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The Curious Quick Huddle

Auburn uses a unique huddle with specialized plays to maintain its HUNH advantages. Eighth and final of a series explaining the Tiger offense. Previously: HUNH, Formations, Inside Zone, Power, Sweeps, Wrinkles, Passing

Big play coming up
Big play coming up
Harry How

Just behind the line of scrimmage, 10 other Tigers are grouped around Nick Marshall. He barks some commands and receivers sprint toward their positions. Then, after another yell, each offensive lineman spins around and sets, the backs shift into position, Corey Grant begins his jet motion and the ball is snapped. Just like that, the Auburn offense gains 14 yards on its first play of the Iron Bowl.

When does Auburn use a quick huddle?

The Hurry-Up, No-Huddle can't be used for an entire game. Timeouts, substitutions and the beginning of a possession all stop the clock or allow the defense to momentarily control the pace of the game. But by using a quick huddle, the offense can regain some of the advantages of the HUNH.

On Auburn's first offensive play of the Iron Bowl, the Tigers wanted to disguise the formation and force Alabama to play a more basic defense. This would typically be easy using the HUNH, but since the game was just starting, Auburn turned to the quick huddle. Inexcusably, Alabama couldn't even get the right people on the field for the first play. Did they really think Auburn was going to stay huddled for long?

Regardless, Auburn ran one of their typical sweep plays, a Double-Lead Jet Sweep. A safety came down late after seeing the formation, but he was too late, and Sammie Coates was able to drive him back until he eventually pushed the runner out of bounds. Had Auburn shown the formation earlier and given Alabama a chance to read it, the safety might have contained the run quite easily.

What sort of plays are used with the quick huddle?

So the quick huddle forces defenses to use simple play calling because they really don't know what formation is coming out. It also increases the chances that a defender is out of position when the play starts. And when a defense is playing vanilla or out of position, it's time for the offense to get the ball to playmakers in space with outside runs, play-action passes, or just downright trickery. (Note: the gifs below do not show the quick huddle, but it did happen before each play.)

Outside Runs

Gus Malzahn's signature outside run is the Buck Sweep, but, because the pulling guards make it a little slow, forms of the Jet Sweep are more commonly used out of the quick huddle instead. Another way to quickly get the ball outside is with a toss. This play is only used out of the quick huddle and its combination of misdirection, speed and space make it a very effective way to get a big play.


Play-Action Passes

Any well-prepared defense should know that outside runs are likely when Auburn actually huddles, so Malzahn has some play-action passes ready to make them pay. For example, Auburn will fake a pass outside and an end around (a type of "Statue of Liberty" play) only to throw downfield to a receiver streaking toward the end zone. Unfortunately, Nick Marshall completed very few of these home run balls, so the example below is a bit different.

As discussed in previous posts, a defense can counter sweeps by bringing field pressure. Out of the quick huddle, Auburn shows a Jet Sweep, and when the defensive back comes up to meet the would-be runner head on, the receiver has a big window to catch the ball.


Downright Trickery

Gus Malzahn has always had a reputation for using trick plays since his year as offensive coordinator at Arkansas, but he only uses what he calls "Specials" when he has properly set them up. And what better time to use them than after the quick huddle?

I believe this play was only used twice during the whole season, but it worked wonderfully against Missouri. Auburn threw screen passes to Sammie Coates several times throughout the game so, facing 3rd and 8 in the fourth quarter, Malzahn called for a fake screen play out of the quick huddle. If Missouri had had time to analyze the formation, they would have realized that Coates was not even an eligible receiver, since he was not the last man on his side of the line of scrimmage. But Missouri was only given about two seconds to decipher that, so three defenders fell for the fake.


Further Reading on Auburn's Offense

In the last eight posts, I have tried to break down the basics of Gus Malzahn's and Auburn's offense: the philosophy behind it, the basic plays, their counters, and why it all works. A big shout out to Ex-Managing Editor Chris Fuhrmeister for the idea of writing an "Auburn Offense Explainer". I certainly learned a lot preparing all of it and I hope you learned something too.

But there's always more out there. Below I have compiled a list of resources that cover Malzahn's offense through the last few years. I learned a lot from these posts, and I just wanted to make sure everyone could have ready access. If there are any others you know about,  add them in the comments. (And if you see anything about Ellis Johnson's particular brand of 4-2-5 defense add it, too. The X&O blogosphere doesn't seem interested in his defense, but fortunately, we have Tuco here to help us out.)

Malzahn-Tulsa Materials

As I've mentioned before, some 2008 Tulsa Offense material has made its way onto the internet and who was co-offensive coordinator at Tulsa from 2007 to 2008? One Gus Malzahn. Despite being dated, this information has been invaluable, so I'm going to share it here. The Installation Presentation was originally organized by which plays were installed on which days, but I've reorganized it by play categories (runs, passes, specials, etc.) instead.

Reorganized Installation Slides

Tulsa Installation Video

Play-Calling Sheet

2013 Auburn Offense Play Diagrams

To get a handle on which plays Auburn used and when Malzahn called them, I diagrammed every offensive play from last year. Did it take a long time? Yes. Did I enjoy the fresh air during lunch breaks at a park while working on it. Yes. Are there inaccuracies? Of course. Did it prove helpful? You bet. I couldn't have found great examples of each type of play without it.

Play Diagrams

The rest of the links below are from great X&O blogs that have plenty to say about football in general. I've linked to some things they have written about Auburn and Malzahn, but, by all means, check out their other stuff, too.

Chris Brown (smartfootball)

Chris Brown has written lots of stuff about Gus Malzahn. I'll share a few of my favorites.

Modern Day Guru

The 2009 Auburn Run Game

2010 BCSNCG Preview

Plus this piece published by The War Eagle Reader.

Offensive Breakdown

Offensive Breakdown has written a lot about Gus Malzahn's time at Auburn, including play breakdowns and diagrams. Check it all out here.

Brophy or Cripes! Get back to the Fundamentals

No Huddle Communication (the formation, motion, and play tables show Malzahn's codes, or at least what used to be his codes.)

Another take on Malzahn's Buck Sweep, Power and Counter

Jim Light

Jim Light uses All-22 video to explain different teams' schemes and tactics.

Auburn All-22 Breakdown

All-22 Video of several of Auburn's 2013 games

Keith Grabowski (Coach and Coordinator)

Very good post on the Quick Huddle

Trojan Football Analysis

Malzahn's Wing-T roots

Nothing specifically about Malzahn here, but you can see where some of his philosophy and some of his plays come from within this Wing-T-focused site.

Gus Malzahn stuff on SBNation

Play-Option Passes

Roll Bama Roll's response to a #SCARBOMB. "Gus Malzahn and Nighmare Fuel" Part 1Part 2Part 3. (I can think of Parts FourFive and Six.)

Clemson/Chad Morris stuff on SBNation

A lot of what you find written about Chad Morris directly applies to Gus Malzahn.

Morris' Smashmouth Spread

Shakin' the Southland Offensive Strategy Archives (the Morris stuff starts in the summer of 2011, though there is primer on Malzahn himself for the 2010 Auburn-Clemson game.