When you’re the most successful, most powerful coach in college football, your words carry a whole lot of weight. Need we remind you that Alabama’s Nick Saban was the first coach in the country to really beat the drum about the number of helmets flying off players’ heads the past two seasons? Then this past offseason the NCAA up and adopted a new rule forcing players to leave the field if their helmets come off during play (with the goal being to make players button up their chinstraps properly). Bama’s coach has got clout.
Today Saban spoke out about the dangers — yes, the dangers — of football’s latest obsession: up-tempo, no-huddle offenses:
“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 they 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 think that’s something that can be looked at. It’s obviously created a tremendous advantage for the offense when teams are scoring 70 points and we’re averaging 49.5 points a game. With people that do those kinds of things. More and more people are going to do it.
I just think there’s got to be some sense of fairness in terms of asking is this what we want football to be?”
Saban’s comments will be dismissed by fans of teams that run up-tempo, fast-paced, no-huddle offenses as sour grapes-type remarks from a defense-first coach who just saw his own team struggle a bit against Ole Miss and Hugh Freeze’s speedy attack.
Regardless, you’d better be ready to hear more on this topic. When Saban speaks, people tend to pay attention. Again, remember the new helmet rule.
As for the numbers, statistically speaking SEC offenses are running more plays this year than last. But the number is hardly off the charts and there are actually fewer plays being run in each game now than there were in 2007.
SEC Offenses’ Plays Per Game 2007-2012
| Total Offensive Plays
| Total Games Played
| Avg. Plays/Game
We’ll try to keep an eye on this trend as the season moves along. And here’s guessing this won’t be the last time we hear this topic come up in coversation.