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Reprinted from Texas Coach Magazine, March 1996
By Hugh Wyatt
(A graduate of Yale, Hugh Wyatt
has been coaching football since
1970. After two years in the World Football League, as Player
Personnel Director in Philadelphia and Assistant General Manager in
Portland, he has been a high school coach in the Pacific Northwest.
since 1976. He has coached internationally, in Finland and Denmark,
and early in 1996 released an instructional videotape, "Dynamics of
the Double Wing." Since 1976, he has been a head coach at seven high
schools in the Pacific Northwest, and an assistant coach at six.
Overseas, he has also been a head coach of three different teams
Since 1997, Coach Wyatt has put on
more than 185 clinics or camps in 28 states and a Canadian province ...
Alabama, Alaska, Alberta (Canada), California, Colorado, Georgia,
Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland,
Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, New
York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas,
Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin... He has personally coached the
Double-Wing in Finland, Denmark and Germany, and at 5 different US high
schools; in 2008, in his first year at North Beach High School in Ocean
Shores, Washington his team went 7-3 and earned him Pacific League
Coach of the Year honors. (In 2007, North Beach finished 1-9.)
In 2009 he served as offensive coordinator at Woodburn, Oregon, a Class 5A school that had won just two games in the last five years. With heavy emphasis on the Wildcat, Woodburn's 2009 team won three games, including the school's first league win in twelve years! In 2010, after a two year hiatus during which North Beach went 3-16, he returned to North Beach as an assistant to new head coach Todd Bridge. In the first year of Coach Bridge's rebuild, North Beach, starting three freshmen on the offensive line, managed three wins, including a defeat of the defending state champions, and North Beach's first home win since 2008)
Championships on two continents...a national high school single-season scoring record using it ...a pair of running backs on the same high school team rushing for more than 4,000 yards between them... a state rule passed because of large margins of victory.
All because of an offense. An offense I've been running - and developing - since 1990, and I'm as enthusiastic about it now as I was then. In principle, it's as old as the Single Wing, but if your opponents haven't seen it before, it's as new as today.
Actually, the Single Wing was the first offense I ever knew. My high school ran it from the seventh grade on up, and in college, I was pressed into duty to play scout team tailback whenever we played Princeton, a legendary Single Wing team. (We always gave our defense fits.)
Years later, I rediscovered the deception, the double-teaming, the angle and trap blocking of the Single Wing, modernized as the Delaware Wing-T. Maybe it was old-fashioned, but it was out of cycle, and therefore new to our opponents. (Ara Parseghian won a National Championship at Notre Dame in 1973 running the Wing-T, when it was also "out of cycle.")
Its ball-handling and blocking schemes looked intricate to others, but the unique numbering system and terminology we had developed while using the Run-and-Shoot made it relatively easy to teach the Wing-T to our kids, and the Wing-T enabled us to compete against schools which consistently outmanned us. The only thing missing from the Single Wing was raw power. I was about to find it - in Finland, of all places.
I'd been spending my summers coaching American football in Finland, and there, in 1987 and 1988, my team was hammered by a team called the Helsinki Roosters. Actually, the Roosters were hammering everybody. They were the defending European champions, and their coach, a Californian named Don Markham, was running up scores with a unique variation of the Wing-T.
It was a Double-Wing - a lot of us who've run the Wing-T have lined up in it on occasion. The wingbacks, turned in at 45°, were in 3-point stances; and the fullback, so shallow he could reach out and touch the quarterback's tail, was also in a 3-point stance, practically invisible to the defense. Finally, the line splits were tight - real tight. In many cases, shoe-to-shoe.
On nearly every play, one or the other of the wingbacks went in motion, but the ball was snapped so quickly that it was difficult for the defense to react to the motion. The mainstays of the attack were a power off-tackle and a fullback trap - run to either side.
The main difficulty with stopping the power was getting enough defenders to the point of attack. But at the same time, your backers couldn't forget about the hidden fullback, or the trap would kill you.
