“Sugar” Huddle Directives and Communication Process

Mar 7, 2020 | Offense, Tempo and Communications, Game Planning

By Cameron Cox
Offensive Coordinator
Refugio High School (TX)
Twitter: @CoachCamCox


If you’re like me, when the dust settles at the end of a long football season, hardly any time passes before you begin searching for any small addition, or change, to improve your scheme. It may be something as simple as a new passing concept, or a small, new, series of plays. Often, the addition/change ends up fading away; for one reason or another, it wasn’t quite as good for your team as you thought it would be. However, other times the addition/change ends up being a home run. The process of designing and implementing the sugar huddle into your offensive scheme takes patience and commitment, but for us at Refugio High School, it was a grand slam.


The sugar huddle is a tight, well organized, huddle set up approximately 2-3 yards from the line of scrimmage. When the huddle is broke, offensive players sprint to the line and the ball is snapped as quickly as possible. You can imagine the advantages of the sugar huddle. Defenses face many struggles when trying to defend an offense that utilizes the sugar huddle regularly throughout a game. There is no time to make a strength call, hardly any time to communicate blitzes/stunts, and very little time to recognize tackle over sets, four-man surfaces, or even which receivers are on and off the line of scrimmage.

I do not know the origins of the sugar huddle, but the major program that I first noticed utilizing it consistently was Auburn University. Coach Gus Malzahn and his staff refer to their sugar huddle package as, "fire alarms." Many of you are probably familiar with this concept, or package, but may be curious as to how to go about implementing it into your offense.

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Planning and Installing the Sugar Huddle

The first thing you need to know about installing the sugar huddle is that you can utilize it out of any offensive scheme. I’ve witnessed Slot-T and Wing-T teams use it and I’ve seen spread offenses use it. At Refugio High School, we run a multiple offensive scheme. We base out of a power spread offense, but we also use under center, pro-style sets. Because of this, we will operate out of both the shotgun and from under center in our sugar huddle package. 

When you have decided to utilize the sugar huddle in your offensive scheme, you must select the huddle structure that best fits your offense or base personnel grouping. The huddle structure is where your players set up in the huddle. The key is to align your players in the huddle so that they can break out and get to the line of scrimmage, or their respective spots, as quickly and efficiently as possible. We choose to have our center set the huddle 2-3 yards from the ball, with his back towards the line of scrimmage. The right guard and right tackle will line up to the left of the center. The left guard and left tackle will line up to the right of the center. All offensive linemen have their backs to the line of scrimmage. From here, you need to strategically align your skill players in a way that will get them out of the huddle with as little traffic as possible. When we first installed the sugar huddle, we only utilized 20 and 21 personnel, under center sets. We also only aligned in a strong right formation. By starting simple, and keeping everything very consistent, it was easy for our players to get comfortable with the sugar huddle procedure and getting in and out of the huddle quickly and efficiently. We installed five plays from our base offense - jet sweep, power off the jet fake, play-action pass off the jet/power, toss sweep, and naked boot off the toss sweep. We practiced these 5 plays from the sugar huddle all spring long. Our base sugar huddle structure, from 20/21 personnel, is shown below.

Diagram 1

After you have decided on the huddle structure that best fits your offense or base personnel grouping, you need to decide your huddle procedure. The huddle procedure is how you will get your play to the quarterback, how the quarterback will verbalize the play call to the other 10 players, and how your players will break the huddle. This may seem like a very simple process, but it takes great planning and practice. We use wristbands in our offense, so we signal in the play to the QB from the sidelines. The quarterback will then approach the huddle, take a knee, and relay the play to the other players. The quarterback uses these directives:

Wristband 7 on go…….Wristband 7 on go……..Ready break!”

The way that the quarterback gives the directives in the sugar huddle is very important. Players break at different times during the quarterback’s directions. When the quarterback gives the first directive, “Wristband 7 on go”, all players will look at their wristband and find the play. Any player who is not attached to the formation (typically receivers that are not aligned tight to the formation) will break the huddle once they find the play on their wristband.

Diagram 2

When the unattached players are nearly getting set at their spots, the quarterback will give the second directive, “Wristband 7 on go.” The quarterback will give a slight pause, and all remaining players will break the huddle on, “Ready break!

Diagram 3

Diagram 4

In our sugar huddle procedure, all offensive linemen will turn outside, away from the center, as they break the huddle and get set as quickly as possible. The remaining skill players, that are attached to the formation or aligned in the backfield, will get to their respective spots as quickly as possible. All players must get set as quickly as humanly possible once they get to their spots.

Diagram 5

Coaching Points:

When you are utilizing the sugar huddle scheme, the snap count can be whatever you want. Sometimes it is beneficial to go on two. The quick tempo of the sugar huddle will often have defenses very antsy and you may be able to draw an offsides penalty.

It is very important to make sure that your players are comfortable and relaxed. The more often you practice operating out of the sugar huddle, the better you will