Tempo debate in SEC not going anywhere

During his ESPN visit, Nick Saban dished on uptempo play and Johnny Football's NFL prospects. Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY Sports

BRISTOL, Conn. -- Nick Saban likened the debate over uptempo offense and defense in the SEC to “Democrats and Republicans ... who controls the House and Senate.”

After hearing from 12 of the league’s 14 coaches on ESPN’s campus on Monday and Tuesday, it’s clear the argument might be gridlocked.

Ole Miss Rebels coach Hugh Freeze, a proponent of uptempo plays, says it's a means by which his team can offset a deficiency in talent and five-star recruits.

“I don’t want it to be a game to be won on signing day,” Freeze told me Monday, “that your three-deep is better than my three-deep.”

Of course, Saban understands what those teams are trying to do in negating disparity in talent and depth.

But he said those no-huddle offenses “take the defensive coaches out of the game" by making it impossible for them to substitute. Saban also argued that uptempo play doesn’t allow for actual coaching or instruction, something he finds important in the sport.

“I never want to run a system on offense that doesn’t help a player develop,” Saban said, referring to a criticism of “continuous play.”

And Saban again cited safety concerns, saying the added number of plays per game amounts to three additional games per season. The more plays, he reasons, the more chance there is for injury.

So, when does this become something more than an ongoing debate?

Bret Bielema (D-Ark.) said he anticipates some sort of rule change in “the next 2-3 years.”