That power play would really set up the rest of my Wing-T package, which leaned toward traps and misdirection. But it appeared to demand such a radical change in my basic offensive set that I went on running the pure Delaware Wing-T.
Then, in 1990, I was offered the chance to start up a Finnish team from scratch - teaching the game to thirty-five young, strong athletes, only two of whom had ever seen an actual game of football before, much less played in one. This meant not only teaching them the fundamentals we routinely expect junior high kids to have, but it also meant teaching them an offense and a defense - the perfect chance to experiment with the Double-Wing! What could I lose? There was no sense splitting an end - nobody on the team could throw or catch the ball yet, anyhow.
So I installed it, and I've never regretted it. My numbering system and terminology helped make the offense comprehensible, even to the non-English speakers on the team, and within two seasons, running the Double Wing, we won the Division II National Championship.
Returning to the States, I introduced the Double Wing in Ridgefield, Washington, where, over the next three seasons, despite having below-average talent, we ran for well over 300 yards per game. Meanwhile, Don Markham, coaxed out of retirement in Bandon, Oregon, took the Bandon Tigers to the state Class AAA finals in 1991, his second year there. Along the way, his offense ran up such outrageous scores that rival coaches petitioned for (and got) the so-called "Don Markham" rule - any time a team gets on top by 45 points, the game is stopped.
In 1994, Don returned to California to coach Bloomington High School, reeling from a 1-9 season in 1993. In its first year of running Don's Double Wing, Bloomfield went 14-0, winning a state title and scoring 880 points in 14 games - a new national high school single-season scoring record.
That same year, I was asked by Coach Gary Garland at Washougal, Washington to help him make the transition from the Wing-T to the Double Wing. His Washougal Panthers finished 9-0, unbeaten for the first time in school history, and Coach Garland was named Southwest Washington Coach of the Year.
In 1995, running the offense to near-perfection, Coach Art Osmundson's Ridgefield team went 13-0, and won the state Class A championship (first state title ever for any team from our corner of the state). Including playoff games, Ridgefield averaged 47.3 points a game; its left halfback ("A" Back) and fullback ("B" Back) set a new state record with over 4,000 yards between them!
(NOTE: Since the appearance of this article, more than 200 schools and youth teams have put in the offense and achieved their own versions of success - see SUCCESS STORIES)
Many of the Double Wing's advantages are already well-known to those who run a more conventional Wing-T:
(1) The strong running game lets you control the ball - and keep the other team's offense off the field. (Now, that is good defense!) And while it can't be proved, many coaches suspect that being a running team makes your players tougher on both sides of the ball;
(2) Offensive linemen love it! They get to dish out the punishment. They block with good angles, and they get to deliver hits out in the open, where people can actually see them;
(3) You've always got a game plan! The blocking rules (Delaware's, for the most part) have been tested over time; they'll work against anything your opponents can throw at you;
(4) It allows you to call plays with a purpose. No more grab-bagging. This is sequence football, so you're always probing.
(5) Defenses can't go all-out. This offense feeds on defensive over-eagerness. We are always on the lookout for the lineman who over-penetrates, the linebacker who overpursues, the backside defender who doesn't stay home, the defensive back who supports too eagerly;
(6) You get more quality practice reps. The relatively small core of basic running plays enables you to concentrate on practicing the things you'll actually run in the game;
(7) It is not quarterback-intensive - not to anywhere near the extent that most other offenses are. Naturally, the better your quarterback, the more effective you'll be; but if number one goes down at Wednesday's practice, you still have a chance on Friday night;
(8) Weather isn't a problem - at least not as much for you as for your opponents;
(9) Even fair backs can look good; good backs can look great;
(10) Defenders face conflicting reads, causing them to question the intelligence of their coaches (making defensive disarray work for you);
(11) It is team-oriented. Lots of people get to touch the ball. Every block, on every play, is potentially crucial. Every man feels important, because, in fact, he is;
(12) Film study is especially productive, because you can isolate, point out exactly why any play failed, and you can begin to correct the mistake. (Very rarely, by the way, does a play fail because your man just plain got whipped. It is usually a matter assignment or technique, both of which you can remedy with coaching);
(13) It's very difficult to prepare for. Opponents' scout offenses will never run the offense as well as your kids!
