Creating a practice plan for the no huddle offense can be troublesome for coaches. Plenty of questions start to pop up when trying to figure out how to practice the no huddle offense with efficiency.
- How do we find time to coach mistakes if it’s no huddle-up tempo in between plays?
- How can a 35-40 man roster handle the tempo of no huddle?
- How do I find the time to get enough reps against different looks on defense?
These are all valid questions that cause coaches to hesitate when wanting to install the no huddle offense. I’ll be able to address a few of these questions in this article.
Before I share how to practice the no huddle offense with efficiency, I first want to offer some advice that will make any practice more efficient no matter what style you run.
How to Practice the No Huddle Offense with Efficiency
As football coaches, we all know the saying “film doesn’t lie” couldn’t be more true. Game film captures everything you need to know about an individual or team. It’s a great indicator of how tough someone is, how much effort they play with and if/when they take plays off.
Same could be said for filming practice. If I want to know how the game will go on Friday, all I’ll need to do is look back at Monday-Thursday to see how well the team performed throughout the week. Practices usually foreshadow events that will happen during the game on Friday night. That’s why I stress the importance of filming practice
I will film practice unannounced to players at the beginning of the season so I can better understand how they practice when “no one” is watching. This will give me honest feedback on the type of players that I have. Practice film should cover all individual, group and team periods so that every player fits in the frame.
After filming a few practices, I’ll go back and watch them from start to finish. With a pencil and paper I’ll take note on several different aspects of the practice. These notes will not only help run a successful no huddle, but it will also help establish expectations for practice for all coaches and players. Here are a few things I look for:
- How do players take the field? Do they walk on with their helmet off, or do they hit the field running?
- How do players transition between drills? Are they walking from one period to the next, or is it a jog/sprint from one session to another?
- What are players doing when they’re not in? Are they getting mental reps ready for their turn, or are they jaw jacking it with others in the background?
- Do players finish each play until the whistle is blown?
- Do players hustle back to the line of scrimmage after a play or do they walk back?
- Do players give 100% on every play, or do they take plays off when they “think” the ball isn’t coming their way?
- Are WR’s getting off the LOS hard every time, even on run plays?
- Are WR’s blocking on perimeter with great effort and until the whistle?
- Are linemen the first to the ball, or do they walk up to the ball after a play?
I write both positive and negative comments down while watching the practice film. I’ll first discuss this with the coaching staff and we’ll watch the practice film together. We’ll talk about what players did well, what’s unacceptable, and what we must emphasize moving forward. Then, the film will be reviewed with the team to show them what we see.
It’s important to note that this is a teaching and coaching opportunity. Coaches must teach effort and show players the difference between right and wrong. It’s okay to call players out in a respectful manner to make them accountable, but never disrespect a player by belittling or embarrassing them.
Expect What You Accept
I stole this from Chip Kelly (who, I’m sure, stole it from someone else) when he was sharing his up-tempo philosophy during his tenure at Oregon. Chip went on to say that on game days you have to expect what you accept throughout the week of practice.
If you accept WR’s not running routes hard when they think the ball isn’t coming their way in practice, then expect them to dog their routes during the game.
If you accept fumbles at the mesh point during the week, then expect it to happen during a critical moment in the game.
If you accept linemen walking to the line of scrimmage after a play in practice, then accept the poor tempo that you play with when the lights are on.
I think you get the point.
When you start thinking about what you accept during the week, it changes your perspective on the outcome of the game. Maybe penalties didn’t actually favor the home team as much as you thought it did when you think back on the week and count the number of penalties that could have been called in practice. Or maybe the ball didn’t really “bounce their way” and the mesh point wasn’t emphasized enough throughout the week.
Bottom line: good or bad, what you accept in practice is what you can expect in games.
Efficient Practices for the No Huddle Offense
Stagger Instructional Periods
If you want to practice the no huddle with efficiency, then coaches must understand when to provide instruction and when to make coaching comments on the fly. I categorize instructional time for individual offense and coaching on the fly for group and team periods. Individual offense is instructional time for coaches to teach and reteach technique and fundamentals within the scheme for the week.
