Texas Tech football players ran a fast-paced offense the last three years, or maybe they just thought they did.
New Red Raiders coach Kliff Kingsbury intends to pick up the pace even more, and if workouts are any indication, it’s already more a reality than a goal.
“It’s a couple of notches faster than what we’re used to,” offensive lineman Beau Carpenter said, “and it’s like coach Kingsbury says: The whole offense is a two-minute drill the entire time, so we’re running downfield, getting set, just trying to wear out the defense.”
Last year in the FBS, 11 teams averaged 80 or more snaps a game, whereas Tech averaged 76.5, down about six plays per game from the year before. Kingsbury wants to be back in the low 80s.
The last three years, when Tommy Tuberville was head coach and Neal Brown was offensive coordinator, Tech ran some hurry-up, but went into “NASCAR” mode only in spurts.
The Red Raiders are saying this year’s offense will be more fast-tempo more often. They can give specific reasons why, according to co-offensive coordinator Sonny Cumbie: Communication of plays figures to be more efficient, and the offense will make fewer substitutions.
If that’s not enough, coaches will harp on skill-position players to curb spontaneous celebration after a successful play and get back to the line of scrimmage for the next snap.
“He (Kingsbury) says that’s one of the most intimidating things,” Carpenter said, “is catching a pass, immediately throwing it back to the official and getting lined right back up.”
A non-stop fast pace might not be a panacea. Of the 11 teams that averaged 80 or more plays a year ago, only four won more than eight games and three finished 5-7.
Nevertheless, it can be viewed as a way for team such as Tech, which doesn’t play with a lot of blue-chip linemen, to reduce the advantage of teams that do.
“I think you can dictate how the defense lines up to it,” Cumbie said. “You get simpler looks. If you can wear their defensive line out ... .
“It’s so hard to simulate in practice, going against it, from a scout-team preparation standpoint. Whether you’ve got two huddles, three huddles, however you want to do it, it’s hard to simulate it.”
In recent years, the Red Raiders had the quarterback and all skill-position players looking to the sideline before the snap for different signals from different coaches.
That part will change. Now it will be the quarterback checking the sideline, and everyone else getting the call from the quarterback.
“The communication of the plays from the sideline to the quarterback’s different,” Cumbie said, “and I think that really helps speed up the pace of play. And all the skill guys are looking to the same spot for the plays, so I think that helps you push the tempo a little faster.”
Within series, the Red Raiders also plan to reduce the swapping of personnel packages that they’ve employed in recent years.
“You just try to let your guys roll a little more,” Cumbie said. “We just try to let those guys stay in and the good guys play as much as they can, as long as they’re not hurting us, so that’s the big thing. You don’t sub as much.”
Of course, the whole group can operate only as quickly as its subsets — or its slowest individual. Carpenter, a junior who’s trying to nail down a starting job at right guard, said the linemen know they have to keep up.
“It’s definitely a faster pace than what we’re used to,” Carpenter said, “and it’s something you’ve got to slowly get adjusted to. But that’s what fall camp is for.”
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A list of the FBS teams that ran 80 or more plays per game last season, with final record and per-game average.
Team W-L Plays/Gm.
Marshall 5-7 90.6
Louisiana Tech 9-3 87.8
Arizona 8-5 83.2
Nevada 7-6 83.1
Tulsa 11-3 82.9
Baylor 8-5 82.5
Houston 5-7 82.0
Clemson 11-2 81.7
Oregon 12-1 81.4
Troy 5-7 80.5
NC State 7-6 80.0