1. WHAT IS A GOOD WAY FOR MY PLAYSIDE GUARD TO TAKE THE PROPER INSIDE-OUT ANGLE ON 6-G AND 7-G? Have him reach out with his outside (playside) arm and pull the tackle down to the inside - - similar to the fold-block technique. This will keep your guard from turning his shoulders too much and pulling too flat, and will enable him to get up into the hole and root 'em out.
2. WHAT IF THE DEFENSIVE LINEMEN ARE DIVING AT MY PULLING LINEMEN'S FEET AND GRABBING THEM? First of all, it's illegal. (See the bottom of my NEWS page.) But this shouldn't be a problem anyhow, so long as your linemen are as far off the ball as the rules allow. Basically, the rules say that the tops of your linemen's heads must be even with the center's waistline. You can accomplish this by having your guards put their inside hands next to the center's heels; next, the tackles align on the guards' depth, and finally, the tight ends align on the tackles' depth. With the guards already as deep as legal, you must make sure that your tight ends do not bow back, or you won't have seven men on the LOS.
3. WE ARE GETTING "LEAKAGE" (PENETRATION) ON THE PLAYSIDE OF POWERS AND COUNTERS- Check your uncovered playside linemen. If an uncovered playside linemen fires out too soon - usually going after a linebacker - he opens a gap in the playside front big enough for a defensive lineman to slant through or a backside linebacker to scrape through. Make sure if he is uncovered that he first checks his area. (Actually, if that lineman never leaves his post, he'll do you less harm than if he fires right out, either going after a linebacker or doubling down unnecessarily.)
4. CAN WE RUN OPTION IN THIS SYSTEM? YES! I have seen tape of a team successfully running the triple, just as they had in 1996 - when they ran wishbone - and I have seen tape of another team which has successfully adapted Army's mid-line option to the Double-Wing. I recently received a play from a coach in the South who runs a lead option with his "B" Back as the Pitch Man - he takes a "bucket step" and gets depth initially in order to get into pitch relationship.
5. WITH MY LINEMEN AS DEEP AS THEY ARE, MY PULLING GUARDS ARE KNOCKING THE BALL OUT OF THE QB'S HANDS AND CAUSING FUMBLES. This is a common problem when you first start out. Do NOT attempt to solve it by slowing down your linemen. (1) Move your QB back from the center - have him operate with extended arms; (2) Make sure your QB pulls the ball to his groin - right away. QB's used to another system - I formation, for example, will have a little adjusting to do. This is important because it's also part of our program of concealing the ball; (3) Make sure that the QB is not standing stationary at the snap. (Most will wait until they actually have the ball before they step out of there.) Although he must keep his hands under center until he receives the ball, your QB should be starting his first step on the snap count, not when the ball is in his hands.
6. CAN I JUST RUN THE POWER AND NOT THE SUPER-POWER? Yes, a lot of people who run the offense prefer to hand the ball off (POWER) instead of the QB tossing and leading through (SUPER POWER), and they are happy with it. I should point out, though, that the QB toss-and-lead-through aspect of Don Markham's play was what originally convinced me to adapt my Delaware Wing-T system to accomodate it. Consider, also, what it does for your quarterback as a leader when he shows the rest of the team that he'll stick his nose in there! I haven't had many quarterbacks who weren't tough kids - kids who wanted to prove they were just as tough as everybody else. I think that when you go overboard to protect your quarterback, you are eroding his ability to lead.
7. CAN'T I HAVE MY FULLBACK IN A 2-POINT STANCE? Sure, but part of what makes this attack unique is the defense's inability to find the fullback. To understand this better, stand over on defense behind your inside linebacker(s) while your offense is running its plays. Try to crouch down in a good hit position and find the fullback. If you can't find him without standing up to look over the linemen, you will begin to understand the major benefit of playing your fullback down - in a 3-point (or 4-point) stance.
