Get a glimpse into what has made Chip Kelly's no huddle attack work at both the college and professional level from a former assistant and current perennial New Hampshire HS Head Coach Jason Thomas.
By Sam Nichols
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Editor's Note: Last year when we published our No Huddle Special Report, we had the opportunity to interview many coaches. One of those interviews that sticks out was with former Chip Kelly Assistant at New Hampshire Jason Thomas. Coach Thomas just finished his fifth season as head football coach at Burr and Burton Academy. He has built a start-up program into a consistent playoff contender. In his five years at BBA the football program has been to the state semi-finals twice and was the runner-up in 2011. His offense has average 35.5 and 41 points over the past two seasons and his Quarterback won the Gatorade Player of the year in 2011. Jason played collegiate football at UMass. His coaching career began at Randolph-Macon College, then made stops at the University of New Hampshire (where he worked under Chip Kelly), The University at Buffalo and Middlebury College. X&O Labs
SN: OK coach. Thanks for taking the time to interview with us. Tell us what brought you to install the no huddle? What were you hoping to accomplish by adding this to your offense?
JT: I first learned about the no-huddle at the University of New Hampshire with then coach Chip Kelly. I really loved the speed of the offense, the amount of reps we were able to get during a single practice and I saw how it affected the defenses we played.
Really there are so many benefits of the no-huddle. Here is a list of the ones I hoped to bring to my program:
SN: Did switching to the no huddle have the effect on your team that you had expected? Any surprises either positively or negatively?
JT: Yes I think it was instrumental in our success. My school was 3-6 the year before I arrived and we went 8-2 my first year largely because we were the only team running the no-huddle. The offense improved by more than 15 points per game and we wore down our opponents as the game went on.
SN: That is quite a drastic change coach. Since you have been running the no huddle for a few years now, I am curious to hear about how much your system has changed over time.
JT: The system itself changed very little from year to year. If you have a sound system adjustments can be easily built in. However, I will say we are constantly looking for ways to play faster and disguise our signals better. We have progressed from one person signaling to now having two signalers and a person holding a play board. I also spend a great deal of time trying to refine how we practice our no-huddle to maximize our reps.
SN: What about your practices? How does being a no huddle team change the way that your team practices?
JT: We are able to get so many more reps. Our inside run, pass game and team segments are scripted and we get on average over two plays per minute. The best way to see how we practice is to look at one of our practice plans. (added below).
SN: How have you seen defenses change over the years to account for your no huddle tempo? Has it worked?
JT: Yes. They had to. The now have to have a no-huddle call system to keep pace, package their subs and quickly exchange them, create a check system to respond to our ‘freeze’ cadence. We see a lot of base defenses or we are able to see where they are coming from because they do not disguise their stunts, blitzes or coverages as much.
SN: Do you believe that there are any factors that would keep a team from being successful at the no huddle? Some coaches point to things like weather, practice time, team depth and scheme as a detractor.
JT: You need to start with some talent on offense. You do not have to be a dominant team, but you need some talent or else you will get yourself into trouble fast. Depth can be an issue for small schools, but you should focus on getting the players set on offense with a few substitutions and if a lot of players have to play both ways sub them in on defense to keep them fresh, especially if the defense is less complicated.
SN: What is the biggest misconception about the no huddle?
JT: I think the biggest misconception about the no huddle is you have to be a spread team to be no-huddle. You can do it in any offense, but you have to be committed to it. You cannot have one foot in the water. It is a philosophy. If you do not have the guts to go all in, then a no-huddle offense is probably not for you. You have to give up your concerns about time of possession and believe that you can score enough to win because you can score faster than your opponent.
Also, that you have to sacrifice good defense to use the no-huddle your offense. Your defense might be on the field more but we are aggressive on defense as well and do a great job of creating turnovers and negative plays.
SN: That sounds perfect coach. I know many of the coaches in our survey were asking for ideas to make things move faster and this seems like it could work for everyone. Good stuff coach. Thanks again for your help on this project. We really appreciate it.
JT: No problem coach. I look forward to seeing the final project. Let me know if there is anything else you need.
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