our best player struggled with the rogue memorization of learning the signals and then pulling his specific assignment and alignment from our calls. We felt we had to simplify our system at times. We ultimately had to develop a specific set of signals specifically for him, sometimes just yelling in what he had on that play.
After the 2012 season, I had hired a local CT high school coach, Chuck Lynch, on my staff to coach running backs. He talked to me about how he used a wristband system for his entire offense and had a wristband for every position at his former high school. I arrogantly dismissed the idea thinking it was just a high school thing that wouldn't work. Plus, the system he talked about didn’t fit our offense. It had left and right WR’s and had limited to no motion calls. We were a field/boundary-based passing offense and an even/odd running game. Two weeks before spring practice began, we started to put our install together for our no-huddle signal-based offense. We once again faced the obstacle of how we get all of our best players to play fast, memorize a high-volume offense plus getting our best player to just operate within this system. How do we create signals for all our operations? We sat down as a staff and created a wristband system that allowed us to play with field and boundary receivers, allows us to play fast, be multiple, and ultimately has allowed our skill players to eliminate the amount of rogue memorization of play calls to allow them to play quicker and to handle a larger volume of plays.
The benefits of using our system for our players have been the following. Our skill players are told their specific alignments and assignments on every play. Once they learn our basic alignments and assignments this can be applied to multiple calls. Giving them specific landmark alignments has allowed us to create consistent spacing in our passing game. We have also developed an easy to learn blocking assignment system that defines not only whom to block but with what kind of leverage and technique. The Quarterback has the entire call on his wristband, this call has the formation and play and sometimes a QB cheat word on it to help him operate the play. We have created a very systematic RPO system that ties blocking responsibilities together with the perimeter receivers and offensive line and identifies the defender for the QB and offensive line that we are putting in conflict. The offensive line will know on every play whom we are reading on the perimeter in the RPO game.
We feel we have solved some of the issues for people that may already be using wristbands. These issues include not having to create left and right hash calls but a universal call that works on both hashes, the ability to specifically align players with landmark alignments, the ability to easily print the wristbands. We have created a signal board system to call the system. We have also tied our online database to our physical playbook. We have also created a process of categorizing our plays to make practice and game day sheets easier for the coaches to utilize. Lastly tying our base wristband columns to specific formations has allowed us to freeze formations and make calls from them, but just as importantly align in practice to do a walk-thru.