8. DO I HAVE TO MAKE MY LINEMEN PUT THEIR INSIDE HANDS DOWN? No, just like you don't "have to" insist that your runners cover the point of the football, or that your tacklers "lock up," either. But once you begin to compromise on the little things - once you fail to insist that your players respect the fine points - where do you stop? For those who weren't at one of my Spring Clinics, there are are least four compelling reasons why we insist that our players put their inside hands down - and their inside feet back - with their inside hands directly in front of their inside feet. While still keeping our shoulders parallel to the line, it enables us to "pre-turn" the hips to the inside, facilitating:
(1) Gap protection;
(2) Pulling opposite;
(3) Releasing inside a defensive lineman;
(4) Forming the wedge without allowing penetration
9. HOW CAN I TEACH MY QB TO MAKE A SOFT TOSS? We tell our QB's to "toss a baby." But since it's highly unadvisable to practice doing so with a real baby, you might want to do what the Home Ec teacher does to teach parenting, and use an egg. A raw egg. In fact, better buy a dozen while you're at it, because they'll break a few. But your QB's will learn to toss the egg softly, and the runners to employ soft hands, if you accompany the drill with some sort of "incentive" (heh, heh) not to break the egg.
10. HOW OFTEN DO YOU SCRIMMAGE DURING OFFENSIVE PRACTICE? Once we can legally put on pads (after three days) we scrimmage nearly every day - full speed. Blocking a dummy or a shield is not the same as blocking a real person. However: there is one very important condition: we never permit contact below the waist, and we never permit anyone being taken to the ground. One bonus to this approach: your scout team defense will become better football players than they would if they stood around holding bags or shields.
11. WE HAVE A BIG KID WHO IS QUICK AND A PRETTY GOOD ATHLETE - ONE OF US WANTS TO USE HIM AT OFFENSIVE TACKLE BUT WE STILL NEED A "B" BACK (FULLBACK) AND HE CAN PLAY THERE - In our scheme of things, that's a no-brainer. We all want big, strong, quick tackles, but we can't make the offense work without that great kick-out block by our fullback. Remember Woody Hayes' advice on the subject - if you've got a big, strong kid who can run, put him right in the middle of your offense - not somewhere on the periphery.
12. I AM GOING TO BE PLAYING A DOUBLE-WING TEAM SOON - WHAT'S THE BEST WAY TO STOP IT? Are you serious? First of all, unless you've got the people to overwhelm them, I don't know. I coach our defense, too, and once a year, we play a Double-Wing team, a school where I originally installed it. They've been running it for eight years now, and they're good at it. I think I know the offense pretty well, but our two meetings have resulted in 28-14 and 40-22 losses for us, so I'm not a good one to ask about stopping the Double-Wing. One of the reasons why there is so much interest in the Double-Wing is that no one has yet developed a universal defensive scheme that you can teach - outside your basic defensive philosophy - then line up in and handle everything this offense can throw at you. Everywhere in the country, though, there are defensive coordinators who think they have the answer. Anyhow, what are you asking me for? My job is to advance and promote the Double-Wing, not stop it. That's your job.
13. WE HAVE JUST INSTALLED THE DOUBLE WING, AND WE HAVE A SCRIMMAGE COMING UP THIS WEEKEND. I'D JUST AS SOON OUR FIRST OPPONENT DOESN'T KNOW WE'RE RUNNING THE DOUBLE WING, AND I WANT TO KEEP IT UNDER WRAPS, SO I'M PLANNING ON RUNNING SOMETHING ELSE IN THE SCRIMMAGE. WHAT'S YOUR THINKING ON THAT? Why did you schedule a scrimmage, if not to find out where you need work, where you may have to look at another player, and where you're right on schedule? I coach at a small school, where our best never get to go against our best (they're the same kids) , so we have to make use of the only chance we get to scrimmage outside teams - in Washington, it's called a "Jamboree", and compared to a scrimmage, it's lame, but we always find areas that need patching up, and that's far more valuable to us than trying to keep a secret that may be out anyhow. Respect this offense - it takes a lot of reps and technique work for you to run it well, and you can't afford to waste time practicing "something else" just so you can get through a waste-of-time scrimmage. Besides, no opponent is going to be able to slap together a decent scout team on such short notice, and run it anywhere close to as well as you run it, anyhow. (And by the end of your first game, everybody else on your schedule will be well aware of what you're doing.)
14. WE FACE A 4-4 DEFENSE WHICH CAUSES OUR POWER PLAY SOME PROBLEMS BY PLAYING THEIR ENDS ON OUR TIGHT ENDS' OUTSIDE SHOULDERS. OUR WINGBACKS ARE NOT STRONG ENOUGH TO BLOCK THOSE DEFENSIVE ENDS BY THEMSELVES. The "9" technique defensive end creates a number of opportunities for our Double Wing. (1) Wall down with your TE and Wingback and let your fullback kick out on the "9" technique; (2) Turn your TE out on the DE and lead your Wingback through on first Lber to his inside (what we call "4 Base Lead" or "5 Base Lead"); (3) Run 6-G and 7-G till the cows come home - or until your opponents get out of this basically unsound (don't tell them, though) alignment.
