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The Five Keys to Playing Fast

Table of Contents

Whether you are a coach that plays at a breakneck pace or one that wants to shorten the game and limit possessions, it is important to set expectations for your players on every snap.

These non-negotiables will help you regardless of the offense that you run and whether you employ a no huddle mindset or slow down tactics to shorten a game.

Executing these five keys every snap requires nothing but individual effort, requires no talent to do them, and the defense can not dictate these whatsoever. They are 100% in our control each and every snap.

1. Pre-Snap Responsibilities

  •  Get Aligned Quickly and Properly in a Position to Receive the Play Call
  • Stance: Get Aligned in a Perfect Stance Each and Every Play
  • Keys: What are my keys on the play. What defenders am I responsible for reading, blocking, etc.
  • Responsibilities: Get yourself in position to execute your assignment properly, take the correct first step, departure angle, etc.

Alignment Drill

This is a drill that we do in the offseason, spring, and even the summer when installing the offense to quickly teach our players the pre-snap operation of getting aligned quickly in the proper formation, learn the play calls, and explode off of the football.

This drill can be done without a football, in a gym or indoor facility, and will quickly allow your players to start to condition themselves to how fast they have to be ready to execute each snap in this system.

A coach will signal or call out a play and the players will quickly get aligned into the formation, echo the play call, a snap will be simulated and all players will sprint for 10 yards.

A coach will then “spot” a new ball and the players will get the formation, personnel changes, play call and get aligned and get the ball snapped within 10 seconds from the previous snap.

This drill serves a few purposes, first and foremost it will condition your players to the speed and tempo that you want to operate at.

Secondly the 10 yard sprints after the play will get their bodies into “football” shape, and they will quickly learn all of your signals and play calls. We do not want to incorporate a football into this drill because it is not about the ball in this drill.

It is about conditioning your players to the tempo you want to operate at while they are learning their plays and visualizing their keys and responsibility of each play.

2. Attention to Detail

We strive to be very detail oriented in everything we do in our offense. This means our installation to our players is detailed and no stone left unturned.

As coaches we also must be extremely detailed in our practice organization and teaching as the time will progress very quickly through our practice periods and we need to ensure that we have everything scripted and that we are following the proper teaching progressions daily.

3. No Pre-Snap Penalties

Simply put we believe that we can completely control what happens prior to the snap.

With that said we expect no mental errors or pre-snap penalties such as false starts, illegal shifts, motions, etc. We must have discipline and proper alignment at all times.

To accomplish this we implement some mechanics in place that helps to cut back on any potential pre snap penalties. For example our quarterback is responsible for making sure that all players are stationary prior to the snap. The quarterback is also responsible for starting any shifts or motion and making sure that all players are properly set prior to motion or shifts beginning and the snap of the ball.

I have provided for you in the final chapter of this book a series of helpful documents, one of which is the pre-snap checklist for our quarterbacks from our quarterback manual.

It is also important to have a call that will reset the formation if multiple players happen to go into motion at the same time. For example when running a jet sweep if players on both sides start in jet sweep motion thinking that they are the “guy” rather than get hit with an illegal procedure penalty or taking a timeout our quarterback will simply say “EASY ,EASY.” This will reset the formation to the original alignment.

The quarterback will then give the indicator to the proper player who was supposed to go into motion and the play can be correctly run. Having a call like this in your offense is a great way to avoid penalties and save timeouts for having too many men in motion at the snap.

4. First Downs

If you are going to run this type of fast paced no huddle system you must be able to get first downs.

We want to gain at least one first down on every drive. A three and out can be devastating on our defense and the key to starting to wear down the defense is to make them have to consistently get aligned properly to our fast paced tempo.

This can be easy for them to do on play one or two of a drive, but after they have to run and chase for three, four, five, or six snaps it will begin to have a drastic effect on them. Picking up first downs is critical to really squeezing the life out of the defense and leaving them gassed.

This is why as you will see in our game planning and play calling section we will have several drive starter plays each week that are designed to put us in a position to pick up a quick first down to start a drive.

5. Developing optimum mental and physical conditioning

To run an uptempo style of attack your players must be in supreme condition.

Your practices must be properly segmented so that each period will build off of another. This will allow you to be able to properly rep each of the play concepts daily that you are focusing on while getting your players conditioned to the tempo that you will employ on game day.

Through our use of tempo during all of our practice periods our players will become supremely conditioned during that 2 hour window that we are practicing.

We will also utilize extreme tempo periods at the end of our practice that will test how our players will handle the adversity of being physically and mentally tired at the end of a game. We will create situations where our players will have to execute at an extremely fast tempo while tired to ensure that we are staying both mentally and physically disciplined.

Conditioning is done through how we practice- no sprinting after practice. During our practice sessions we never utilize a static stretch or a conditioning period at the end of practice. In our program the only time we will have players running sprints after practice is for a violation of team policies.

We call this period a “Late Squad” and this occurs after the conclusion of our practice schedule for the day.

Playing Fast is Fun

Simply put, this style of play is fun for your players, coaches, and fans.

Your players will love coming to practice and getting better each day because it does not feel like work. This offense is about having fun, attacking the defense each and every snap, and getting multiple players involved on every snap.

For example in 2019 alone we had 10 different players score touchdowns, 8 different receivers catch passes, and 10 different players carry the football.

By creating an extreme tempo and getting more snaps each game you are creating extra opportunities for your players to excel. Your players will love coming to practice each day and working hard to get better and make their teammates better. 

If you’re interested in learning how we do EVERYTHING fast in this offense, click here.


This article was originally published in Headsets: Volume 1, Issue 1.

Shawn Liotta brings 22 years of coaching experience at the high school, college, and professional level. A proven winner; Liotta has coached teams to 5 championships, 7 division or conference
titles, and has coached in 26 playoff games during his career. Coach Liotta is entering his fifth as the Head Football Coach at Burrell High School (PA).

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