It's official. Tempo, once the bastion of basketball coaches, has been claimed by football. Pace of play now is more of a hot-button issue on the gridiron than on the hardwood. At least in the Big 12.
From the new eighth official to concern over injuries to the general demise of defense in the conference, tempo is all the rage in Big 12 football 2013.
“The biggest thing you have to be ready for in the Big 12 is the speed of which the ball is snapped,” said Kansas coach Charlie Weis. “It's not just no-huddle, it's how fast the ball is snapped.
“Go watch Baylor play. That ball is snapped in about 12 seconds. I said to Art (Briles, Baylor's coach), I consider myself a pretty smart offensive coach. How the hell do you get them lined up and snap the ball so quick? Organized chaos.”
Baylor is far from the only practitioner. OSU has played fast in recent years and plans to play even faster under new coordinator Mike Yurcich. OU, West Virginia and Texas Tech run hurryup offenses. Texas has adopted the concept this season.
“We feel like we can stretch a defense,” said Mike Gundy. “Rob Glass, our strength and conditioning coach, in my opinion, is the best in the country, getting our players in great cardiovascular shape, and we just feel like it's an advantage.
“We also feel like that young men who are in high school that have an opportunity to touch the football, have an opportunity to be part of an offense, want to play in that style. Years ago, when we made a change, that there was a benefit in recruiting in this part of the country.”
While the likes of Bill Snyder — whose Kansas State offenses have not embraced up-tempo — says the pace is generally getting faster and faster, TCU coach Gary Patterson said that's not possible.
“They can't play any faster,” said Patterson, who voted for the eighth official, in hopes it allows defenses the chance to better match substitutions. “If anything, I think it gets back to helping the defense a little bit more because now you have one more set of eyes that are watching everything.”
At Texas, Mack Brown installed an up-tempo offense as a means to help his defense.
“Last year, our defense was at a disadvantage in this league because we had trouble preparing for tempo by not seeing it every day in practice,” Brown said.
“There's no doubt, after last year, that the offenses in this league were ahead of the defenses in this league. When you're happy to win a game 5650, things have changed. You walk out happy you won, and that's it, or you lose a game 4845.”
West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said the spread is, well, spreading: “It's catching on across the country. I don't think that's going to change any time soon.”
And that has helped with the parity. In the same way that a couple of nifty shooters can offset a superior basketball roster, a sharp quarterback and a couple of nimble receivers running horizontal and vertical, playing at breakneck speed, can overcome superior football brawn.
“It's forced us in the offseason to go ahead and tweak our defense to put our defense in a situation where they're ready to play at that exactly that same tempo,” Weis said. “What you see in the Big 12 a lot of times is defenses that look unprepared. But they're not unprepared. They're unprepared for the tempo.”