Coaches feud over impact of fast-paced offenses on players

Auburn coach Gus Malzahn listens to a reporter's question during the Southeastern Conference football media days in Hoover, Ala., Wednesday, July 17, 2013. (AP Photo/Dave Martin)

Auburn coach Gus Malzahn listens to a reporter's question during the Southeastern Conference football media days in Hoover, Ala., Wednesday, July 17, 2013. (AP Photo/Dave Martin)

HOOVER, Ala. — The Nov. 2 game between Auburn and Arkansas is suddenly a lot more interesting after an unexpected war of words between the two schools’ new coaches.

Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said he considered concerns about the way fast-paced offenses impact player safety to be “a joke.”

When that comment was relayed to new Arkansas coach Bret Bielema, an otherwise dull second day at SEC Media Days was spiced up considerably.

Raising his voice and speaking forcefully, Bielema said he was convinced that forcing players to remain on the field for multiple snaps without rest increases the risk of serious injury.

“The personal safety of my players is paramount,” Bielema said. “It’s not a joke to me.”

Video from YouTube

Auburn’s first-year coach has built his career upon the hurry-up offense ever since he was an innovative high school coach in Arkansas.

But some coaches, including Bielema, have said that rules should require that defenses be given additional time to substitute players. Otherwise, he said, defensive players might go an entire drive without rest, increasing the risk of injuries.

Malzahn doesn’t buy it.

“As far as health or safety issues, that’s like saying the defense shouldn’t blitz after a first down because they’re a little fatigued and there’s liable to be a big collision in the backfield,” Malzahn said.

“If you’re going to look at rule changes, officials, we need to look at the guys on defense that are faking injuries to slow down these fast-paced teams.”

Conveniently for the assembled media, Malzahn and Bielema shared the same time slot at SEC Media Days on Wednesday.

“All I know is this,” Bielema began. “There are times when an offensive player and a defensive player are on the field for an extended amount of time without a break. You cannot tell me that a player after play five is the same player that he is after play 15. I can’t do anything about it because the rules do not allow me to substitute a player in.”

The two camps are digging in, with Bielema, Alabama’s Nick Saban and Florida’s Will Muschamp on the traditional wing and Malzahn and Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze leading the hurry-up side.

Tennessee coach Butch Jones had already left before Wednesday evening’s row played out, but he has used a hurry-up offense for most of his time as a head coach.

“We do want to play up-tempo but I think to play great defense sometimes you have to protect your defense,” Jones said. “If that means slowing the tempo down, we’ll be able to do that.”

Video from YouTube

Oh, Brother: New Kentucky coach Mark Stoops didn’t have to wait long to be asked about his brother Bob (the Oklahoma coach) saying the overall strength of the SEC was overrated.

“That’s got to be my first question?’’ Mark Stoops said, smiling.

“Yeah, I certainly understand Bob defending his conference. I just left the ACC (Florida State). I think everybody’s going to defend what they’re doing in their conference. With that being said, I don’t think any of us need to defend what’s going on here in the SEC. The success we’ve had in the SEC speaks for itself.’’

The Veteran: Senior Ja’Wuan James is a veteran of SEC Media Days, having also attended last year with coach Derek Dooley. He said he advised first-timers Jacques Smith and Tiny Richardson to relax and take it all in.

“I’m happy I got a second time to come,’’ James said. “I was nervous my first time so now I’m going to have fun with it and enjoy the day.

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Comments » 15

CoverOrange writes:

Malzahn has it right. The offense is out there for 15+ plays just like the defense. More over, don't want to go 15+ plays, stop the offense at 3 plays.

FWBVol writes:

I know it was a different game in the 1940s, 50s and even earlier, but players were iron men going the full 60 minutes on both sides of the ball. I imagine the General would turn over in his grave if he heard a coach make the comments about defensive players not having a chance to come out of the game on an offensive possession because the offense was going no huddle, up tempo.

While the General was a defensive genius, I'm guessing he would have looked at a fast paced offense as a way to press the attack to the opposition and he might have even used it.

If coaches are worried about the players getting gassed after five or ten plays maybe they should work on getting them in better shape.

keepitreal4vols writes:

Now I understand why Bret Bielema only has 5 recruits committed so far.

