If there any coaches that know me reading this, they are probably confused by the title of this article. I have made it no secret that I think we should go as fast as humanly possible when we are running our offense. So why would I tell you to get into a huddle? Because it works, it gives you an advantage, and it can slow the defense down.
I do not want you to get in a traditional huddle 7 yards off the ball, have your QB tell everyone the play and then have your team jog up to the ball, survey the defense and snap the ball 15 seconds later. I am instead talking about running the Sugar Huddle. The name Sugar is used because the huddle is supposed to be “short and sweet.” The original Sugar Huddle was made famous by the Cincinnati Bengals in the 1980’s under Coach Sam Wyche. Cincinnati originally ran the hurry-up tempo for bursts during their games to change the tempo and keep the defense off balance. It was revolutionary at the time and the Bengals had great success with it.
Read more about the Bengals version of the Sugar Huddle here:
See Sam Wyche’s Cincinnati Bengals Playbooks here:
In more recent years, Gus Malzahn and Auburn have once again used the Sugar Huddle to give themselves an advantage as well.
As you can see in the video, Auburn gets to the LOS as quickly as possible and snaps the ball. The goal of the quick huddle is to hide the alignment of your formation until the last possible second. We have used it for a few seasons now and believe it gives us great advantages in certain areas.
Sugar Huddle Specifics
We are very specific about our teaching of the Sugar Huddle and it does require reps each week in practice to make sure it is operating how you want it to. It is very important that you stress the speed at which players need to leave the huddle and get set on the LOS. Without this speed, the advantages of the huddle are completely negated.
- After the whistle, if we are in Sugar Tempo, the center will set a huddle 2-yards off the new LOS
- All players will sprint to get into the huddle.
- The OL will be in the huddle shoulder to shoulder with their hands on their knees. The position players should be in their spots with their eyes on the sideline to get the signal.
- After the hand signal, the QB will communicate the call to the OL.
- Once the call is communicated, the QB will send out the widest receivers to their alignments. Our rule is that any player that will be aligned more than 3-yards from the Tackle should be part of the group that leaves early.
- The receivers will sprint to their alignments and get set.
- Right before the receivers get to their alignments, the QB will break the huddle. The remaining players will get to their alignments as fast as possible and get set immediately.
- The QB will scan the field from left to right to make sure all players are aligned and will call the cadence of “SET, HIT!” to snap the ball.
Sugar Huddle Advantages
- The true alignment of your players can be hidden until right before the snap.
- Unbalanced formations are even more effective as the defense typically does not have time to react.
- The defense can feel like you are running your offense at an even faster speed than when you are no-huddle as they have less time to identify the formation and adjust. Creates fear and panic.
- Great way to change up the tempo of your offense while still creating the uneasiness for the defense.
- If you have a great leader at QB, he can calm your team down, or remind them of important situations.
You must, must, must stress that every player breaks the huddle as fast as possible and gets lined up, stops moving and is ready to go. We want to snap the ball within 3 seconds of breaking the huddle in order to cause confusion for the defense. You can NEVER allow your players to jog, or to not hurry to their alignment. Most of your kids will be used to being in a huddle from their youth football, and even lower level High School, experience. If you allow them to jog even one time, and not correct it, they will revert to bad habits learned from the boring art of huddling.
The drill to install the Sugar Huddle can be used as a conditioning drill (as we have done in the past). We have two groups back to back and send the same signal into them. They must execute the huddle properly and run the play, then get back to the LOS and ready for the next one. We can do this for a 6 minute period, get through 12 plays on air and effectively train the huddle. Once again, I will stress that even on play 12, they MUST sprint out of the huddle every single time.
When to Use
There is no specific time to use the Sugar Huddle, but here are some things that we have done with it, or have theorized about.
- Unbalanced Formations
- This is my single favorite time to use the Sugar Huddle. In the No-Huddle, your players usually have to be aligned for 5 or more seconds as they are waiting for the signal from the sideline and for their teammates to get aligned.
- By using the Sugar Huddle, you can align in unbalanced formations and snap the ball before the defense has time to recognize the unbalanced look and align correctly.
- Change of Tempo
- Most defensive coordinators have caught up to the speed of no-huddle offenses. They can get their calls in and typically even have effective blitzes and coverages called. It is something that they prepare for often enough in modern football.
- In my opinion, it is more important than ever to have a change-up to going fast all the time. We can do this in a couple of ways, but one of the best ways to do it is to get in the Sugar Huddle. It gives the illusion of going slow, but with the quickness that the ball is snapped after breaking the huddle, it continues to apply pressure to the defense.
- Personnel Changes
- If you run a Wildcat look, it is once again pretty easy for the defense to recognize with no-huddle tempo. However, using the Wildcat in a Sugar Huddle can give you that few precious seconds before the defense can fully adjust.
- The Whole Game
- There is no reason that you cannot use the Sugar Huddle as your main tempo for the whole game. Then, going fast-paced no-huddle can be your change up to the sugar tempo.
- One advantage of using the Sugar Huddle for your base tempo, is that you can shorten the game. I know that most no-huddle coaches like to go fast because it lengthens the game, but sometimes, we are in a game that we would be better off by shortening. Using the sugar huddle is a way to do that.
- Four Minute Offense
- One of the hardest things for me to do as a Hurry Up guy is to slow down. It is also very hard for our kids and I believe that it kills the rhythm of the offense. I have not seen very many No-Huddle teams effectively slow the game down.
- By using the sugar huddle, you can control the pace of the game as the play caller. Get the play call in a little slower and you will extend the amount of time between plays run, but your kids (and more importantly the defense) should still feel like you are running a fast paced offense.
- Run Game
- I do not like to call too many passes with the Sugar Huddle. I don’t typically want him to take the time to scan the defense for his pre-snap reads, I want him to get the ball snapped. We will call some pass plays, but they are used as change-ups to not become too obvious.
- We prefer to call run plays in the Sugar Huddle, and namely, zone schemes instead of gap schemes. Typically in gap schemes some communication needs to take place with the OL. By utilizing zone schemes, we can let them be ready for the snap faster, in turn making the tempo quicker.
The Sugar Huddle has been a very effective way for use to change up the tempo in our no-huddle offense. It has also given us structural and numerical advantages when using certain unbalanced looks as well. I unfortunately do not have any good video of us using this concept. Like most schools, our films are started when the huddle is broken. This leads to a lot of half filmed plays when we are using this tempo.