Arizona offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone: RPOs are ideal for HS quarterbacks

By Dan Guttenplan

One of the nation’s most innovative, experienced and accomplished offensive coordinators in college football, Noel Mazzone, joined the Arizona coaching staff in 2018. He arrived in Tucson following two years as offensive coordinator for Kevin Sumlin at Texas A&M.

Prior to Texas A&M, Mazzone directed UCLA’s offense for four seasons, and his impressive coaching resume includes time as an assistant coach in the NFL and as an offensive coordinator in the ACC (NC State), the Big Ten (Minnesota), SEC (Ole Miss and Auburn) and Pac-12 (UCLA, Arizona State, Oregon State).

In addition to excelling in his role assuming play-calling duties as a coordinator, Mazzone has a proven track record of developing quarterbacks for the next level. In 2018, three of Mazzone’s pupils started games in the NFL, including Philip Rivers, Brock Osweiler and Josh Rosen, a first round pick of the Cardinals in 2018.

What can coaches at the USA Football National Conference expect from your session?

“No, I’m going to speak about game-planning, how to install at practice, your one-word tempo and RPO plays.”

RPO plays are all the rage in high school football right now. What can you share with coaches who might not have as much experience running that style of offense?

“The genius of the offense is in its simplicity.”

Do you think it’s more difficult to run an RPO offense in high school compared to college because quarterbacks have less experience reading defenses?

“Is it more difficult for high school quarterbacks? No. Do I think it’s better for them? Yes. It’s all based on repetition, and I think it creates confusion – but not for yourself. It’s like the old Bruce Lee saying. I fear not the man that practices 10,000 kicks, but the one who practices one kick 10,000 times.”

You’ve been able to develop a lot of NFL quarterbacks, including Philip Rivers and Josh Rosen. What’s your secret in developing quarterbacks for the next level?

“Those are the quarterbacks that I’ve had. I’ve been lucky enough to be around some really good ones. They all have one common denominator. They all have different throwing motions, different heights and weights. The one common denominator is their passion for the game. It’s hard enough to play when there’s not a passion about the game and the position. There are all different coaches and personalities, just like there are different players and personalities. There’s no cookie-cutter way to bring out passion. Most of the guys I’ve been around, you see it in them right away.”

You mentioned earlier that you have one-word keys for RPO and tempo play-calls. Is that your preferred style or do you have other methods of signaling plays when you slow down the offense?

“We don’t like to tag it – ‘This is super-fast tempo, this is tempo, this is slow-down scheme’ in our offense. You get that effect. But you don’t get that by how you communicate. You might slow down based on the amount of time it takes if you’re asking the quarterback to make checks. Other times, it’s one-word tempo, and it gets snapped quick. If it’s, ‘Check with me,’ then it takes longer. The quarterback has to make decisions.”

Mazzone’s Session

Saturday, Feb. 23

10:15 to 11 a.m.

Check out Arizona offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone speaking about, “One-word play calls for RPOs and tempo.” Mazzone has been an offensive coordinator in the ACC (NC State), the Big Ten (Minnesota), SEC (Texas A&M, Ole Miss and Auburn) and Pac-12 (Arizona, UCLA, Arizona State, Oregon State).