Pros and Cons of Running the No-Huddle Offense in College Football

Randy ChambersAnalyst IMay 13, 2013

WACO, TX - DECEMBER 1: Head coach Mike Gundy of the Oklahoma State University Cowboys looks on against the Baylor University Bears on December 1, 2012 at Floyd Casey Stadium in Waco, Texas. (Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images)
Cooper Neill/Getty Images

It seems like the no-huddle offense is here to stay in college football. Some teams use it as their base offense, some use it to change things up, and other coaches absolutely can't stand the concept of not huddling before a play.

Regardless of anyone's opinion, many teams are picking up this style of play and running with it.

The no-huddle allows you to do many things, creating obvious advantages for your team. But the offense has weaknesses that could hurt your team. It is up to you to weigh the good and the bad and discover whether this is truly the offense you prefer to run.

Here are the pros and cons of running the no-huddle offense in college football.



There are tons of reasons to run the no-huddle offense, which is why more and more teams are leaning in this direction. It has even taken off in the NFL, and we are seeing eye-popping numbers because of the transformation.

The top benefit of running this offense is wearing the opposing defense down. Fatigue is something any defender can complain about when having to defend this speedy offensive approach. Due to the offense getting to the line and snapping as quickly as possible, it limits substitutions, which means a defender will be on the field for a long time and is expected to keep up. Good luck.

This is absolute hell for the big boys in the trenches, who are supposed to generate a pass-rush and get to the quarterback. With almost no time for defenders to catch their breath, it is only a matter of time before the quarterback has all day in the pocket. Once the drive has passed five or six plays, guys are ready for a nap and don't want any part of the offensive line. It doesn't matter what level of football you are playing, if you can't put pressure on the quarterback your defense is doomed.

To counter, defenders begin faking injuries to give the rest of the defense a chance to relax. Even if it is only for a minute, it becomes valuable, giving players that extra boost they need to try and stop the drive. It is tough for scout teams to mimic this type of offense, and no matter how many times a defense sees the no-huddle, it is a completely different ball game when you're out there on the field trying to defend.

You are either conditioned or you aren't, and even the teams in the best shape struggle to keep up. This can also wear a team down mentally if the offense is able to move the football consistently. Scoring quickly and putting points up in a hurry can really break a defense down early. You will begin to see guys with hands on their hips, yelling, showing frustration—that is when the offense has you beat.

The no-huddle offense also allows you to set the tempo of the game. While we often confuse the no-huddle for the hurry-up offense, on the no-huddle, the quarterback isn't required to snap the ball immediately. Sure, most teams want to run at a breakneck pace, but sometimes a quarterback will use that extra time to his advantage by scanning the field, adjusting accordingly and making sure everybody is on the same page. While the defense can make adjustments as well, it must be prepared for the ball to be snapped at any time.

Usually the quarterback is in control and already knows what play is going to be called, but other times the coaching staff will reset things based on the defensive alignment. Using weird-looking signs to announce what to run has become popular these days with coaching staffs.

Having extra time to control things at the line and wearing down the defense usually is a recipe for a ton of offense. Teams that run the no-huddle offense such as Baylor, Texas A&M, Oklahoma State and Oregon finished in the top five last season in total yards per game. Coincidence? Think again.



Due to the video game numbers and constant scoring, you may think the no-huddle offense is the best thing since sliced bread. However, like everything in life, its inherent weaknesses must be considered before rallying for your team to pick up this style of play.

The thing that should scare you the most is the amount of time the defense is out on the field. While the offense is having all of the fun, often your defense has to take the field with very little rest. This can result in the opponent scoring a lot, making your defense look bad as a whole. How many times last year did you laugh at West Virginia giving up oodles of points? And Oregon always gets a bad rap defensively.

You can't put all of the blame on this system, but it certainly doesn't help matters. Not enough of the blame goes on the offense that is scoring too quickly. As you can see in the chart, no-huddle offenses put the defense in a bad spot. Of course, it is the defense's job to get stops, but much like the opposing defense gets tired from the no-huddle, it has the same effect on its own defense.

It doesn't matter how talented a defense is, it will give up points if it is facing more than 75 plays a game. It can't be a coincidence that nearly every no-huddle and quick-tempo team has poor defensive statistics. Next time you are quick to throw a defense under the bus, check out how many plays it has spent on the field.

Another challenge a team can face running this offense has to do with communication. A huddle makes things much easier to communicate, as you announce the play, and everybody usually understands it. Not huddling forces the quarterback to use code words, hand signals and those funky pictures on the sidelines. It only takes one guy to miss a sign for the whole play to turn into a disaster.

You must have a smart quarterback who knows the playbook inside and out. Another thing you need is a solid offensive line that is in shape. Back to the fatigue thing, the offensive line must be conditioned to run up and down the field, get in position and block monster defensive linemen play after play. With little time between plays, this can be challenging for a 300-pound man who may not be in the best shape. A tired offensive line means bad news for the quarterback.

Much like any system, the coach must have guys who are fit, or it isn't going to work. To run the no-huddle consistently, players must be in above-average shape in order to keep up.



So should you run the no-huddle?

Weighing the pros and cons, running this as your base offense isn't for everyone. Sure, it draws a lot of attention with a boatload of points and flashy highlight reels, but what it does to the defense turns a lot of folks off. The SEC has shown that you need an elite defense to win a national title, and the no-huddle can hurt your own team.

There is no other offense that is more fun to watch, and it brings in the ratings. But the ultimate goal is to go to the big dance, and it is hard to do that with this style of offense. Using the no-huddle as a change of pace would be the best idea, as it keeps the opposing defense on its toes but doesn't go over the top with it. Outscoring the opponent with a "last team to score wins" approach isn't the safest way to do things.

The no-huddle is here to stay, but it comes with a price.