No-Huddle Defense Taking Shape

FAYETTEVILLE -- Arkansas defensive coordinator Reggie Herring will never forget the buzz that surrounded Florida State's high-octane, no-huddle offense when he coached at Clemson a few years ago.

The Seminoles' break-neck pace, which resembled the Indianapolis 500 on the football field, took its toll on defenses around the Atlantic Coast Conference. There was no time to huddle, call a play or substitute weary players after every down.

But Herring didn't flinch when asked about the havoc Florida State created.

"I said, 'Indy-smindy,'" Herring remembered. "'We're a Daytona 500 defense. We're waiting on them. We don't huddle either so what's the big deal?'"

The first-year Arkansas defensive coordinator said the same attitude should rub off as the Hogs become familiar with their new, no-huddle philosophy this spring.

Arkansas won't form together after every down, wait for a teammate to relay the next play and jog back into position next season. Instead, Herring said each player will return to his position, look to the sidelines and catch the next play from him.

The no-huddle defense isn't the norm in college football, but Herring believes there are endless benefits. It gives him more time to make decisions, offers players a better chance to stay fresh and increases communication and accountability.

"If you were (in) 1940 and you said you didn't huddle on defense, they'd say, 'There's something wrong with you. You're crazy. You're insane,'" Herring said.

"It's better than using all that energy to get back in (the huddle). Who said (you had to)? Vogue magazine? I mean, who told you had to huddle? Because of the communication and the discipline? It takes more discipline when that play is over to get to your spot, rest and get your eyes to me. You have to learn the signals and communicate with each other. It forces all of them to communicate more.

"You don't dare line up when you don't know what (the play) is."

To make it work, everyone on Arkansas' defense has had to learn the defensive signals this spring. But linebacker Pierre Brown said the transition hasn't been hard.

In fact, Brown said the Hogs already see the benefits from the physical standpoint.

"He's basically doing us a favor," Brown said. "We don't have to huddle up, get in a circle, make somebody huddle up and then run out. It's saving us time and energy."

Herring remembers what it was when he played at Florida State and said the extra running gets exhausting in the fourth quarter. In particular, defensive backs barely made it back to the huddle after chasing receivers all over the field.

"For a corner, it's lovely," said Arkansas cornerback Michael Coe. "A lot of times we get run off about 50 yards. We don't have to rush back to the huddle and run back outside. We can just jog back and get to our spots and look for coach Herring."

Herring said the no-huddle system also gives him a chance to see what personnel an offense shuttles on the field without having to rush in a play so his defense can get out of the huddle. At times, Herring can wait until the offense breaks the huddle before signaling the next play to his defense, which is already in position.

That wasn't the case during his first game as a defensive coordinator at Texas Christian in 1992, when Herring called plays from the coaching box in the first half against New Mexico. The plays were signaled onto the field by another coach, then relayed by a linebacker to the rest of the team in the huddle.

The time-consuming process, which forced Herring into split-second decisions because of the numerous steps, convinced him to make a change at halftime.

"I went there and said I was going to try the box," Herring said. "By halftime I was pulling my hair out saying, 'You've got to be kidding me.' I went down (to the field).

"I've been down ever since. We've no-huddled ever since."

Defensive backs coach Bobby Allen, who has worked on the collegiate level since 1983, said this is his first experience with a no-huddle defense. But Allen said the game constantly changes and called the system "just good common sense football."

Allen believes it especially emphasizes communication and accountability.

"What happens with the huddle sometimes is you got guys running back so they're late," Allen said. "They might not hear the call. You've got the responsibility on two guys, maybe a linebacker and a secondary guy or two linebackers, to make the entire call. Then, all of a sudden, it's like, 'Well, I didn't get the call.'

"Here, you're accountable. If you're not going to be accountable, you're not going to be on the field."

Brown said the no-huddle system should eliminate the chaos that surrounds no-huddle or hurry-up situations. When an offense runs a two-minute drill or goes without a huddle, he doubts the Hogs will be fazed by the frenetic pace.

"When we play a team that doesn't huddle, like Florida, it's going to be, 'Ha, ha. That's what we do anyway,'" Brown said. "We should be in a comfort zone."

That's the message Herring is hoping to get across with his no-huddle defense.

"When it gets going, it's really good stuff," Herring said. "It's just easier."

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