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The how and why of WSU’s new hand-clap snap; how it came about, benefits and drawbacks

COUGAR FANS WATCHING the spring game saw a new offensive wrinkle from Mike Leach: the hand-clap snap. Instead of audibly calling out the snap, or using a silent count and accompanying hand signals, the ball is snapped at the clap of the quarterback’s hands. So what are the advantages and disadvantages? And just how did it come about this spring at Washington State?

Here's what we've been able to piece together: Leach has been thinking about this for at least a couple years.  But he never quite got to where he wanted to give it a go.

One day this spring, Leach was watching tape and one of the teams was running it especially crisply.  Leach asked new inside wide receivers coach Derek Sage about it, since both Toledo and Wyoming employed the hand-clap snap when Sage was there. Leach and Co. then talked about it a little more.

The next practice, Leach casually announced to the offense they were going with the hand clap for the rest of spring.

The No. 1 advantage is the center doesn't have to stop, look between his legs, then look back and reacquire the defense. A close second is that it is highly audible in any situation. It's a piercing sound, one that cuts through the noise, no matter how loud.

Also, a team doesn't have to make big changes in snap count and cadence when playing in a loud venue. And with practice, all 11 players get off the ball more consistently while keeping better focused pre-snap on what the defense is doing. The first few times the QB goes to the second clap, the defense is likelier to jump off-sides.

Trade-offs?  There are always some when it comes to changing something in college football.

It can get predictable, and defenses can start better timing up the snap. 

The other major pitfall is the defense can try to sneak a clap in there to simulate the QB clapping.  A clap on defense as a means of defensive signaling is allowed, but it is a penalty to call defensive signals that simulate the sound or cadence of the offense. 

But it's only a 5-yard penalty -- and the chance of a fumble outweighed that potential penalty for some teams last year. Indeed, there were several instances in 2016, both in the Pac-12 and in FBS games, where a defender wasn't signaling and was clearly trying to simulate the hand clap -- but the officials either didn't notice or chose to let it go.

If Leach carries the hand clap on into fall camp and the season, expect defenses to try and get away with fooling the WSU center to snap the ball before Luke Falk claps.  And the Pac-12 officials are going to have to do a better job of penalizing teams who do than they did last year.

Because when you combine the hand clamp with the dead snap, you got the spring game, where everything was snapped accurately and on time. The guess here is the hand-clap snap is here to stay. 

RELATED: WSU experiments with the dead snap


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