Speed tactics exhaust rivals in NFL

PHIL HAMILTON
Last updated 05:00 06/11/2012

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OPINION: It is not just college players who graduate to the NFL - the no-huddle or spread offensive play is also making the leap up to the pros.

One of the things that is hardest to adjust to when watching American sport is the constant breaks in play.

It is particularly jarring in the National Football League.

Breaks as they change from offence to defence, to bring on the kicking/special team, for the endless play reviews or timeouts.

But a quiet revolution brewing in college football has made its presence felt this season in the pros.

The no-huddle offensive play has been around for years but usually as a last resort. But since Chip Kelly took over as coach of the Oregon Ducks, he has run the no-huddle as his entire offensive strategy.

When done well, and Oregon do it very well, it is easily the most exciting attacking strategy to watch in American football.

As the name suggests there are no huddles while the quarterback or coach calls the play.

Instead, the offence lines up as soon as each play is finished and goes straight into the next rehearsed play (Kelly uses big picture cards to call the next play).

It is almost closer to a rugby league match than a traditional American football game.

It gives the attacking side a huge advantage because, since there are no breaks, the defenders cannot substitute players and their coaches cannot give them defensive plays. They are on their own.

Because of the stop-start nature of your average NFL or college game, many of the defensive players do not have great aerobic fitness and carry a lot of weight. The no-huddle offence is designed to expose that lack of fitness.

The key is speed.

The strongest college teams are from the south and play in the Southeastern Conference.

Oregon, who play in the Pac-12, are not a traditional power but, since Kelly took over, he has fashioned an exceptional record - 42 wins and six losses in four years. They are unbeaten this season.

The best college recruits tend to go to the powerhouses in the south, meaning they are bigger, stronger and faster than teams from other conferences. But the no-huddle enables Oregon to compete on an equal footing.

It has even led to some whining from the coach of the best college team, Alabama's Nick Saban, who claimed it could lead to more injuries because defenders were so exhausted. Kelly's success has led to job offers from the NFL.

This year he turned down the chance to coach the Tampa Bay Buccaneers but it is just a matter of time before he moves up to the pros.

Bill Belichick, of the New England Patriots had Kelly help with his team's training.

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Since then they have begun to use the no-huddle.

Last month they ran 89 plays in their 31-21 win over the Denver Broncos, the most plays they have ever run in a win. The no-huddle requires a smart quarterback who can make calls on the run and in Tom Brady they have one of the smartest.

The NFL is a copycat league and as the Patriots have success with the no-huddle, just watch it spread to other teams.

- Canterbury

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