Alabama Coach Nick Saban Better Get Used to Defending Hurry-Up Offenses

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Alabama Coach Nick Saban Better Get Used to Defending Hurry-Up Offenses
John David Mercer-US PRESSWIRE
Alabama head coach Nick Saban

Alabama has a bye week this week, but that didn't stop Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban from making headlines.

After facing the Ole Miss Rebels last week—a team that utilizes the hurry-up, no huddle offense—Saban was asked about that style of play and its presence in college football on the weekly SEC teleconference (via: AL.com):

I think that the way people are going no-huddle right now, that at some point in time, we should look at how fast we allow the game to go in terms of player safety. The team gets in the same formation group, you can't substitute defensive players, you go on a 14-, 16-, 18-play drive and they're snapping the ball as fast as you can go and you look out there and all your players are walking around and can't even get lined up. That's when guys have a much greater chance of getting hurt when they're not ready to play. 

I just think there's got to be some sense of fairness in terms of asking is this what we want football to be?

The player safety point is valid. Tired players are more susceptible to injury, and the hurry-up is specifically designed to exploit that.

Recruits explain Nick Saban's recruiting pitch

But football is a physical game, and there are injury concerns in every aspect of the game regardless of what system teams run.

Saban may not like hurry-up offenses; but if he isn't used to them already, he better get acquainted to them, because they're here to stay.

Not all college programs can reel in top five recruiting classes on an annual basis, and the hurry-up offense is just another way for offensive coordinators to create mismatches to their advantage.

That's why you see teams running hurry-up, triple option, spread option and countless other systems.

There's nothing wrong with that. College coaches are hired to win games, not cater to a philosophical idea of what football is supposed to be.

Is it sour grapes on Saban's part?

Perhaps.

Utah jumped out to a 21-0 lead on Alabama in the 2009 Sugar Bowl using the hurry-up, en route to a 31-17 victory. During its first two drives, Utah snapped the ball every 17.6 seconds.

Alabama vs. Utah highlights

In the 2010 Iron Bowl vs. Auburn, Alabama won the time of possession battle in the first half, but tempo played a part in the Tigers' second half comeback. Auburn gashed the Crimson Tide using the zone read to the right side of the field using the no-huddle on the game-winning drive (2:25 mark).

Auburn at Alabama highlights - 2010

Sure, in a vacuum, you can find examples that prove any point. But it's clear that Saban isn't a fan of offenses that thrive on tempo. Player safety may be a part of it, but the stress that it puts on a defense—mentally and physically—is probably more of a reason for his disdain.

Do you like the hurry-up, no-huddle offense?

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For better or worse, the hurry-up is here to stay. 

Traditionalists may not like it, but it certainly provides diversity—which is good for the game. The difference in styles that you find in college football is what separates it from the NFL, and that makes the college game more interesting.

Can college football's decision-makers do something to limit the injury risk that the hurry-up offense presents?

Maybe.

But it's pointless to offer criticism without solution, and I'd be interested to hear Saban's specific ideas on how to limit the injury risk associated with the hurry-up offense.

For now, though, hurry-up offenses aren't going away.

Nor should they.

 

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