Friday, March 26, 2010


Expounding on previous themes of dictating the course of a game on offense through varying tempo speeds, this time by way of Iowa State and their OC, Robert McFarland.

With similarities to the previous Blake Anderson post on multiple speeds, Iowa State attempts to keep a defense off balance with hard cadences at a no-huddle pace. This is predicated on three sideline signal callers (assistant coaches or graduate assistants).
  • One signaller is designated to provide the personnel groupings, tempo, and formation.
  • The next signal coach will be responsible for relaying the play call.
  • The last signaller will be relaying a dummy call (that may or may not include actual signals used) to discourage signal-stealling from opponents.
The sideline will provide the information in this sequence:
  1. Huddle / no huddle
  2. Tempo: Able/Baker/Charlie
  3. Motion & Formation
  4. Play Call
The following will detail the process in which they operate this tempo. Once the ball has been whistled dead, the offensive line rushes to get set at the new ball spot. The specialists, particularly the tight end / fullback, will look to the sideline to see what personnel grouping will be included in the upcoming play. This will determine if they remain in the game, or if their particular personnel grouping dictates that they come off the field on this play.

With the appropriate players in the game, the formation and motion will be signalled in. Players keep their eyes on the first signal caller (and disregard the others) until the given formation is set.

Once set, the specialists will look to get the play call. Only the specialists know the play signals, the linemen only know the tempo calls (and rely on the audible call of the quarterback for the play call).
The Cyclones operate at three different speeds; able, baker, and charlie.
Intuitively, these simply note what sound the play will be run on (on 1, on 2, on 3rd count).


Able is ISU's simple, no-huddle, first-sound tempo. No plays will be checked and all plays will be snapped on the first sound in the cadence.

The players will race to the ball spot, see the "Able" tempo in use, get set and receive the play call. The quarterback gives the play call twice "44.....44" (inside zone to the right) and the line will put their hand in the ground ready to play ball. The quarterback initiates the cadence, "Set.....Hit!", the ball is snapped, and the players race to the next ball spot and repeat the (sideline signal) procedure.

Video examples of first sound cadence being run by ISU.

ALPHA CHECK @ Yahoo! Video


Rather simply, everything is the same as "ABLE" speed with the exception that the offense will review with the sideline/Offensive Coordinator before continuing the snap cadence (this is Blake Anderson's "OC" tempo). The coordinator now has the option to change the original play call or 'green light' the first call (and execute the original call).

As an example, the pre-snap to snap audible would sound like;
"Right – right – baker –baker" [ formation + tempo] called by quarterback
"8 man 8 man" [front ID] called by center
"indy girl – indy girl " [play call (iso lead to the right) ] called by quarterback
"set..... hit!" [cadence]

The specialists would then look to the sideline (tight end would stand up out of stance and look to sideline). From here, the play can be checked (based on alignment, pre-snap look presented by the defense) or the original play ("indy girl") can be continued. If the former, the play would be called out and repeated by the quarterback and he would go through the cadence. If the latter, he would declare a "green" call ("green, green") and go through the cadence (running the original play called).
Video examples of "Baker".

BRAVO CHECK @ Yahoo! Video


Obviously, not a call used much (I couldn't find any clips where this was utilized, and McFarland admits he rarely uses it), but the practice is in their repetoire. When Charlie tempo is declared, the first call will always be a dummy play call signal, followed by a "green" call. The key here is to lull the defense into jumping the second count and or getting them to show their hand (with two previous attempts at baiting them) of what their post-snap intentions (coverage/blitz) are.

An example would sound like:
"left – left – charlie –charlie" [ formation + tempo] called by quarterback
"8 man 8 man" [front ID] called by center
"Hawkeye boy – Hawkeye boy " [play call ("hawkeye" is a dummy call, go figure) ] called by quarterback
"set..... hit!" [cadence]

Players stand up and look to sideline and receive a different call.
"Oakland boy – Oakland boy " [play call (option left) ] called by quarterback
"set..... hit!" [cadence]

Players freeze, look up again to the sideline and receive the confirmation (of the previous play called) or a check (in this example, a check).

"Indy girl – Indy girl" [play call (iso lead right) ] called by quarterback
"set..... hit!" [cadence]

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