No huddle? No problem

InsideTennessee takes you behind the scenes for in-depth information on Vol football. Check out this free read on the impact of tempo on massive linemen.

The accelerated pace of a hurry-up offense is no big deal for a 200-pound running back or receiver. It's a little more of a challenge for a 320-pound offensive lineman who must rush to the line of scrimmage mere seconds after the previous play has ended.

Just ask the Tennessee Vols, who are utilizing the hurry-up, no-huddle style this fall.

"It was tough at first," senior guard Dallas Thomas admitted this week. "When they showed it to us in the spring it was real tough. But Coach Mac (strength coach Ron McKeefery) got us in condition like never before. We were running so much over the summer that when we came back fall camp was like clockwork. It was so much easier to understand what was going on because we wasn't dead tired."

Once Tennessee's offensive linemen got accustomed to the quicker pace, they grew to embrace it.

"I think our guys like it better when we go no-huddle simply because they don't have to go to the huddle and then back out," first-year line coach Sam Pittman said. "They can just go to the line of scrimmage and get lined up."

Getting lined up is the easy part. Waiting for the snap is a little tougher. Sometimes the blockers must hold their stance for long periods of time.

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"If you're tired your head will go down and you can't see what's in front of you, so it's a big challenge to stay in your stance for 15 seconds with your head up once you get tired," Pittman said. "Early in the game it's not a problem at all."

The no-huddle system generally means fewer seconds between snaps and more snaps per quarter. A quick snap gives the O-lineman less time to comprehend the play call, read the defense, then figure out his assignment. A delayed snap provides more time to figure out the assignment but also more time to remain stationary lest he incur a false-start penalty. That's a part of the no-huddle system that every lineman must accept.

"It's just playing fast, getting on the line and staying in a stance for a while," Pittman said. "It could be five seconds; it could be 15 seconds. Basically, it's getting in your stance and seeing what's in front of you."

In addition to producing more plays, the no-huddle attack forces offensive linemen to react quicker. The time lapse between getting a play call and snapping the ball can be minimal. Naturally, this was a problem for some Vols accustomed to playing at a slower tempo.

"I think it was when we first started," Pittman said. "Now it's like riding a bike: Once you get it you've got it. We had a few glitches (in the opener versus North Carolina State) last Friday night, too."

Although the no-huddle attack has some disadvantages, many teams find the pluses outweigh the minuses.

"The advantages obviously are playing fast and getting defenders on their heels," Pittman said. "Obviously, you have some advantages of people not being able to blitz you and things of that nature. N.C. State blitzed quite a bit more before we showed 'em the pace of our offense. We expected more blitzes but I just don't think they had time to get 'em off."

Because there is no huddle, plays must be relayed from the sideline to the quarterback to the rest of the offensive players while the team is at the line of scrimmage. Vol QB Tyler Bray seems to be handling his role in the hurry-up attack quite well.

"He's been perfect with it," Thomas said. "We haven't had no problems with it at all. He's doing a real good job at it."

Whether the no-huddle system deserves the credit or not, Tennessee rushed for 191 yards in Game 1, more than doubling last season's per-game output of 90.1 rushing yards. Thomas is thrilled about that, although he was disturbed by some failures in third-and-two and fourth-and-one situations during the opener.

"I felt real good about the running game," he said. "But the O-line is really going to work on the short-yardage stuff. That seemed to get us a lot, so that's what we're really focusing on."

Here's video of Thomas speaking earlier this week:

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