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March 13, 2013

Figuring out the no-huddle offense




Washington head coach Steve Sarkisian made it very clear that the Huskies would be focusing on the no-huddle offense during spring practices.

They want to be fast. They want to create explosive plays. They want to break down their opponents.

So this spring, they're going as fast as they possibly can.

"We're going as fast as we can go," Sarkisian said. "You can always slow down, and so we're trying to go as fast as we can go. It's taxing on the guys, quite honestly, physically taxing on them, mentally, and it's taxing on them a bit emotionally, but it's great to see the guys that are fighting through it, and then it's also you get a gauge of the guys that are struggling with it that we have to continue to coach up so they get comfortable in that environment."

After Saturday's practice, running back Bishop Sankey, along with the rest of the team, had three practices under their belts, trying to get accustomed to the high-tempo offense.

Sankey thought practice went well, and although it was high-tempo, he said he feels like they're making strides. As a running back group in particular, Sankey said they're trying to get better each and every day, so they'll have to keep working.

"It's something we definitely have to get adjusted to, but I feel like for our first week we're doing pretty well," Sankey said.

As a unit, Sankey said they're definitely going to be a pretty good offense if they continue to put in the work.

For now, it's about sharpening it up and getting the little things right.

So, what's the next step?

"We had some mental errors we need to work on, just trying to perfect it and trying to be as crisp as possible," Sankey said.

For the first week of playing at the high-tempo, Sarkisian said he thinks they're still getting accustomed to this speed, but he "enjoyed the organized chaos at times."

Slowly, the team is starting to get used to the no-huddle offense. Some are figuring it out faster than others, which is probably to be expected.

"Definitely the first two days it was a challenge, but I feel like for the first week, we're starting to get used to it and we're starting to slow it down for us," Sankey said.

Quarterback Keith Price really likes this new offense, and thinks the other guys are starting to share in his feelings for it as they continue to learn how to function in the high tempo.

"They're catching on," Price said. "I might be a little bit ahead just because I'm so amped up every practice, but they're learning, they're catching on and they're doing a good job."

Wide receiver Kasen Williams said the speed at which the offense is operating at constantly during practice is taking some getting used to.

In a sense, there's a learning curve to starting a no-huddle offense.

"It's not a whole new offense, but we're going up-tempo every time," Williams said. "That's uncomfortable for everybody because we're not used to it. Granted, last year a lot of our good drives were on up-tempo so that's when we perform at our best, but doing it for a whole practice, that's something different."

After last season, one of the things Sarkisian really wanted to focus on was creating more explosive plays and gaining yards in chunks.

This focus began immediately once spring practices hit, and he was eager to get it started. He feels like in the first three practices, they've been able to accomplish this goal.

Still, there's more work to be done in expanding on what they've already started to achieve.

"We obviously need to clean up our execution," Sarkisian said. "Especially as practice goes on, we get a bit fatigued, our execution starts to drop a bit, so if we can clean that up, it's been impressive from the fact that we've been able to create some big plays."

From a defensive standpoint, running the no-huddle offense during practice is helping, too.

Sarkisian and the other coaches want the defense to get comfortable against this kind of offense so come regular season, they won't be phased by it physically or mentally.

Sarkisian said: "We're going to face a minimum of eight no-huddle teams come the fall, and part of this exercise is to get our defense to where this is normal to them when they're playing at this pace and against this pace of an offense, so that when they see it on game day, anything this fast, or slower for that matter - I don't know if you can go faster than what we're doing - anybody going this fast, that this is the norm to them, they'll be comfortable, they'll be fine in that environment."

As a receiver, Williams likes that he gets to see how the defense reacts to the no-huddle.

So far, the biggest thing he's seeing on the other side of the ball are his teammates getting tense and fatigued trying to defend quick play after quick play.

After those intense drives, Williams is getting used to what he can expect from his opponents.

And he's learning how he can exploit them.

"They want to get the signal in quick and then they're slower getting in the stance, and when they're starting to get slower like that, that's how you can tell as a receiver that your cornerback has a weakness, and you take advantage of that," Williams said.

That doesn't mean he's not getting tired, too.

After Saturday's practice, Williams was ready to get off the field, grab his drink, and go.

But first, he stopped to talk, and to assure others - and maybe even himself a little bit - that all the work will be worth it.

So what does he remind himself of in order to keep pushing forward?

"Just knowing that this is going to make you better, this is going to make you stronger, this is going to make the games that much easier, so when you're out there running routes, it's not like, 'I'm tired, I hope they don't call the deep ball,' it's, 'I hope they call the deep ball,' so in the games it's going to be easy," Williams said.

Price has come out to practice with the enthusiasm that could be helping his teammates keep going, as well.

He likes running the no-huddle, and really likes one aspect of the high tempo: not having time to think.

Price operates with three points when he's running the no-huddle, and expects the other guys to do the same.

First: Let's go.

Then, only time for one question: What do you see?

Finally: React.

"It's fun," Price said. "I enjoy it. Just lining the guys up and it's just rep after rep. You don't really have time to worry about what happened last play, it's all about the next play, and I think that's the way football is, and I think that's the way life is."

Seems like Price is already moving on from last season, focusing on the no-huddle, and only looking forward at how he can help his offense get better. He may have a chip on his shoulder, but so does the rest of the team, and they're all trying to use it to their advantage now.

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