“Go Fast, Go Hard” Explained, and Why it is Perfect for BYU


When Coach Mendenhall announced that he was bringing back Robert Anae as offensive coordinator of the Cougars last offseason, Anae promised to bring a new style and pace of offense to BYU. He called this new mentality “Go Fast, Go Hard” and derived it from his experience working directly under two of the most innovative offensive minds in the country in Mike Leach (then at Texas Tech) and Rich Rodriguez (Arizona).

Anae was confident that a more fast pace, up tempo approach on offense would put more points on the board. I’ve spoken with many people about this new system, hereinafter referred to simply as “GFGH” and realized that there are many misconceptions and confusions about what GFGH is and why we are running it.  

What is GFGH?

The premise behind the GFGH offense is that you run as many plays as possible, trying to confuse the defense with multiple formations and complex reads. GHGH requires an incredibly talented quarterback at the base, one who can both throw and run well enough to keep defenses guessing and keep them honest. But beyond just being athletic, the quarterback must be intelligent. In a more common offensive scheme, the quarterback will break the huddle, slowly approach the line of scrimmage and read the defense. Among the things he is looking for:

  • What set is the defensive line in? What gaps are the linemen lined up in? This is important because he may audible either the hole that the running back runs through, or audible to a different blocking scheme in.
  • Where are the linebackers positioned on the field? Does their positioning indicate a blitz or combination stunt with the DL? Do they look like they are anticipating pass and are lined up to drop back in pass coverage?
  • What coverage does the secondary appear to be in? Are they playing zone or man to man? Are they playing soft, or are they up in bump coverage?

This process takes place over the course of 5-10 seconds. The quarterback then has the ability to audible himself into a different coverage, a different play altogether, or check with his coaches on the sideline for an audible. In GFGH, this process still occurs to a certain degree, but is condensed to a short time frame. The QB will call the next play almost immediately after the previous play ends.

Players are responsible to quickly get into formation and be ready to snap the ball within a matter of seconds. Each player is relied upon to read the defense and run the correct option depending on how the defense responds. Where a traditional offense may call for the wide receiver to run a 12-yard out or an 8-yard hitch, the GFGH receiver may have the option to run either of those, plus the option of running a skinny post.  Both the QB and the receiver must read the defense correctly as the play develops. When run correctly, there is no way for the defense to be in the right position and nearly every play should be successful.  An incredible amount of timing, precision, and player chemistry is required for this. If the QB reads 12-yard out but the receiver reads 8-yard hitch, the ball is thrown off target and the casual observer or “Armchair Quarterback” complains that the QB has problems with accuracy.

The reality is that chemistry, repetition, and player chemistry are far more important to the success of GFGH than the arm of the quarterback. Run with precision and repetition, BYU figures to run close to 100 offensive plays each game, tiring out the opposing defense in the process.

With the Cougar defense fresh and resting and the opponent defensive tired and scrambling to stop us the philosophy behind GFGH is both exciting entertaining, but not without certain risks.  If the offense runs three quick plays and is unable to execute it forces the Cougar defense back onto the field with less rest than they would have otherwise. Sustaining longer drives with better execution will be the key factor of GFGH to watch for in year two of its existence

What Does GFGH Require?

A team has to be “all in” with their coaching and recruiting efforts when committing to run GFGH. It is difficult to take a player dynamic that was recruiting for a west coast offense and convert them to GFGH players.

“Go Fast, Go Hard” Quarterback Taysom Hill. Mandatory Credit: Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

Quarterback: Must be athletic and intelligent. In addition to having a strong, accurate arm, the quarterback must also be able and willing to run the ball. GFGH is a fairly balanced attack of run/pass plays and the quarterback should fit in to the running scheme at least enough to keep defenses honest and add one more problem to deal with.

The BYU-Texas game from last year is the most common example. Lost in QB Taysom Hill’s outstanding 250+ rushing yard performance is the fact that RB Jamaal Williams had the second highest rushing game of his career with over 180 yards. The ability of Hill to run the ball took the Longhorns ability to key on Williams away and opened up the running game for Williams, and others.