In addition to the advantages it has in common with the Wing-T, the Double-Wing has several strong points all its own:
(1) It forces defenses to balance up. It is not wise of them to overshift, because every right-handed play you run has a left-handed twin. You have the ability to strike anywhere along the front;
(2) The defense must defend 10 gaps. Even after motion, there are still 9 gaps;
(3) The quickness of the motion leaves little time for defenses to react;
(4) You can get four men into patterns quickly;
(5) Blitzes are less of a problem, thanks to the tight splits;
(6) Pulling linemen don't have so far to run, also thanks to the tight splits;
(7) The fullback is a bigger threat. Having him closer to the line improves his kick-out angle on the power, conceals him on the trap, and enables him to sneak out unnoticed into pass patterns;
(8) Counters are more powerful. Having a tight end on the backside strengthens the blocking on counters;
(9) Having two tight ends develops players. It's a good way to teach the game in your junior programs;
(10) It is expandable. Using the same basic offensive package, we can - and do - run from a variety of balanced and unbalanced looks.
I would be less than candid if I didn't point out that there are certain pitfalls to running the offense, many of which are familiar to Wing-T coaches:
(1) People claiming they key your guards. First of all, don't let them worry you. "Keying the guards" sounds great at clinics, but they've only got a week to teach it, and even if they do teach it, at some point in the game their linebackers are going to begin standing up a little straighter, looking into your backfield, trying to find the ball! In any event, here is our clinic response:
(a) Key-breakers. For example, it's possible to run the power while pulling both guards to the backside, crossing the guards, or not pulling either guard;
(b) Unbalanced sets. This forces a defense either to stay put, and be outflanked, or to shift over, and play against unfamiliar keys.
(2) Pressure to satisfy one single individual. This is not an offense for the selfish star. Defenses can gang up to stop any one play or player, but in doing so, they open themselves up to attack somewhere else. You've got to be intelligent enough to recognize it, disciplined enough to take what they give you, even if the star gets left out.
(3) The frustrations of the now-extinct "wide receivers." Start out by eliminating the term "receiver" from your vocabulary! Those kids are going to have to learn to love contact - and play tight end, running back or defensive back. Maybe, just maybe - if their hands are unusually good - you can find a way to play them in spot situations;
(4) The influence of the NFL - don't underestimate it. What you are doing may be effective, but in the eyes of the Sunday fan, it's "old-fashioned." You have to have enough confidence in what you're doing to live with the parents and local media people who can't understand why you don't "open things up" - why you don't "pass the ball more."
(5) The temptation to try to do too much. The possibilities of this offense are limitless, but you need to be very careful not to try to do too much, because anything new will steal reps from the basic core of plays. (Which is the only reason why we haven't begun to tap the offense's great option potential);
(6) The importance of details. Not every coach has the mental makeup to be fussy about the little things. But with this offense, the little things will win for you - or beat you. And since a breakdown can occur anywhere (as the auto parts ad says, "there are no unimportant parts"), you must pay minute attention to detail - especially ball-handling and fumble prevention. You must be able to visualize how every play should look, and because every player's job is important, you must know every player's job. You and your staff must never let even the tiniest mistake go uncorrected. And you must convince your players of the importance of this. If that's not your style, this is not the offense for you.
If those potential pitfalls haven't scared you away, you may be ready to run the Double-Wing successfully. Thanks to the logic and simplicity of the play-calling system, I have been able to install it at high schools and youth programs all over the country, as well as overseas, and I've run it enough and seen enough of it to assure you that it has passed the test.
I've produced a number of INSTRUCTIONAL MATERIALS showing how to run my system and get the most out of it. They come with only one guarantee - if you do run the Double Wing, you will drive opposing defenses crazy!
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