Chapter 6 - Starting Count, Cadence And Audibles
The decision on what type of starting signals to use depends upon three items: (1) the head coach's belief, (2) the quarterback's experience and ability, and (3) the team's experience. There are many methods of starting signals that have been successfully employed. A brief listing of several methods of starting follows:
1. Starting on a rhythmical count.
2. Starting on a non-rhythmical count.
3. Starting on sound.
4. Starting on three different counts.
5. Starting on silent count.
6. Starting on a dead number or word.
7. Starting on two series.
8. Starting on repeated count.
Methods Of Calling Cadence
Again there are many methods of calling cadence. Some are better than others. This listing below offers a few possibilities for cadence calls.
1. Go 1, Go 2, Go 3, Go 4. 5. Hut 1, Hut 2, Hut 3, Hut 4.
2. Go, Go, Go, Go. 6. Hut, Hut, Hut, Hut.
3. Hit 1, Hit 2, Hit 3, Hit 4. 7. Two, Two, Two, Two.
4. Hit, Hit, Hit, Hit. 8. Set, Set, Set, Set.
9. Ready Set Let's Go 1—2—3-4. 11. Ready Down—1—2—3—4.
10. Ready Hike 1—2—3—4. 12. Ready Hike Hike, Hike, Hike.
A brief discussion of the many popular and effective systems is presented below:
Starting on a rhythmical count
This has been the most popular system of cadence, and, we believe, the easiest to teach. It flows along just like a song for all team members. For example: Ready—Set—1—2—3—4. It has one major disadvantage in that it is difficult to call audibles when using this system. A pause tends to force the offense to jump offside.
Starting on a non-rhythmical count
An excellent system for calling audibles, since the pause is always present. We think it is a little harder to teach and learn than the rhythmical count. Actually, this system is a combination of both the methods since the last two digits are called rhythmically. For example: Ready—Hike, Hut 1, pause, Hut 2, Hut 3. The ball is snapped on the two or three call made in the huddle.
Starting on sound
This system takes time to teach and much time to perfect, but it is effective. The team simply goes on the first utterance from their quarterback. He may inform them it will be fast or slow in the huddle, but this is not necessary. It partially removes one advantage of the other two systems above, because the offensive team is not sure when the sound will occur.
Starting on three different counts
With this system the offensive team takes off on three different counts—Hut 1, Hut 2, Hut 3. If the call is on 1, then the team will charge on Hut 1; if the call is on three, the team will charge on the third Hut—Hut 1, Hut 2, Hut 3. When this system is used, all three counts should be taught together.
The metronome is recommended by the author for voice training of the quarterbacks.
There is no excuse for any quarterback to have a poor voice. Of course, some quarterbacks have better voices than others, but the point is that voice control can be greatly improved by continued training on and off the practice field.
We have found the metronome most valuable in teaching and improving the cadence. See illustration of metronome. We have all the varsity quarterbacks drill on it, both individually and collectively, early in the season.
The cadence call, to be effective, must resemble a commanding guttural bark and the sound should come from down deep within the larynx. It should not come from the nose with a nasal twang sound. Through practice off the field, particularly in his room alone, most any quarterback can develop an acceptable voice. The crucial test of a quarterback's voice is—Can it be heard on audibles? The right type of voice can provide a "lift" for the team.
There is absolutely no excuse for a quarterback having a poor voice. If a quarterback does have a very poor voice, it is because of laziness. Voice control can be improved immeasurably by training off the practice field.
We believe that the rhythmical system of cadence is the easiest to teach and offers more advantages than any of the other systems. However, if a team is frequently calling "audibles" at the line of scrimmage, then the non-rhythm cadence is better because it reduces the tendency of the offensive team to jump offsides.
In conclusion, whatever system of signals is employed and whatever method of cadence is used, it must be drilled continually until 11 men take off together. The varsity quarterbacks must be drilled early, before the team reports. Anticipation of the count is the key to a uniform take-off.
