DALLAS, Texas — If only we could fast-forward to the 2014 season opener, when West Virginia meets Alabama in Atlanta. Or more precisely, when spread-offense savant Dana Holgorsen meets defensive mastermind Nick Saban in the pregame news conference.
Saban is among the coaches questioning whether no-huddle attacks increase injury risk, and whether college football’s overseers want the sport to “become a continuous game.” Arkansas coach Bret Bielema last week was even more outspoken about the advantages afforded uptempo offenses.
“I’d tell ’em to get over it, because it’s not going to change. It’s going into the NFL, for crying out loud,” Holgorsen said. “There’s people being hired in the NFL that have the background in college football to be able to create a little bit more parity.
“Don’t see it changing any time soon, so you’d better learn to adapt to it.”
Holgorsen got in on the ground floor of the spread phenomenon, when he coached under Mike Leach at Texas Tech. The version Holgorsen developed at Houston, Oklahoma State and now West Virginia features more running emphasis than Leach’s system, though many of the base principles remain the same.
“There wasn’t a whole lot of teams in the Big 12 that were doing that style of offense at that point in time to whereas now, when you look at it, there’s a lot of teams doing that for a reason,” Holgorsen said. “It’s trickled down to the high school ranks for years and years, going back all the way when Coach Briles was at Stephenville High School, which was a couple of decades ago.
“It changed in high school. It’s changing coast to coast. It’s not just limited to be Big 12. You look all the way across the country, there’s a lot of teams that are doing what we’re doing offensively. It’s catching on across the country. I don’t think that’s going to change any time soon.”
As the average number of snaps-per-game escalates toward the 200 mark, nothing short of a comprehensive study encompassing years’ worth of data will determine whether uptempo offenses impact player safety.
“I don’t have any evidence whatsoever that it’s increasing the likelihood of guys being injured more,” Holgorsen said. “I don’t see that.”