10seVol85_Part_Deux writes:

Well, as I understand it, if the offense makes substitutions, the officials have to allow the defense time to make substitutions too. Since that is the case, then if the defense is unable to make substitutions for 15+ plays, the same is true of the offense. The offensive players would be just as gassed.

To me, the whole argument doesn't make much sense. All I can figure is the guys who don't use a hurry-up offense don't want their defense to be at the disadvantage of not having much time to get aligned or get their plays in, which is exactly the point of the hurry-up offense. In other words, they're a bunch of whiners.

sameolvolalum writes:

I've gotta' agree with those notable points,ol' part 2. I really like CBJ's grasp of the dynamics of tempo control in explaining balancing hurry up tactics with keeping an eye on the defense; it's resiliency and how that pace is affected by, and is affecting, the prevailing situations of the game. I think in the future many folks will be mimicking Butch's sound, deeply thought out approach to the nuances of the game as to tempo and, indeed, as a whole speed up/slow down strategy. Considering his impressive recruiting approach and its early successes, it wouldn't be a good idea to short sell CBJ and this soon-to-be juggernaut he's constructing. Recruiting is at an A+, coaching on all levels is intense and coordinated at all phases. These boys are in the best shape of their lives; are radically sold on UT, on their potential to sneak up on one or two of the big boys to whom they're picked to lose, and they appear to be particularly high on their Coach, as well as his staff and the UT sports program as a whole. They've fully bought into his system, and it's most fortunate that every assistant at every position is prepping and coaching up these youngsters in marvelous harmony,so there wont be any hitch in their gitalongs whenever the ball's snapped. Games three (gay-tours) and four (Ore-goners) should be all out, smash mouth shoot outs in which these boys will grow up real quick. 7-5 plus a bowl victory, along with two or three (or more) 5* studs in the 2014 class will put our Vols right back on the top tier where we know they belong. GBO!

kyvol98 writes:

Bielema probably believes all schools should get a crystal football trophy for participation

VOLS_SEC_RULES writes:

As Spurrier said a few weeks ago....if you don't like defending against faced-paces offenses, design your offense so it stays on the field longer and keeps the other offense on the bench ...quit the whining.

volfanNPa writes:

Come on. Why do you think Bama is as good as they are. They have 15 starter quality defensive line players that he swaps out every four or 5 plays that keep fresh players in the game all the time. If he can't swap these players in and out he loses a big advantage.

WetumpkaThumpa writes:

in response to CoverOrange:

Malzahn has it right. The offense is out there for 15+ plays just like the defense. More over, don't want to go 15+ plays, stop the offense at 3 plays.

The offense knows the play though and the defense doesn't. In other words, the defender has no idea what's going to be coming at him and the offense knows exactly where they are going to hit the defense. The defender always has less of a chance to protect himself in most cases. That said, no rules changes are needed.

antonio14313 writes:

if ya don't like it, stop it. ;)

ahhh, media days.

t

licknpromise777#651578 writes:

Didn't care for Gus boys comment how he will have the fastest offense in football. Frankly I don't want to watch 60 minutes of the 2 minute drill. He had a pretty excellent senior QB last year in Ryan Alpin winging the ball around. Alpin makes Auburns current QB's look like grill scrapings.They did pick up a very good RB in Payne and Gus will feed him every chance they get..Auburn will be way better because he had the smarts to hire Ellis Johnson as soon as he was offered the job

RockyMtnVol writes:

in response to kyvol98:

Bielema probably believes all schools should get a crystal football trophy for participation

+1 that is funny.

Olddogsrule writes:

But we do care about the athletes right? Especially their bodies and their brains?
-------------------------
From the article:

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/coll...

"For us the main thing is, 10 percent of kids will get concussions, but 50 percent will show changes in the way their brain behaves that is almost equivalent," said Nauman. "I'm not worried just about the defense, I'm worried about the linemen on both sides that might take 70 hits in a game. We're looking at somewhere between 60 to 90 hits to the head per week is all you want to take."
Researchers have consistently found that it's not just the number of hits that contribute to brain trauma, but the magnitude of those hits. That's why all those who were interviewed for this story stressed the risk that comes with fatigue-induced breakdowns in technique. A player who does exactly what he's been taught by his coaches -- blocking with hands, form-tackling -- should minimize the number of high-impact hits he sustains to the head.
However, linebackers and defensive backs worn down from chasing receivers all over the field are more inclined to lunge with their head. Exhausted linemen may default to a head-on bull rush rather than using their hands. "We would anticipate these issues become more problematic the more fatigued you are," said Talavage.

