Fast-Paced and Powerful – The No-Huddle Power Pistol offense includes five different tempos, all designed to confuse the defense.by: JohnAllen W. SnyderOffensive Coordinator, Pequea Valley High School
© January 2014
What happens when you combine the pistol offense from Nevada with the up-tempo pace of the deadly quarterback running game at Oregon? The answer is the fast-paced, prolific No-Huddle Power Pistol offense. Head Coach Robbie Owens of Grand Junction High School (CO) has successfully combined the pistol with the no-huddle and produced an offense that has led Colorado in yards gained and scoring. Grand Junction averaged 436 yards of total offense last season and scored 61 touchdowns in 11 games. Their 2011 offense accounted for 6,719 all-purpose yards. Coach Owens recently sat down with American Football Monthly and detailed this offense.
AFM: How did you develop the No-Huddle, Power Pistol offense?
Owens: That goes back to my days as a Division II defensive coach and a high school coach in Florida. As a defensive coach, I always hated the QB run game. I felt it put the defense in a bad position and forced us to account for another player – the quarterback. Along with the QB run game, I didn’t like the 3 x 1 formations teams would use, as well as having to adjust and move the defense to eliminate the advantage of shifting and motioning. We would have to create all these exotic blitzes based on where the back aligned in order to stop it. When I became a head coach, I decided that offense would be our identity. Using what I knew from a defensive perspective, I wanted to make it as difficult on the defense as we could and as simple on our offense as possible.
You studied both the Nevada and Oregon offenses. How did this help in developing your no-huddle power pistol offense?
Before we get to Nevada, we have to look at Florida during the Tim Tebow era. That was the thing then – to run the QB. It was always a pain to stop so I knew that was one thing I wanted to incorporate. When we looked at Nevada, we moved the backs into a pistol set with the QB at 3.5 yards back and the tailback directly behind the QB at 7 yards (DIAGRAM 1). This takes any pre-snap read or tendency away from the defense. Now the defense has to play us evenly to both sides.
Diagram 1: Spread to Pistol Backfield
Also, it allowed us as an offense to flip the direction of the play without moving the backfield, again eliminating tendencies. When we looked at Oregon, we wanted to incorporate their pace of play and their option plays as well as Nevada’s. By going no-huddle, it allowed us to get more information on the defense from coaches in the box to me on the sideline, and to the quarterback on the field. Everyone is disseminating information on how to take advantage of a particular defense. Now we are to the point where we can run no-huddle for our entire offense. In essence, it is our offense. By combining all of these points, the defense now has to play the option, defend the power game, and keep up with our passing game.
What is your strategy for getting pre-snap reads with the no-huddle power pistol offense?
We focus on the “box” of the defense. We want to know how many down linemen there are and the shades of those defensive linemen. Our rule is simple: if there are three down DL, then it allows our guards to pull. If there are four DL, we can get our guards head up on the D-line. Everything is based on our power run game or as we call it our guard iso play (DIAGRAMS 2 and 3). It determines our line blocking rules. Our main goal is to outnumber at the point of attack and we can do that by motioning and shifting.
Diagram 2: Reading the Box
Diagram 3: Reading the Box
How and when do you use your different tempos?
We have a number of different tempos, but we group them into type. We have five types of tempos at Grand Junction: Attack, Look/Peak, Slow Down, Automatics, and Lightning.
First, Attack – This is a quicker pace and typically uses 15-20 seconds per play. Both the formation and play are signaled in together. Here we don’t get as much information from the defense as we do with our Look/Peak and Slow Down tempos. When we really want to get information, we go into what we call the Look/Peak tempo. It is essentially a dummy call with a fake snap count.
Next is our Slow Down tempo. This is another opportunity for us to take advantage of the defense by slowing the offense down a bit and calling two plays. One is a dead call to throw off the defense, the other is live. This is the tempo we use with a lot of shifting/motioning. If a defense thinks that they can get an advantage terminology-wise on us, this comes into play and it also gives us a chance to look at the defense from the box, sideline, and QB perspective to see what they are doing.
Automatic is our fast-as-possible pace. We want to snap the ball as soon as possible after the play is known. Here we like to use our #1 play for the week. We feel this play can be run at any point, anywhere on the field. Finally, we have our Lightning tempo and this pace is actually a three-play memorized set. This is great for us in the red zone/goal line area. We just go as fast as the ball is set with those three plays in succession. It really puts pressure on the defense to get aligned, and play physical against us. Both automatic and lightning are something we like to use after big plays.
How many different formations do you use during the course of a game?
Typically, throughout the course of the game we use 20 formations. We like to use our base formation which we call Ram/Lion (DIAGRAM 4). It is an 11 personnel 3 x 1 formation. This, we feel, gives us the best indication of what the defense can do to us. From that, we can get into a two-back 12 personnel formation by moving the H back into the backfield (DIAGRAM 5). We call him the mover of the offense because typically he is that hybrid back who is moving all around for us. He is typically a FB/TE type athlete. Our main goal is to appear complex but, in reality, be simplistic to the defense. This also allows us to make things easy for our offensive line because it allows them to play fast.