How To Use Audibles
Some Saturdays you can read the defenses like a book. You look them over and spot a linebacker out of place, so you shoot a play by him for a big gain. But then you have days when you can't locate a hole anywhere. The big thrill comes spotting a weak point quickly enough to switch plays on the line of scrimmage—you yell out the code signals and each man on the team adjusts his assignment—it all comes off in less than three seconds. Toughest situation is a third down and four—pass or run? You need a good hole and a hot back —better pick a play that's been working well! *
Football at all levels of competition has changed greatly in the past ten years. With the numerous and changing defenses being employed, a quarterback seldom knows what to anticipate when he makes his call in the huddle.
*W. Fay and R. Guglielmi, "The Play's the Thing." Colliers, Nov. 26, 1954, p. 79.
As a result, a potent offense must be flexible enough to meet these changing defenses, by altering the play called in the huddle at the line of scrimmage. Many systems have been devised in the use of audibles. The purpose of this chapter is to present a brief discussion on several methods of calling audibles.
Always remember that any system of calling plays at the line of scrimmage is no better than your quarterback.
Color system #1
We believe that the system of using colors is as effective as any devised. Perhaps even more important is the fact that the color system can be easily taught because of its simplicity. Many systems of audibles have defeated themselves by attempting to accomplish too much, resulting in hesitation and confusion.
The procedure is as follows:
1. The quarterback in the huddle gives every play a color. By way of illustration—Blue 12 on 3 could be the field general's call.
2. When the quarterback reaches the line of scrimmage, he may desire to change his call. He then calls out any other color, except the one called in the huddle, which changes the play.
3. Next, he hesitates a second and then calls the new play at the line of scrimmage. The starting count always remains the same.
4. If the defense is catching on to his signal, the quarterback simply makes a "dummy call" by calling out the same color that was given in the huddle. Whenever his team hears a color that is the same as the color call in the huddle, they forget about any other play calls. With this method of dummy calling, it is impossible for the defense to pick up the system.
5. An easy way to remember the rule with this color system appears below:
(a) // the color is the same, the play is the same.
(b) // the color changes, the play changes.
Color system #2
Another method of using the color system again based on live or dead calls is as follows:
1. The quarterback calls play "24" in the huddle.
2. Upon reaching the line of scrimmage, the quarterback notices that it is better to change the play, so he "automatics" to a "live" color. For example: "Green" followed by the new play number "26."
3. The new call is "green 26" and this alerts the team that a change has been made from the huddle call.
4. To keep the defense honest, the quarterback may use "dead" colors that mean nothing to his teammates. For instance "blue" may be a dead color and anything following "blue" indicates the play called in the huddle will remain.
Three series system without huddling
In this system the offensive holes are numbered from (1) through (9), starting at the right. The system is designed to run plays without using a huddle.
For illustrative purposes, the basic formation will be the 100 series. If the quarterback notices the left tackle is playing extra tight, he may call a play through the (3) hole. The play is called 132. The first digit indicates the formation and (3) means the offensive hole. The last digit indicates when the ball is to be snapped. If the quarterback calls 132, the ball is snapped on the "(2)" count always.
Since the quarterback cannot always call 132 and deceive the defense, a three digit series is used. Only one set of digits is "live" and the other two are dummy. If the third set of digits is "live," the quarterback calls could be 624—268—132. The play is 132 which is run inside the left tackle from the 100 series on the snap count of (2). The other two sets of digits are dummy and have no meaning.
Passes can be called in the 150 series. If the quarterback should call 124—417—154 and the "live" digits are still the third set, it indicates pass pattern number (5) on the snap count of (4) from the 100 series.
Single-wing formation running plays could be called the 120 series buck-lateral plays, the 140 series, etc. The shift from the "T" to single wing is made on a pre-determined number.
Automatics with motion
In this system the plays are called according to the backfield man and secondly according to the offensive hole. The backs are numbered as below:
Quarterback is No. 1, left-half is No. 2, fullback is No. 3, and right-half is No. 4. If the quarterback wishes to run the 4 back at the 3 hole, he would simply say "43."
