Sunday, April 3, 2011

Altering Post Snap Tempo

Much ado has been made of the importance of tempo in modern football.

ept_sports_ncaaf_experts-765833194-1254415226 Nowadays, it is less about what you are doing (option, power, air raid), and more about HOW you do it (huddle, different tempos, crazy fast).

The reasons why one goes no huddle are well versed. The main reason, as we have learned from our basketball counterparts, is to control the tempo of the game. The offense sets the pace, and whatever the philosophy, CONTROLLING that pace is a decided offensive advantage.

While some live in extremes (see Oregon), most teams find value in altering the tempo, either to the specific situation (2:00 time or kill clock time), or to simple prevent the defense from “settling in”. Like placing defenders in run/pass binds, attacking multiple areas along the LOS, and vertically and horizontally stretching zone droppers, varying tempo is just another way to make a defense stress, and ultimately, to break.


The point is, if you aren’t up on varying your pre-snap tempo, you need to be.

While this article is about POST snap tempo, it was necessary to talk through the philosophy and importance of pre-snap tempo in order to appreciate how post snap variance is also vital.

I’m going to use the offense I know as an example, but this is applicable to every system.

For our purposes, I want to examine two mainstays in the shotgun spread: zone read and flash screen.

The zone-read was the revolution of the past decade. By adding an option control on the backside of IZ, shotgun teams found they could run the football as well as their pro-style counterparts. Nowadays, a 6 man box is not in and of itself enough to keep a 10 personnel team from running the football.

The “ride and decide” meshing between the QB and RB creates a certain stimulus, to which the defense must react.


Your “reaction” defenders (namely, LB’s and DB’s) must maintain gap integrity while diagnosing and discerning who has the football. By it’s nature, the zone read takes time to develop. While defensive pressure can disrupt other running plays, zone blocking was designed to be gap sound and prevent penetration. In general, the BIG plays on zone read (and zone in general) come when a defense starts acting (aka, poking and hoping), rather than reacting. The very nature of option football also takes advantage of flying around without purpose.

So, the best reaction (post snap) is to fit into your run responsibility, diagnose whom the ball carrier is, and THEN rally to him.

A heavy zone read team will get a defense into this type modus operandi within a couple series.

Our second play, flash screens, do so much for a spread team.


Beyond the purposes of this post, perimeter screens force defenses to occupy and play in space (must line up properly), and are easy ways to get the ball to an athlete (like Crabtree).

For the purposes of this article, they are also a great way to vary that post snap “ride and decide” stimulus of the zone read, of which the defense just got a steady diet.

Essentially, a flash screen has the same run fits as sweep, it just threatens about twice as fast.

So, we have moved from a play that requires a defense to be gap responsible and react slowly, to a play that demands they get there NOW! After a steady diet of either stimulus, the defense will be less ready (less conditioned) to handle the other, simply by virtue of having altered their post snap decision-making process.

I’m gonna call on my dogs to explain this a little more.

The bell rings, I get food.

The bell rings, I get food.

The bell rings, I get food.

The bell rings, I get food.

The bell rings, I get food.

The bell rings, I get food.

The bell rings, I get food.

The bell rings….Hey, where did all this slobber come from?


The analogy of a boxer has been used to describe many things as it pertains to offensive play calling, and we can now add helping to relate the idea of post snap tempo to the list.

A boxer switches between short jabs and big hooks/cross/uppercuts for many reasons. You pound (weaken) with your jabs. You get an opponent use to defending jabs, then, at the opportune moment, you throw one of the other aforementioned strikes to do real damage.

For our purposes, these strikes also compliment each other in the manner (speed and position) in which strike. Throw nothing but jabs, and you might as well be tickle fighting a real boxer, but when you can mix it up, changing the speed and position of the assault, your opponent can’t find a rhythm.

In football terms, keeping a defense “off rhythm” is the name of the game.


Anonymous said...

Great thoughts on tempo! As an offensive coordinator I am continually trying to figure out the best way to set up that counter to the stimulus. Is it a matter of feel or is there a scientific way to plot it out? When do you keep going to the stimulus and when do you pull the trigger on the counter? I think most coaches end up going by feel or what they see, but that can get tricky in a high pressure game situations and defenses can change. I have tried scripting plays, but that runs the risk of forging through a script without any results sometimes. As I'm thinking aloud about this topic, I am wondering what offensive coordinators should rely upon? Assistant coaches often give solid input and can also give the press box view of what is available. Sometimes by the way defenses are set up or coached, little stimulus is needed because the counter is necessary right away. I guess what I'm driving at is what are some other coaches opinions on offensive game play call strategy and preparation? Any thoughts on the matter?

Dubber said...


This is why I believe it is important to chart your offensive plays DURING the game....especially on first down.

Once you see zone read is not getting the necessary 4+ yards, you need to call a counter, which could be a compliment built off zone-read, or it could be a change in pre- or post- snap tempo.

QB wrap is complimentary play.

Nascar is a presnap tempo.

Snap Count is a presnap tempo.

Flash screen is a postsnap tempo.


Also, I'd go back and look at your close games and games you should have won, but your offense bogged down.

Look at your variety across the selection on first down and tempo.

You may find out that although you wanted to be 50-50, you actually ran on first down 80% of the time......or that you were in NASCAR too much and it lost it's effect.

Those should show you where you are being predictable.

Finally, as far as scripting is concerned, you can keep it simple.

We want to script first down to feel the defense out.....we have the luxery of calling what we (the coaches) want on 2nd down (usually to exploit what we are seeing), and then we will have season long SET scripts for GL (on and off schedule), 3rd down (short, medium, long), backed up, red zone, and special situations.

Those SET scripts don't change much over the course of the season......we will try to build a wrinkle or two off them that make sense, but in the critcal areas (3rd down, GL, backed up), we would rather have confidence and familiarity with what we are doing.

At least, that is what we hope to accomplish this season.