Alabama Coach Nick Saban was an early detractor of the so-called Fast Ball or Hurry-Up or No Huddle teams. He was particularly upset at the way the run-pass option plays (RPOs) were being called; or, to be more precise, NOT being called.
An RPO typically is a quarterback using play action (fake to a running back) with the offensive line run blocking, and then the quarterback sprinting out with the option to keep the ball or to throw it downfield. The obvious disadvantage to the defense is that safeties read the line blocking to determine run or pass. That disadvantage to the defense is aggravated when offensive linemen are permitted to go downfield beyond the permissible distance.
But a funny thing happened in 2014. After traditional pro-style quarterbacks Greg McElroy and AJ McCarron, Saban round himself with former running back, former wide receiver, former wildcat Blake Sims as the Alabama quarterback. Sims was qualified to be one of those Fast Ball players. He could throw and he could run.
Voila! Alabama had joined the revolution!
Saban is on record that he doesn’t like it, that he doesn’t like football headed in the direction of fast-paced football. That’s understandable. He’s a defensive coach, and the defense is now more limited, particularly as to opportunity to substitute, but also even to get defenders in the right spots for a hurry-up play. But he also is on record as having said that if the rules allow it and everyone else is doing it, he will, too.
As for this week’s game against Ole Miss, Saban said, The fastball pace that they use offensively is always challenging, and it's certainly something that our players are going to have to do a good job with. We've played against it a lot more. Hopefully, our players are more adapted to it and will be able to play a little better.”
Alabama (2-0 and ranked first in the nation) takes on Ole Miss (1-1, ranked 17th) at 2:30 p.m. CDT Saturday in Oxford. CBS will televise the game.
Saban said that Bama went to the system with Sims “because it was the right skill set for him. And he did it extremely well. A lot of people do it now and I think it’s important that we can do it and execute it. We did a few in the game last week. A couple of them were big plays, couple of them we didn’t execute really well. It all comes down to how you do you execute the play, how do you block the perimeter. If they roll up the corner and you miss the corner and he hits you in the backfield, is it because it was a bad play or is it because the guy didn’t block the guy right?”
Saban said that Alabama would be going against an excellent fast pace quarterback this week in Chad Kelly
"He's an outstanding passer,” Saban said. “He's very accurate with the ball. He knows this offense very well. He has the ability to extend plays. He's a really good competitor and he's sort of a playmaker type guy. And the combination of those things make him very effective in terms of what they do.
“It's going to be important that we do a good job pushing the pocket on him, not letting him scramble around, but at the same time effecting him where he can't be as good a passer as he's capable of. We do that with good coverage as well as good pass coverage."
And it best be done quickly.