Using Analytics to Guide Offensive Play-Calling

Aug 25, 2018 | Offense, Program Development, Game Planning, Self-Scout

By Steve Steele
Former Offensive Coordinator
Dakota State University
Twitter: @Steele_House


To many coaches, statistics are something you check after the game to see how you did. You can compare them to previous games, previous years, and opponents to get a grasp on how your unit is performing relative to other units across the country. That said, manipulating these statistics to be proactive and gain an advantage in performance objectives is something that most small schools don’t have time, effort, or desire to do. Here at Dakota State, we find this exercise to be essential.

Our offensive staff uses past statistics with some formulas that are well known to many fantasy football experts to predict our success rates in different situations that can help decision making on game day. This is especially powerful with our offense being no huddle and up tempo as having this data available to study ahead of a game can really help us keep our pace in moments where a lot of teams would have tough decisions to make.


When we took a look back after year one of running our no huddle offense, we noticed a few things. First off, we wanted to be faster in all situations, but especially in our critical situations where we need to have a successful play. Our process was too slow having to check our charts and then our call section to get the correct play in. Second, our play success model that we based play-calling on was very conducive to being successful in going for fourth downs. This led our off-season research to find a model that would allow us to mold our play-calling model to be quicker, especially in critical success situations, as well as looking to get in favorable fourth down situations rather than taking a lower percentage third down play to try and get all of it, more times than not resulting in a punt. Here are the analytical concepts we used…

Play Success:             

  • 1st Down = 40% yards needed
  • 2nd Down = 50% yards needed
  • 3rd/4th Down = First Down

Power Success: 3rd/4th Down Runs < 3 Successes/Failures (Our Off % vs. Opposing Def %)