AFM Home | The Staff Report | June 2004

Ideas on developing an audible system

By Wayne Anderson
Receivers Coach
Waynesburg College

Developing an audible system is an intricate part of one’s offense. There are different factors involved in how your audible system is put together. For instance what type of offense you run (Spread, Option, West Coast, etc...). How extensive do you want your audible system to be within the structure of your offense. Another factor is how much your players can absorb.

When coaching at the high school level, I employed a Run & Shoot Offense that had an audible system that would literally take advantage of whatever the defense gave us. There would be times when we would drive down field and never run the play that was called in the huddle. The quarterback had a pre-snap read progression that looked for certain weakness in the alignment of the defense in comparison to what formation we were in. At any time the quarterback could take advantage of the weakness that he saw in the defense and make the appropriate audible or stay with the play that was called. Very few times did I ever tell my quarterback to run the play called no matter what.

One important aspect of developing an audible system is to make it simple and use terminology that the players could understand. During the years I coached at the high school level, we even had the players come up with some of the names for our audibles. The thinking behind it was that if the players had an association with the audible, then the execution of the audible would be greater. It also gave them a sense of ownership which they enjoyed. For instance, if we saw situation that allowed us to audible to the Bubble Screen, our audible call was anything that had to do with chewing gum (Bazooka, Big Red, Bubble Yum etc...). Different types of chewing gum was something that our players could relate to.

In teaching an audible system to players, I took the approach of going over situations on the blackboard and then applying those sessions onto the practice field. In the blackboard sessions, I would diagram different defensive scenarios and what audible could be called. Later, I would then diagram different defenses and then quiz the players by having one at a time explain the weaknesses of the defenses based on the formation given and diagram different audibles to attack it.

These sessions would then be applied to our segment of practice that we worked on audibles. I would have a list of defenses by number and would call to the coaches in charge of the scout team what defense the lineup is in by what number was called. It was then up to the quarterback to make an audible call on what he saw the defensive alignment to be. After the play was over, the quarterback would have to explain to me why he made the audible call that he did. “I don’t know” was never an acceptable answer. This gave me the opportunity to critique and make any corrections that were needed at that time. The most important thing about any audible system is not what you know as a coach, but what your players know. Your players must understand the situations when an audible can by called.

Finally, in my opinion, live with your players making athletic decisions when it comes to audibles. Even Colts quarterback Peyton Manning makes a bad audible call once in awhile. But his coaches allow him to be an athlete and that’s how I want my players to be: athletes.