The rules for this system which is called in the huddle are:
1. The first series of digits indicate the play for example 43.
2. The second series of digits indicates the back to go in motion. For example 43-4.
3. If the two numbers in the second series follow the play, the first digit of the second series indicates motion and set. The second number indicates motion by the second back after the first two set. Motion starts after down is called.
4. The third series of digits is always the snap count.
5. The quarterback must always call three series of digits, beginning with any number from 70 to 89.
6. After the quarterback is at the line of scrimmage and decides to run the same play as he called in the huddle, he will start his calls with a 70 to 89 number. The 70 series designates that the play called in the huddle is on and that the next two digits of numbers are dummy. For instance, if the play called in the huddle was 44 0 2, this would be the 4 back at the 4 hole—with no motion and on a 2 count. For example the calls would be 71, 37, 64.
7. If the quarterback decides to call this same play 44 with motion and set motion, he would call: 71, 43, 58, 92. The 43 after the 71 in the same series tells the (4) back to go in motion and set right, and then the (3) back in motion right.
8. When the quarterback wishes to change the play to a pass, or run, he will start the series in the eighties. For example 86, 45, 57, would be a play to the other side. The second series number after 86 is 45, which designates the 4 back in the 5 hole and 57 is the decoy number.
9. If he decided to call the same play—AA—with just motion alone, he would call 71, 4, 58, 92. The 4 after 71 in the same series tells the four back to go in motion to the right.
No-huddle play cycle
This is a system of automatic no huddling, featuring eleven basic plays. The eleven plays are numbered 0, 1,2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10, and these numbers correlate with the players' numbers. Player 1 in play 1, player 2 in play 2, player 3 in play 3.
Yard lines run from 00 to 110 so that they correlate to the players' numbers and determine the zone, player and play. For example—if the ball is obtained on 10, 11, 18, 19, the first play will be play 1, involving the 1 back. If the ball is on 50, 51, 58, 59, the first play is the 5 play featuring the 5 player.
In conclusion, with this system the point where possession of the ball is gained will determine the first play, with the first digit of the yard line designating the play and the player involved.
The following plays go right along in order regardless of yards gained or lost without huddling.
One year the Chicago Bears used hand signals as in baseball in calling audibles on pass patterns. They would have a flanking back on one side, and a split end on the other side. These players would recognize the defensive coverage and then hand-signal their quarterbacks they were going to change their pattern.
States and cities
The names of states has been one of the most popular methods used in the past. Cities and counties have also been used in calling audibles. Names of members of the varsity squad have been used to call audibles. One spring practice we experimented with points of the compass, such as South, East, North and West. Sometimes the exact play number is called out to indicate a change-up, without the defense knowing it. Still another method is a change in the preliminary signals from "Ready Hike" or "Ready Set" to "Let's Go," meaning a sweep. Even the actual calling of a defense could be used as an audible for the passing game. For example, if the quarterback called 71, meaning a 7—1—2—1 defense, it would indicate a hook pass is automatic, etc. Another system of word automatics uses two terms "odd" and "even," which refer to the side of the line the quarterback desires the play to hit or perhaps to the blocking designed for a certain area.
Still another method of using audibles is to have one key digit to the actual play number. For example, the key number is 7— therefore, any time the team hears a call as 721, they know the huddle play has been called off. Next play is 21 with the key digit 7 warning them. The key number can be changed every quarter, if necessary.
Addition and subtraction
Another popular and efficient system is the addition and subtraction of numbers. It is a rather simple method of calling automatics. For example, the quarterback may call a 3 hole play while in the huddle. After examining the defense, he decides his call must be changed. The next call could be subtract 2 or add 2 or subtract 1 or add 3. This would indicate that the hole would be changed from 3 to 5 or 6. If subtracting, the new hole would be the 1 or 2 hole. Bud Wilkinson has used this method effectively.
In summing up this brief discussion on audibles, I'd like to warn both coaches and quarterbacks that the fundamental thought in drilling the quarterback is to have a system that is easy to learn and easy to teach. It is my opinion that the color system is superior to any other at this time because of both its simplicity and effectiveness.
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