Diagram 4: Base Formation - Ram/Lion
Diagram 5: 12 Personnel, 2 Back Set
Is there a specific situation that would lead you to use a specific formation?
Not typically. We are pretty consistent for the most part. We like to have the confidence to run anything anywhere out of any formation we have.
Do you have specific play calls in certain situations such as third down, or in the red zone?
RO: For third down, we typically like to get our dropback passing game going. We utilize a lot of option routes (DIAGRAM 6). We have a specific group of plays out of certain formations we can call in this instance. Our reasoning for this is we try to find the balance in the offense to allow us to put the defense in assignment conflict along with making the reads easier on our quarterback. Now, in the red zone we like to take what the defense gives us and put them in bad positions. We like to force the defense into playing assignment football and the best way to do that is with some sort of triple option play in which we are very efficient (DIAGRAM 7).
Diagram 6: Dropback Passing Game Option Routes
Diagram 7: Red Zone Triple Option
How does your base guard iso/power play work? Is it your bread and butter play?
We really have two base plays in the offense. First, the zone option out of the pistol. This allows us to formationally move the defense without moving the backfield set. We can go either direction without moving at all. The offensive line runs zone and leaves the backside defensive end unblocked. That is who the quarterback is reading. If he comes down the line, the QB pulls the ball. If he comes upfield, he gives it to the tailback and he carries out his fake. All receivers and slots block man on (DIAGRAM 8). The other bread and butter play we have is what we call guard iso. Offensive line-wise, it is a gap/down/pull scheme and we are reading again the backside defensive end. If he comes upfield, we give it to the tailback to follow the pulling guard. If he comes down the line, our QB will pull the ball (DIAGRAM 9).
Diagram 8: Zone Option
Diagram 9: Guard ISO
What play-action passes do you have off of these mainstay plays?
Every run play we have in our offense has a pass play off it. We actually run a simple snag/flat mirror concept off of the zone option play (DIAGRAM 10). This is a very popular play for us and we have done some really good things with it. We even are to the point where we call the combination run/pass play and read the linebacker (DIAGRAM 11). Traditionally, we do have other play-actions off of the plays. For example, one we run is a Post/Drag/Vert concept off of the play action (DIAGRAM 12). Here we are reading the safety and wherever he bites we throw away from.
Diagram 10: Snag Flat Play Action
Diagram 11: Run/Pass Combo
Diagram 12: Post/Drag/Vert Play Action
We know you have play-action and the combo plays, but do you have any straight passing concepts?
We have your typical quick game packages of hitches, slants and outs. We see this as a simple extension of the running game vs. soft corners (DIAGRAMS 13 and14). We also have a small selection of boots and sprint outs. But again those aren’t what we do for the most part.
Diagram 13: Quick Game - Outs
Diagram 14: Quick Game - Slants
What do you need to get from your quarterback to be successful within this offense?
We break it down to four main things. Let me preface this by saying each quarterback we have had here brings something different to the table. Some are pocket passers, some are runners, some are both, and some are option guys. The catch is tailoring it to what they do well and building around that.
There are four things a QB in our system has to be able to do:
1. Be a good decision maker in the running game. We put a huge emphasis on this and this is our identity so he must be good at this.
2. To play QB here, you must be a threat to run the ball at any point.
3. You must be comfortable in the offense as a whole.
4. Be able to execute the combo packages. We need a QB that has accuracy and touch but at the same time can pull the trigger and deliver the ball also.
What do you hope to learn from a defense as the game goes on?
We take a very organized and methodical approach to this. It’s something we take a lot of pride in. We have a halftime sheet that we use and we go through each item on the sheet to best take advantage of what we are seeing, doing and can do. Our philosophy here is to have a plan and be organized, not just a bunch of coaches and players saying this or that. We discuss the following things:
1. What is the basic look we are getting?
2. Who are the major defensive players that are hurting us and how do we limit their effectiveness.
3. How are we reading the DE? Should we run at him as opposed to optioning him?
4. Who is the weakest DB? How can we take advantage of this?
5. What blitzes are they using?
6. Down and distance breakdowns - where are we lacking and how can we fix it?
What are the subtleties of the No-Huddle Power Pistol offense and what makes it different than other offenses?
I think it’s actually the combination of everything. We can run power right at you, zone you, finesse you, and throw the ball down the field. We put huge amounts of pressure on the defense because they don’t know what we are doing. It also keeps the defense out of their comfort zone with our various tempos. That being said, I think the biggest thing that sets us apart is our athletes. They buy in from the beginning of workouts to game time.