What is the Clap Cadence?

The Clap Cadence in Football

I recently received a message on facebook from a coach asking about the clap cadence and how he could incorporate it into his offense.  We had a good discussion about this type of cadence which is why I wanted to share with everyone else.

This type of cadence has become extremely popular since Urban Meyer started using it when he was at Ohio State.  Prior to the clap, offenses would use a variety of cadences to communicate how and when the ball would be snapped, whether they were under center or in shotgun. 

The clap cadence came onto the scene because it aided in loud environments where players had trouble hearing the verbal cadence coming from the QB.  The QB’s verbal cadence in loud stadiums would get lost in all of the yelling and shouting and offenses would get penalized for false starts or delay of games.  

The cadence is extremely important because it’s all about getting everyone to fire off the snap at the same time.  When one person is jumping or not jumping, then that means there’s not a lot of trust in what they are hearing.  One or two false starts or delays of games in a loud environment is enough for a coach to rethink how he communicates the snap count.

And that’s how the clap cadence was born.

The clap was introduced because the sound of the clap would cut through the noise of a roaring fanbase. The cadence became more and more popular because of the proven effectiveness in those types of environments. 

How to Use the Clap Cadence

There are two different ways that I have seen teams use the clap cadence.  One is either 100% nonverbal and the other requires some verbal cadence followed by the clap.

The non verbal cadence used with the clap is exactly what it sounds like. At the line of scrimmage, the QB doesn’t verbalize anything at all, and the center is ready to snap the ball whenever the QB claps his hands.  Although I don’t use the clap cadence myself, I’m not a huge fan of this method because of that “unknown” feeling leading up to the clap.  It would be hard to be an offensive linemen sitting in your stance with no warning of when the clap is happening.

To operate completely non verbal in the clap cadence, emphasis should be placed on consistent timing between breaking the huddle, or receiving signals in a no huddle offense, to getting set and snapping the ball.  This will help the offensive linemen understand when to anticipate the clap, since there are no verbal cues leading up to it.  

A verbal cadence, or cues, are used more frequently with the clap cadence.  Everyone can better anticipate the clap when a verbal cue initiates the process to snap the football.  Some examples of these verbal cues may sound something like this.

“Ready, Ready…”

“Ready, Down….”

“Here we go…”

“White, 80, White 80…” (or any color #)

These verbal cues are used to inform the OL that the clap is soon following the cadence which makes it much easier to anticipate.  The verbal cues are also used before any type of motion is signaled from the QB because this will be the last thing the OL hears before the clap, so they know they must be set in their stance on the cue.

Whether it’s nonverbal or verbal clap cadence, it has to be regularly practiced in order for it to work flawlessly on game days

How to Practice the Clap Cadence

In order for everyone to trust the clap cadence and to maximize its effectiveness, it must be implemented into every drill.  From Pat-n-Go, to inside run, to 7 on 7, and to team periods, the clap cadence has to be the same and used every time the ball is being snapped.  These repetitions will build trust in the cadence and build consistency in everyone firing off the ball at the same time.

Another great way to practice the clap cadence is to add music into your practices to replicate a loud environment.  Players can get the same experience of a loud stadium at practice when music is blaring through the speakers and they can’t rely on verbal communication at the line of scrimmage.

Drawbacks of the Clap Cadence

There are a few reasons why I haven’t incorporated the clap cadence into what I do on offense.  The first reason is because I don’t see the need for it at the highschool level.  I’ve never been in a stadium loud enough where linemen couldn’t hear the verbal cadence from the QB.  That’s why you don’t see a lot of high schools operating with the clap cadence to begin with.

Another reason why I don’t use the clap cadence is because you have to be 100% invested in this type of cadence.  It’s not something that you can do only half the time because it requires a lot of reps in practice. Since the clap will be the every down cadence, it takes away from all verbal cadences that I like to use; hard counts, going on 2, 3 or even on first sound. Without these I feel like I’m at a disadvantage because I don’t have a way to draw the defense offsides when I need to.

There are ways to fake the clap to keep the defense from anticipating the snap, but it just doesn’t have the same impact as verbal hard count does at the line of scrimmage.

Should You Use the Clap Cadence?

To decide whether or not you should incorporate the clap cadence into your offense depends 100% on what you are comfortable with doing as a coach, and if your players can execute it properly.  

If you are a team that operates under center and from shotgun throughout the game, then it doesn’t make sense to try and use the clap cadence out of  gun since it’s not something you are doing every single play.

If you are a tempo team from gun that doesn’t use a lot of shifts + motions, then the clap cadence may be something you want to consider.  You can quicken up the time it takes to snap the ball with the clap cadence because the QB can give a quick verbal cue (or not) followed by a simple clap to snap the ball, rather than a long drawn out verbal cadence that takes too long to communicate.

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