SEC: Hurry-up offense continues to be controversial

Missouri quarterback Maty Mauk talks to reporters on Wednesday. Mauk plays in a hurry-up offense with the Tigers, a system that has its critics in the SEC coaching circle.

Doug Finger/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Wednesday, July 16, 2014 at 5:57 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, July 16, 2014 at 6:47 p.m.

HOOVER, Ala. — It is a league divided and it’s pretty much right down the middle.

In the SEC, there are coaches who love the acronym HUNH — Hurry Up No Huddle. Half of the teams in this league will run some form of the offense and Auburn’s success last year isn’t the only reason.

Then there are those who prefer “regular football” with huddles and conventional formations and ball control.

Why the do’s and don’t can’t get along is a mystery.

The issue surfaced again at SEC Media Days on Wednesday (and the media doesn’t even get outspoken slowdown advocate Nick Saban until today).

Gary Pinkel was making his presentation and he’s one of the coaches on the side of the speedier offenses. The coaches against the HUNH have cited safety concerns for their players, despite no proof that it leads to more injuries.

“I don’t know where all this started,” Pinkel said. “Never once in all those years in the fastest league I think that plays football in the Big 12 did I have my team doctor, my trainer, any of my coordinators walk into my office and say, ‘I’m concerned about the health of our football team.

“It didn’t happen ever. Didn’t happen last year or the year before. It’s another form of football. I think it’s great that that’s another component to football and being creative. But I don’t buy the health issue in any way.”

And then he added, “I think it’s fiction.”

Arkansas coach Bret Bielema said he hasn’t softened his stance on player safety and when asked about Pinkel’s “fiction” comment said, “I’m probably a more reality-based movie guy than a fiction guy. I deal with what I see.”

A year ago at media days, Auburn’s Gus Malzahn and Bielema had a public spat over the player safety issue with the hurry-up offense.

“It’s a natural story,” Bielema said, “that we don’t see eye-to-eye. But you respect the opposite, especially when he has the success like he did. His philosophy is completely the opposite of what I believe in. We’re not breaking bread together, but I’m not throwing bread and rocks at him.”

Bielema said he hopes the 10-second rule that was discussed where the ball could not be snapped until 10 seconds had run off the clock will be discussed again in the future.

The league is taking a step to make sure that at least officials aren’t caught off guard by adding an eighth official for some SEC games.

“The intent of the eighth official is not to go faster, not to go slower, but to help our guys officiate better,” said Steve Shaw, the league’s supervisor of officials.

Shaw showed video during his presentation that included officials not having time to turn around or do their pre-snap routines before the ball was snapped.

“The game is changed with spread offenses,” Shaw said. “The center judge (or eighth official) will spot the ball on every play and will interact with the referee on substitutions. That’s going to be really helpful to us.”

Each team will have a game with the eight-man crew. Whether it becomes a routine for the league remains to be seen.

We only know the debate among the coaches will not go away soon.

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