Running Backs: Speed, speed, speed. Backs must also be intelligent, as they stand in the backfield often next to a shotgun quarterback and scan the field similarly to the quarterback. The running back needs to be able to find holes and gaps in the defense. Must be a strong pass catcher as well, as the RB will catch many screens and dump off passes, while also occasionally lining up in the slot and being part of the pass formation.

  • Wide Receivers: Speed, speed, speed. Hard to expect a GFGH to have the “go fast” without having great speed. Receivers are expected simply to be faster and more athletic than the DBs covering them so that they can find wide open spaces to catch and run. Watching Oregon play for the past ten years or so, it is obvious that the key to their success has been speed. Oregon is rarely the strongest or the biggest team, but they are blazing fast.
  • Lineman: Linemen need to be big and strong, but also nimble. Perhaps one of the most important factors, though, is their conditioning. It isn’t as hard for six-pack-packing Jamaal Williams to get up and be ready for the next snap within 10-12 seconds of the last play ending, but it is a bigger challenge to the hogs up front. GFGH will typically need to be two, and even three players or more deep at all positions so that fresh legs and lungs are always on the field. Linemen also need to be smart and understand how to adapt their blocking schemes and pass protection based upon the defense.
  • Coaches: All the coaches, both offense and defense, must understand as fully as possible the ins and outs of the GFGH scheme. Gone are the days of the quarterback standing on the field looking to the sidelines and trying to get the play in. In GFGH, the next play needs to be signaled in almost instantaneously.

Why “Go Fast Go Hard” is the Perfect Offense for BYU:

Would Steve Young have been a good “Go Fast, Go Hard” quarterback in a different era? Photo Credit: LostLetterman.com

When you look back at the successful teams of the 80s and 90s at BYU they were filled with legendary quarterbacks. The BYU “Quarterback Factory” became famous perhaps not so much as a tribute to the quarterbacks themselves, but the scheme that they ran.

Now, I don’t mean to take away from Young, Bosco, McMahon, Detmer, et al, as they were fantastic quarterbacks. However, part of their success came from the “air it out” offense of LaVell Edwards at a time when the powerhouse teams in the country were still running option, wishbone, and power running attacks. Lavell recognized that he perhaps couldn’t always compete with the strength, size, and speed of these schools, but he could beat them with scheme. So they started throwing the ball and throwing it a lot! The defenses BYU played against weren’t used to defending 35-50 passes a game.

Running a pro-style, “air it out” offense allowed the Cougar defenses to roll up huge statistical games with lots of yards, points, and ultimately wins. Let’s face it, the offense of the 80’s and 90’s was a bit of a gimmick, and I don’t mean that in the slightest negative way. It was designed with the element of surprise and with the expectation that our players were better trained to run our offense than the defense was to defend it. This, I believe, is exactly why Bronco brought back Anae and why he is all in on Anae’s GFGH offense. BYU needs to be gimmicky again. We need to be different than our opponents are used to seeing and hopefully utilize speed and discipline with the athletes we have to execute and the maximum level.

It has been said by numerous former players that BYU’s first team stacks up well with the first team players on most of their opponents, but that the real drop off comes when it comes to the second and third teamers. We can’t line up toe to toe with the top teams in the country for 60 minutes and succeed without being able to keep them on their toes and make them fall flat on their backs chasing us. If BYU waits to see what their opponent does and play reactionary football, they won’t survive.

Survival will come by catching the defense trying to catch their breath, unable to substitute in replacement players because there isn’t enough time. Survival comes by catching the defense out of formation, unable to adjust to the complex formations and looks that vary from play to play from our offense. Survival comes from having total precision and player chemistry that creates so many options that it is impossible for the defense to be right.

Go Fast Go Hard is the perfect offense for BYU to thrive in the current landscape of college football. Last season was just priming the pump and we saw moments of great success and the potential for more. BYU has recruited exceptionally well, bringing in new experienced and inexperienced blood that possesses the speed, athleticism, and strength necessary for GFGH to continue progressing. With another whole offseason of recruiting, training, practice, and film study this season should produce a whole new level of GFGH. Buckle up and try not to blink.