----------------------------
We've added and/or increased penalties for roughing the passer, roughing the kicker, spearing, and etc. Big man dehydration and fatigue obviously contribute to poorer execution. Studies have shown defense can be more fatiguing than offense. However, when severely fatigued, both sides are more prone to concussions, due to the sheer number of increased plays throughout the year. Some of these will have severe consequences. No, we shouldn't consider the young men who come to play for Tennessee as fodder to the football game. If research indicates a necessity for a rule to allow replacement, so be it. Our athletes brains are more important than the W-L column any day of the year.

UTvols33 writes:

in response to Olddogsrule:

But we do care about the athletes right? Especially their bodies and their brains?
-------------------------
From the article:

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/coll...

"For us the main thing is, 10 percent of kids will get concussions, but 50 percent will show changes in the way their brain behaves that is almost equivalent," said Nauman. "I'm not worried just about the defense, I'm worried about the linemen on both sides that might take 70 hits in a game. We're looking at somewhere between 60 to 90 hits to the head per week is all you want to take."
Researchers have consistently found that it's not just the number of hits that contribute to brain trauma, but the magnitude of those hits. That's why all those who were interviewed for this story stressed the risk that comes with fatigue-induced breakdowns in technique. A player who does exactly what he's been taught by his coaches -- blocking with hands, form-tackling -- should minimize the number of high-impact hits he sustains to the head.
However, linebackers and defensive backs worn down from chasing receivers all over the field are more inclined to lunge with their head. Exhausted linemen may default to a head-on bull rush rather than using their hands. "We would anticipate these issues become more problematic the more fatigued you are," said Talavage.

----------------------------
We've added and/or increased penalties for roughing the passer, roughing the kicker, spearing, and etc. Big man dehydration and fatigue obviously contribute to poorer execution. Studies have shown defense can be more fatiguing than offense. However, when severely fatigued, both sides are more prone to concussions, due to the sheer number of increased plays throughout the year. Some of these will have severe consequences. No, we shouldn't consider the young men who come to play for Tennessee as fodder to the football game. If research indicates a necessity for a rule to allow replacement, so be it. Our athletes brains are more important than the W-L column any day of the year.

Good point. I like your post.

kyvol98 writes:

in response to Olddogsrule:

But we do care about the athletes right? Especially their bodies and their brains?
-------------------------
From the article:

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/coll...

"For us the main thing is, 10 percent of kids will get concussions, but 50 percent will show changes in the way their brain behaves that is almost equivalent," said Nauman. "I'm not worried just about the defense, I'm worried about the linemen on both sides that might take 70 hits in a game. We're looking at somewhere between 60 to 90 hits to the head per week is all you want to take."
Researchers have consistently found that it's not just the number of hits that contribute to brain trauma, but the magnitude of those hits. That's why all those who were interviewed for this story stressed the risk that comes with fatigue-induced breakdowns in technique. A player who does exactly what he's been taught by his coaches -- blocking with hands, form-tackling -- should minimize the number of high-impact hits he sustains to the head.
However, linebackers and defensive backs worn down from chasing receivers all over the field are more inclined to lunge with their head. Exhausted linemen may default to a head-on bull rush rather than using their hands. "We would anticipate these issues become more problematic the more fatigued you are," said Talavage.

----------------------------
We've added and/or increased penalties for roughing the passer, roughing the kicker, spearing, and etc. Big man dehydration and fatigue obviously contribute to poorer execution. Studies have shown defense can be more fatiguing than offense. However, when severely fatigued, both sides are more prone to concussions, due to the sheer number of increased plays throughout the year. Some of these will have severe consequences. No, we shouldn't consider the young men who come to play for Tennessee as fodder to the football game. If research indicates a necessity for a rule to allow replacement, so be it. Our athletes brains are more important than the W-L column any day of the year.

The point made about exhaustion and dehydration is very valid. What about creating a hydration system for use between plays that fits inside the helmet? This not only supplements the athlete with needed fluids during play, but would also act as a cushion for the head inside the helmet. A flush mounted nozzle for quick refill could be added so it could be replenished between series.

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