The Missouri Tigers will play a fast brand of football under new head coach Barry Odom and offensive coordinator Josh Heupel. That much is clear.
Missouri put up 100 offensive snaps in its Week 1 loss to West Virginia, and though the Tigers may not always eclipse the century mark, Odom made it clear he believes the up-tempo approach will benefit his team.
According to quarterback Drew Lock in practice, snap time is something Mizzou is extremely focused on. Here’s what he told Tod Palmer of the Kansas City Star:
“We tracked how fast we snapped the ball from time when it was set to time the referees were out to time when we’re all set as a unit,” sophomore quarterback Drew Lock said. “I got into some rocky waters when I wasn’t snapping it fast enough to where we made that a big emphasis this summer and that helped us out a lot.”
Palmer reports that Missouri’s offense wants to snap the ball within 0.8 seconds of the referee spotting it.
For the uninitiated, there are plenty of advantages to running the hurry-up offense, the biggest being that it keeps a defense on its toes.
The offense knows the play and the defense can only react. The hurry-up gives the defense less time to see the formation, react and adjust. Quick snaps also make it harder for a defense to sub and keep players fresh. If the offense is moving down the field quickly that makes it very easy for defenders — especially the big defensive linemen who generally provide the pressure on a quarterback — to wear out.
“When you’re young up front, I think it gives an opportunity for those guys to maybe have some success where the defensive line’s not dug in,” Heupel said regarding the quick snap. “It gives the opportunity to take advantage of some things out on the perimeter as well.”
In regard to taking advantage of the defense, there are plenty of positives to running the hurry-up offense. However, it’s a strategy that can also pay dividends for the players actually running the scheme as well.
Football players are at their best when they’re just playing the game. As simple as that sounds, it’s a fundamental aspect of coaching — getting your players to stop thinking and start doing.
That’s where the hurry-up comes into play. The tempo of the offense naturally forces the players to stop over-thinking and instead react to what their responsibilities are. Instinct takes over and it helps players play faster, rather than dwelling on game pressure, the significance of the moment, the imposing nature of a particular defensive player on the other side of the line of scrimmage, or getting lost in any other thoughts which make them come out of the gate tentatively, unable to trust their own abilities.
The hurry-up can especially help a quarterback. It allows him to get into rhythm and takes some of the mental gymnastics out of the process of making a pre-snap series of reads. Trusting the play, rather than questioning every last nuance of a personnel alignment, can ease a quarterback into the right frame of mind. While not every quarterback could thrive in that system — can you imagine Peyton Manning playing in a scheme that didn’t give him time to check and audible? — the hurry-up can especially be beneficial for a young quarterback. The inner monogue of a quarterback — like the inner voice of any athlete — can naturally focus on the process alone, without getting bogged down in details which cast a cloud over a situation rather than offering clarity.
Lock is only a sophomore, so the more playing and less thinking Mizzou can get him to do, the better off the Tigers’ offense will be.
Missouri is 0-1 heading into a Week 2 clash with Eastern Michigan. Expect the Tigers to play fast, especially in front of the home crowd. If that works out, expect the Tigers to not merely win, but develop a foundation for SEC play they can trust…
… by not over-thinking their game plan each Saturday.