Saban’s initial complaint came several days after facing Mississippi’s no-huddle spread offense last September. During a SEC teleconference call, the Tide’s head coach suggested that players “have a much greater chance of getting hurt when they're not ready to play” due to not having adequate time to get lined up and not being able to substitute.
Those comments have drawn more media attention this offseason, culminating at last week’s SEC Media Days.
“Should we allow football to be a continuous game?” Saban told reporters at the SEC media event. “Is that the way the game is designed to be played? Is there a safety issue with that? They play 64 plays in the NFL; we play over 80 in college, and up-tempo teams play more than that. I don’t know the answer to that.”
Fedora’s up-tempo offense at Southern Miss totaled 1,042 snaps in 2011, fifth-most nationally. North Carolina averaged 74.8 plays per game in 2012, which is below the desired 75-80 threshold that Fedora and offensive coordinator Blake Anderson expect.
Fedora responded to Saban’s comments at the 2013 ACC Kickoff at Grandover Resort on Monday afternoon.
“First of all, I’d have to see some data that tells me that’s true,” Fedora said. “I do think if players are tired, there’s more chance for them to get injured, no doubt about it. I think common sense tells you if you’re playing more plays, there’s more opportunities for an injury.”
Saban admitted last week that he didn’t have any scientific evidence to back up his concerns.
“I don’t necessarily think that what we do in a spread or an up-tempo creates more injuries,” Fedora said. “I think Nick’s probably talking about what’s going to benefit his program, which he should be, and I’m going to talk about what I think should benefit my program.”
Saban supported college football’s move to a four-team playoff, which potentially adds an extra game – and 65-80 more snaps for players – to a team’s schedule.
Fedora acknowledged that differing philosophies exist on how the game should be played. While the spread is designed to create 1-on-1 matchups in space, pro-style offenses take more of a battering ram approach in between the tackles.
“I think that if you line up in the I-[formation] and you run the Iso,” Fedora said, “and you have a fullback running at that linebacker 25 times and they are colliding 25 times in the A-gap, I’m putting them at a greater risk of injury.”
Fedora expects his UNC offense to play at an even faster clip this fall. While the Tar Heels aimed for 12 reps during certain 10-minute periods in spring 2012, that goal was 18-22 reps during those same 10-minute periods this past spring.