By Tommy Shoemaker
Head Football Coach
Central Arkansas Christian School (AR)
Like many coaches, I am always interested in an innovation or wrinkle that could give my team an edge in preparing for our opponents. As a Hurry-Up No-Huddle (HUNH) offense, that wrinkle for us has ironically been a huddle – the sugar huddle. This concept and many of our sugar huddle plays were “borrowed” from Gus Malzahn and his offenses at Tulsa and Auburn. In this clinic report, I will explain the advantages of the sugar huddle, its implementation, and a few plays that we use out of the sugar huddle look.
Sugar Huddle Advantages
While the core foundation of our offensive philosophy is using a hurry-up no-huddle, we also believe that mixing in a sugar huddle can provide us with some unique advantages. Many of the advantages that we gained from an up tempo attack are evident as well when using a sugar huddle. The two main advantages are preparation and panic. Using a sugar huddle adds additional prep time for our opponent and is not easily simulated. Adding to the difficulty of preparing for a sugar huddle is the fact that we typically change our sugar huddle plays weekly. It is tough to prepare for something you have never seen. Another advantage is the tendency for teams to panic trying to get lined up. Many times the defense will still be adjusting when the ball is snapped. This sense of panic can often cause the defense to lose its aggressiveness.
Sugar Huddle Mechanics
The mechanics of the sugar huddle are simple, yet require practice to achieve the timing of the plays. One of the most critical parts of using a sugar huddle is aligning quickly and getting set before using motion or snapping the ball. The center will set the huddle 1 yard from the football. Both of the OGs and OTs will align in a “U” so that they can quickly turn and get set. If we are using a TE, he will huddle and lineup similar to the lineman. Any player who is split will huddle next to OL, since they will be released early. The Backs and QB will huddle at the back of the huddle. The QB, or whoever is receiving the snap, will call the play and say “release.” This command will send the split receivers out of the huddle to line up. The QB will pause to give the receivers time to get to their positions and then say “Down.” On this command the remaining will players will quickly line up and get set. Once everyone is set, the QB can begin the cadence. This may involve bringing a player in motion first. Our cadence is simply “Set, Hut.”
Practicing the Sugar Huddle
Like any part of your offense, it is important to be intentional about how you organize, install and practice the sugar huddle component. When installing a sugar huddle, we give each play a name, such as “Diamond” or “Pistol.” This one word name indicates the personnel grouping, formation, motion and play. This allows us to be very specific, yet simple when utilizing these plays.
On a typical game week we use Monday as a walk thru for our game plan. We will install any new plays and review the sugar huddle plays to be used that week. We typically go into a game with 4-6 sugar huddle plays. On Tuesday, we will run through all sugar huddle plays for that week at the end of our normal offensive script. We practice them at the end without tempo so that we can emphasize the execution and the details of the plays. Wednesday is the day when the plays are dispersed throughout the script. The emphasis is on changing personnel groups efficiently and scripting the plays based on field position or down and distance situations. Similar to many teams, Thursday is a run thru of our game plan. All of the sugar plays are worked into the script based on where we intend to call them on the field.
Designing & Implementing Sugar Huddle Plays
When trying to determine what plays to use in our sugar huddle package, we put the plays into 3 categories: shots, short yardage and momentum plays. The shots are intended to be passes that attack down the field. Shots are typically called in very specific situations such as after a turnover on the opponent’s side of the field, 2nd and short, or when backed up inside the 5-yard line. The short yardage calls are obviously for 3rd or 4th down and 1-3 yards and on the goal line. The momentum plays are intended to spark our offense. In a HUNH offense, getting a possession off to a fast start can get the momentum rolling for a series.