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It’s a question almost everyone associated with or following the Western Mustangs asked when they found out head coach Greg Marshall was giving up the play calling to new offensive co-ordinator Steve Snyder.
Just how much freedom would he have when things got a little harried?
“Since January when I got here, I’ve called every single play,” Synder said Tuesday as the Mustangs get comfortably into their Ontario university football training camp.
Comfortable would not be the best word. There’s nothing comfortable about the pace the coaching staff is pushing during the two-a-day sessions.
“It’s definitely a lot more up-tempo than before,” said returning linebacker Jean-Gabriel Poulin.
Even the quarterbacks not taking snaps aren’t just standing around. As the participating quarterback takes the real snap, the other six quarterbacks mimic the movement behind him.
“We like the up-tempo here,” Snyder says. “I think it serves us well. We like to go fast and put the opponent on their heels. We don’t want to go tempo at the cost of execution, but we want to put the defence on its heels.”
When asked whether he expects to operate a different style of offence than head coach Greg Marshall did for his 10 years at Western, Synder said he would rather talk about his philosophy than explain whether there would be a considerable difference between the two.
“I can tell you my philosophy,” he said. “My philosophy offensively is making sure things are simplified. Every year we just try and simplify the existing concepts. We just make them so they can be taught better, so the athletes can execute them faster, more physically and without thinking. We’re always trying to find ways to simplify things even if it’s week to week.
“That doesn’t mean the offence is simple. The offence can have complexity to it. But for the athlete, we’re trying to make it very simple. We do it by finding terms to describe what the athletes are doing so when we say the terms he knows what we want him to do.”
Synder calls himself a teacher.
“I’m a big teacher,” he said. “We’re always trying to teach the game so guys know why things are happening. So if things start to break down or they get different looks, they know how to fix it so they can self-correct.
“When we’ve done that, when we’ve taught and simplified and we have a language we can communicate with, we’ll be physical and execute as fast as we can.”
One thing Synder says the team is talking a lot about is “getting the ball north.”
“We want to be physical,” he said. “We want the ball to get north when the ball carrier gets it no matter who it is. We want the ball going downhill and we want to be physical.”
Snyder is a London native who was the offensive co-ordinator for three years St. FX. He was an assistant coach and quarterbacks coach at St. Thomas Aquinas and also the assistant coach with the 2012 London Junior Mustangs.
So back to the hierarchy of play calling: as of right now Snyder has been given a free hand by Marshall, who said earlier that he “trusted” Snyder.
“I’ve run every single install, installed my terminology blended with his existing terminology. (Marshall’s) definitely given me reins of the offence,” Snyder said. “That being said, he alternates back and forth between offensive and defensive meetings and when he’s in the offensive meetings, we look upon him for guidance within the meeting. He’s very good. He just decided to bring someone else in.
“I’m calling the plays and my assistants on the staff are controlling the offence. In any football team and offensive co-ordinator, as we get into situation football, the head coach gets involved. We don’t make the decision on whether to go for it on third down. The head coach can start giving input on run or pass, things like that, and help us through the process.”
Snyder says there won’t be a general overhaul of the offence.
“We’re changing a little bit of things with every phase of the offence,” he said. “So we are changing a little bit in the play action, a little bit in the screen game, a little bit in quick pass game, a little bit in the deeper passing game. We just add little nuances and little complements to things that we think can improve the offence. But again, the base of the offence still remains.”
The Mustangs open their regular OUA season a week Sunday in Toronto against the York Lions.
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