This is pretty awesome – the Arkansas high school coach who’s already gained notoriety for his strategy eschewing punts and embracing onside kicks has come up with a new wrinkle. Allow him to explain:
Kelley used an ESPN database to study college football history. He found that historically, there was no bigger indicator of victory than winning the turnover margin – teams that forced more turnovers than they committed won 80 percent of the time. But last season, Kelley said, a new trend emerged for the first time: Teams that recorded more plays of at least 20 yards won about 81 percent of the time.
It made sense to Kelley – bigger chunks of yardage meant scoring quicker and less opportunity to commit turnovers and drive-killing penalties. He became obsessed with finding a system designed for big plays. He found that on plays when two players touched the ball – a typical handoff or pass – teams gained 20 yards about 10 percent of the time. But when at least three players touched the ball – a trick play with a lateral involved – the percentage for gaining 20 yards rose to around 20 percent.
“That got me thinking,” Kelley said. “How could we develop a system for more than two people to touch the ball?”
One day, watching television, Kelley stumbled across a rugby game. That was it. Rugby teams built designed plays despite constant movement, an intricate series of laterals. Teammates didn’t block for the ball carrier; they rushed to the right spot to receive a pitch.
And so Kelley instituted a new system. When he calls out “Rugby!” before an offensive series, his wide receivers change their assignment. Rather than blocking downfield, they rush toward the receiver who catches the ball. If they’re open, they yell the receiver’s name and which side they’re on. He tells his players only to pitch the ball when they’re sure it’s safe.
Essentially, Kelley’s offense will run the option – after a completed pass down the field.
As the saying goes, that’s just crazy enough, it might work. But even so,
Even if Kelley’s offense works this fall, it’s not going to change much outside of the Arkansas 5A-Central Conference. Despite his success derived from not punting, no copycats have sprung up at higher levels. Football coaches are too wedded to convention, scared by the knowledge that losing traditionally is safer than trying to win radically. Kelley is just fine with that.
“I don’t want anybody else doing this,” Kelley said. “With not punting and the onside kicks, I know I have a stat advantage. If this works, I want everybody thinking this is stupid, too.”
Sounds about right.