Coaching on the fly is for group and team periods. Group periods are inside run and 7 on 7, while team is 11 on 11 with a mix of run and pass. The emphasis here is to play as fast as possible with great tempo, and to get as many reps in as possible during the 10-20 minute session. During group and team times, coaches should stand behind the offense and watch their positions as they make quick coaching comments in between plays without disrupting the flow of the offense. If they feel a player needs immediate instruction, then it’s the coaches job to sub them out, quickly correct the mistake, and then sub them back in. Coaches should also make mental notes of repeated mistakes or technical errors that need to be addressed during the instructional period of individual offense.
I understand mistakes will be made during inside run, 7 on 7, and even team offense, but the emphasis during these times is to play with tempo in between plays. If I can get at least 30 plays in during a 10 minute session, then it’s a productive period. My goal is to make practices harder and the tempo faster than what they’ll experience on Friday night.
I don’t ignore the mistakes that were made during these group times either. I stagger instructional periods with group periods. Immediately after a group period we go back to individual offense to correct footwork, technique, and other mistakes that were made during the group session. Below is a rough outline of an offensive practice plan.
- Individual offense – 10 minutes
- Inside Run – 10 minutes (OL / QBs / RBs)
- Individual Offense – 7 minutes (correct mistakes from inside run)
- 7 on 7 – 10 minutes (WRs / QBs / RBs / TEs)
- Individual Offense – 7 minutes (correct mistakes from 7 on 7)
- Team Offense – 15 minutes.
There is more than enough time to coach technique and fundamentals. With tempo and no huddle, I’m able to double or even triple the amount of plays most coaches are able to produce during a session.
Yo-Yo Inside Run Period
Inside run is a group period which means it’s up tempo, no huddle, and coaches are teaching on the fly. To create an organized atmosphere where I can get 30-40 plays in a 10-15 minute session, I decided to start yo-yo’ing the offense during the group inside run.
This means that we have two footballs placed on the +15 (going in) and +35 (going out) and two defenses on the outside. The offense will be in the middle and will start at either football. Below is a basic picture of what the group inside run would look like.
Once the offense runs a play in one direction, they immediately turn around and sprint to the other football while getting the sign for the next play. It’s important to teach ball carriers to sprint the ball to the coach of the scout team defense immediately after the play is over. This small detail must be an emphasis when running the no huddle because the quickest way to move onto the next play is by handing the football to the umpire.
Another valuable piece to the yo-yo inside run is the ability to maximize reps against two possible fronts that an offense could face throughout the year. In the last six years as an offensive coordinator, I can confidently tell you that I saw only two different fronts in every game when running the no huddle. That’s the beauty of running the no huddle-spread offense. The offense can dictate the type of front (and coverage) a defense will be in because of the up-tempo style of the no huddle.
With zone read as the base run game with a sprinkle of power and counter trey, players quickly learn how to perfect their craft as they get a high volume of reps against the same fronts over, and over, and over again.
Weekly & Daily Practice Scripts
The success of running the no huddle offense is in the preparation. Preparing for an opponent by studying film and knowing the opponents defensive tendencies better than their own DC, and by scripting out each practice for the week.
Below is an outline of a typical week of practice.
I’m sure there are two questions that most coaches will have after looking at this practice schedule.
When are the water breaks and how come there is no conditioning at the end?
I solved the five minutes of dead time and socializing during water breaks by providing water bottles at each station throughout practice. Players also know that when they are pulled out for a breather then they have the opportunity to quickly get water at the water cow on the sidelines. Players can now hydrate themselves, receive coaching, and get their mental reps when it’s time for a breather.
There’s no longer a disruption in practice of 35 guys dragging their feet to the water cooler as they talk about their plans for the weekend. Three to four 5 minute water breaks is 15-20 minutes that are now added back into the practice.
Also, if you haven’t realized it yet, the conditioning is the practice itself. I’ve eliminated 5-10 minutes of running at the end of practice because of the high energy, up tempo pace of practice. Players get their conditioning in by going 100% on every play, sprinting between plays, running from drill to drill, and even running to the water cow and back. Players know that once they step foot on the field, they better be laced up and ready to hustle from start to finish.
Practice What You Preach
I believe the best way to get players to quickly buy into the style of the no huddle is to be the example. If I preach to my players about playing with energy, having great tempo, and flying around the football field, then players must feel my energy and enthusiasm throughout practice.
Effort and energy are two things that can be coached, and it must be coached daily in order to practice the no huddle offense with efficiency.
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