Toward the end of the 2010 college football season, Michael Sokolove of The New York Times wrote a terrific article called “Spead-Freak Football,” which offered an insider perspective on Chip Kelly’s highly successful up-tempo offense. With both BYU and Utah football programs currently implementing up-tempo offenses under the direction of new offensive coordinators Robert Anae and Dennis Erickson, respectively, some interesting aspects of Sokolove’s article are worth revisiting.
“It’s still football; we hit people,” commented Mark Asper, an Oregon offensive lineman, when describing Kelly’s up-tempo offense. “But after a while, the guys on the other side of the line are so gassed that you don’t have to hit them very hard to make them fall over.” Sokolove observed that Kelly’s teams “usually gather steam as the game progresses and draw their confidence from knowing that the other team will wear down.” Like those of other teams, all of Oregon’s plays are designed to gain yards,” added Gary Campbell, Oregon’s running-backs coach. “But our guys understand the cumulative effect of running them really fast.”
Asper, who served a Mormon mission before starting college, was among several Oregon players who told Sokolove that opponents sometimes beg them to slow down. “A guy from Tennessee said to me, ‘If you keep running plays that fast, I’m going to throw up.’ I just said, ‘Sorry, but Coach will get mad at us if we slow down.’ I mean, what else are you going to say? But I admit that I’ve messed with guys’ heads. One defensive lineman started complaining to me in the first half, and I said: ‘This aint nothing yet. Wait till you see how fast we go in the second half.’”
Other interesting excerpts from Kelly himself:
“When we play fast, it gets us in our rhythm and takes the other team out of its comfort zone. Our goal is not to intimidate an opponent with our tempo, but that may be a byproduct of what we do.”
“If someone says to me, ‘What do you stand for?’ I should be able to invite them to practice and in five minutes, they’d say: ‘I see it. I get it.’ They stand for playing hard and playing fast.”
Kelly’s description of what his organization stood for should sound familiar to those who have followed Anae’s rhetoric since being introduced as BYU’s offensive coordinator for a second time.
The question is – can BYU and Utah achieve anywhere near the same level of success running an up-tempo offense as Oregon was able to achieve under Kelly? According to Sokolove, after conferring with former Oregon athletic director Mike Bellotti, “Any team with a nimble, quick-thinking quarterback and an assortment of quick skill players could do it.”
Let’s review both BYU and Utah’s consistency with those two criteria:
“…a nimble, quick-thinking quarterback…”
In sophomores Taysom Hill and Travis Wilson, both programs have quarterbacks who have demonstrated the ability to run the ball and quickly pick up their respective offenses, so the first criterion appears to be satisfied.
“…an assortment of quick skill players…”
BYU features several quick skill players ahead of the 2013 season, including Cody Hoffman, Ross Apo, Jamaal Williams and Adam Hine, while Utah is also well represented in this regard, with Kelvin York and multiple incoming speedsters in the backfield (e.g. DeVontae Booker) and Kenneth Scott and Dres Anderson, among others, at the receiver position.
What is your outlook on BYU and Utah’s attempts to increase the tempo of their respective offenses?
We recommend reading Sokolove’s article in its entirety.