Marc Daniels: Heisman To Malzahn And The HUNH (Hurry Up, No Huddle)


Alabama v Auburn

One of the many questions new UCF football coach Gus Malzahn was asked at his press conference was would he keep up the new tradition of UCFast when it comes to offense.

Malzahn talked about his plans to play up tempo but also the need to balance that offense with a defense that didn't spend as much time on the field and a unit that would rank as high as the offense.

But the history of Malzahn's offense actually goes back to the place he just left, Auburn. 

Follow along before we get to author Gus Malzahn.

In 1895, Auburn(then called Alabama Polytechnic Institute) needed a football coach. The great John Heisman had been working on a tomato farm after coaching football at Oberlin. Auburn offered Heisman $500 to take the job and he accepted.

That season, college football saw its first forward pass in a game between Georgia and North Carolina. Pop Warner, the coach at Georgia, complained that North Carolina did something illegal. The ref claimed he didn't see the ball moving forward and let the play stand, Heisman witnessed that play and thought it was the future of the sport in time.

By 1899, Heisman had his best team at Auburn. He devised a plan to draw defenses offsides by running a "no-huddle" offense. It worked. Heisman didn't run it all the time but it's believed to be the first use of a football team lining up without a huddle and going quickly to catch the defense not ready.

The No-Huddle offense has been used for quite some time and it's different from the Hurry-Up offense. The Jim Kelly led Buffalo Bills ran the No Huddle offense for years. And teams often run No Huddle late in halves.

There are offenses like the Run and Shoot and K-Gun that are forms of No Huddle and have been around for decades.

Gus Malzahn did not invent the Hurry Up offense, but he is credited with being one of the early pioneers of the No Huddle offense used at a pace to create more plays. It's not that complicated in philosophy. If you run plays as fast as you can you have more chances to score.

In 2003, Malzahn wrote a book called "The Hurry Up, No Huddle". The books, still available for purchase today, explained Malzahn's vision of an offense that not only played fast but also included plays and formations designed to catch the defense out of position and for the quarterback to identify that quickly and make a play.

When Malzahn was coaching in Arkansas, he adopted part of what legendary coach Bill Walsh did in scripting offensive plays to start the game. Walsh scripted the first 15 offensive plays. Malzahn chose three for his prep teams to start with and do it as fast as possible. When one play was finished, all offensive players ran to the line to snap the ball and ran the second play and then the third.

The reality is the HUNH(Hurry Up, No Huddle) works with any offense. It just goes as fast as possible. By speeding up the game, you try to control tempo. 

Any UCF fan has seen that with offenses by Scott Frost and Josh Heupel. UCF often set the pace of play and forced the opposition to try and match their tempo and it usually doesn't work. They can't duplicate a scout team to defend during the week and if the team falls behind, they try and go faster on offense and that's not their normal plan and it usually leads to mistakes.

Malzahn is also among the first coaches to give you the now standard look of an offense lining up quickly and appearing as if they will snap the ball only to have the quarterback then look to the sideline to get the play. This allows the coach to see what the defense looks like and also prevents that defense from substituting.

Most of this is not new to UCF fans. In fact, most would tell you UCF has run a better and more productive offense than Auburn has in recent years and you would be right.

There are a variety of reasons Malzahn's offense has not been as productive of late. A combination of injuries to the offensive line, a lack of a dominant running back and inconsistent quarterback play are some of the reasons. The biggest reason? SEC defenses are that good. No conference in the country matches the SEC in defensive speed.

At UCF, Malzahn is not likely to see the same caliber of athlete on defense in AAC games. Cincinnati has the best defense in the league and many of those key players are back in 2021. Aside from the Bearcats, Malzahn will face defenses that will struggle to keep up, just like the last five seasons.

Hurry Up, No Huddle sells tickets and excites fans. But UCF fans may need to realize that scoring 50 points a game may not be the best thing for the team. It is why Malzahn preached about fielding a dominant defense. UCF's defense has spent too much time on the field the last couple of seasons. It is why a six-minute drive needs to be as fun as a one-minute drive. You can play Hurry Up, No Huddle and have a 13-play 80-yard drive and score a touchdown in six-minutes, you want big plays and nothing excites a packed stadium more than a one-play drive in 12-seconds. But balance is not just about mixing the run and pass. It's about not wearing down your own defense because your offense scores too quickly.

With Dillon Gabriel, Malzahn likely has his best quarterback since Cam Newton. Let the two develop a chemistry this spring and trust the offense will put up points with ease against most opponents. But also allow the UCF defense to get better with many young players thrown to the fire last year that might welcome the pedal coming off the metal a bit in 2021.

Final thought: The average American spends over $1,300 a year on coffee.

Photo Credit: Getty Image


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