Gary Conkling Life Notes

Mostly whimsical reflections on life

The Saban Shuffle

Football season is over, but Nick Saban of Alabama is already tuning up his defense against teams employing the blur offense.

Alabama Missouri Reunion FootballSaban’s fingerprints are all over a pending NCAA rule that would allow beleaguered, backs-against-the-wall college defenses to substitute players by forcing the offense to wait before snapping the ball.

Saban defended the rule saying it was unsafe to force defenders to remain on the field on “14-, 16- or 18-play drives.”

Right. How many 14-, 16- or 18-play drives have you seen from blur offenses at Oregon, Texas A&M and Arizona? When blur offense teams score, it’s typically on drives taking less than two minutes.

This rule isn’t about player safety. It is about coaching strategy. Why wait until fall to blunt teams with a blur offense when you can geld them in winter around the rulemaking table. You might as well call this the Saban shuffle.

Arizona Football Coach Rich Rodriguez scorned the proposed rule change on Twitter. “When you snap the ball has always been a fundamental edge for the offense. What’s next – 3 downs like Canada?” He ended his tweet with the hashtag, “#letsgetboring.” Saban doesn’t care about boring. He just wants to win, apparently no matter what it takes.

Despite annually recruiting  an NFL farm club, Saban has continuously groused about blur offenses, which make grind-it-out football and 7 to 6 victories over LSU seem a lot less exciting.

Saban went from grousing to deeply concerned when Johnny Football and Texas A&M blitzed his top-ranked Alabama team a year ago with a wide-open offense that made the Crimson Tide’s All-Pro team look ordinary, instead of invincible.

Those who follow the intense, cut-throat recruitment of high school football players know that power teams such as Alabama and Stanford go after power-football players, while the spread option, blur offense teams such as Oregon and Arizona chase speed players. They recruit players who fit their respective systems to help those systems continue and evolve so they overcome what the other side throws at them.

Last season, power football teams dominated blur offense teams on the field – Alabama beat Texas A&M, Stanford beat Oregon. Apparently winning games is not good enough. Now Saban and like-minded coaches want to steal the one advantage smaller, quicker teams have in doing battle with bigger, stronger power teams – snapping the ball while the big fellas are trying to catch their breath.

pg2_e_tmq_101012_corrected_576As last year’s Stanford beat-down of Oregon showed, the blur offense doesn’t work so well well when the offense is on the sidelines watching the other team inch down the field a few yards at a time.

If the NCAA rule goes forward and applies to the upcoming 2014 season, the blur offenses, when they finally get on the field, will have to cool their jets while their burly defensive opponents trot on and off the field or risk a penalty – a penalty for snapping the ball too fast.

Too bad we can’t throw a hanky and assess Saban with a penalty for offensive holding.

I can hardly wait, even if the offense has to.

One comment on “The Saban Shuffle

  1. Lea Jones
    February 14, 2014

    Where’s the research showing increased number of real injuries?

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