15. WHAT ABOUT THOSE TIMES WHEN YOU HAVE TO HAVE A GADGET PLAY? Even Nebraska and Florida State, who can beat anybody straight-up, still have a few of these up their sleeve. This was submitted by Coach Todd Solberg, of Birchwood-Weyerhaeuser HS, in Wisconsin. He swears he's run it! (1) QB makes a quick fake to B Back at 2, hits the LE who has hooked at 7-8 yds; (2) LE laterals to the C Back, who has slipped underneath; C back has the option of keeping of (3) lateralling to the A Back. (The line must fire low and hard to keep defensive hands down.)
16. WHAT ABOUT A QUICK PASSING GAME? Here's the 3-step "RED READ" or "BLUE READ" package used by Coach Walter Fortune, in Cleveland, Texas. For those of you who already know our system or have the playbook handy, Coach Fortune does this from Spread, Roy, Lee, East or West, using Red or Blue protection. The QB and the outside receiver both read the coverage on the outside receiver: if the corner is playing him tight, he runs a fade, and if the corner is backed off, he runs a 6-yard hitch. The inside receiver (wingback or TE, depending on the set) runs a seam to freeze the safety. The QB takes a 3-step drop and throws quick. This also would make a nice addition for those of you running an "OVER" or "UNDER" package, too. Thanks to Coach Fortune for showing us one of the ways in which he has taken advantage of the versatility of our system.
17. DO YOU EVER DEPART FROM YOUR TIGHT SPLITS? Although our base spllits are six inches or less, we will occasionally adjust our splits. This is kind of an advanced technique, once you're sure that you can protect your inside gaps. It is useful, for instance, when a man needs to release inside a down lineman (for some reason, until you show them otherwise, your kids actually seem to think that they improve their chances of releasing inside a man by lining up more to the inside - which actually tightens their split and pens them in!) We are not talking about anything excessive, by the way - for us, a foot would be a large split. NOTE WELL: If you do start messing with your splits, it is very important that your linemen also adjust their splits when it doesn't mean anything.
RULES TIP: Mr. Einstein, the referee at our game Friday night, flagged us for illegal motion. We couldn't see anything wrong - we were set for a full second, after which our C-Back, and only our C-Back, had gone in motion, just as we intended - so we asked him what was wrong. He replied, "Your man has to be clearly in motion." When I asked him to define "clearly" for me, he said, "he has to be in motion for one full second before the ball is snapped." Now he had me! I called a time out, during which I asked him, among other things, if he remembered the hey day of the veer, with its "jump" motion. He didn't, of course - he was too young. Having once been young myself, I find a lot to be said for it, but I told him that we had been running motion for more years than he had been officiating, and asked him if by chance he could show me the rule he was citing. He said he could, but as usual, he was off the field immediately following the game, headed no doubt for the local referees' rendezvous. Just for your info: RULE 7, section 2, article 7: "Only one Team A player may be in motion at the snap and then only if such motion is not toward his opponent's goal line." PERIOD. The rule goes on to specify what has to be done if you want to send a lineman in motion, but otherwise, that's it. PERIOD. Why do these geniuses feel they have to complicate one of the game's simpler rules? Why, especially, do some of them they feel they have to enforce a rule they haven't bothered to learn? The Head Linesman, on our sideline, helpfully suggested, "you're just going to have to adjust."
18. WHAT ELSE CAN BE DONE WITH "SPRINT" MOTION? For those of you who use "Sprint" Motion - which, by the way, at the request of our kids, we now call "ROCKET" (to the right), "LAZER" (to the left ) - and run the "Reach" play, you may also have run the companion trap play, the "G" play, and the counter. Now comes this idea, passed along to me by Coach Ron Hennig, at Holy Cross H.S. in Louisville, Ky: Give it to the motion man just as if you're running "Reach", but instead - have him run 6 (or 7) G! Coach Hennig has a kid who can fly, and he has run the play. He does advise this one change in assignments from conventional "G" blocking: since the running back's path will naturally make him take a sharper angle to the outside than the B-Back's course normally does, you need to have your playside wingback block the outside LBer, instead of his customary wall-off of the inside LBer. Otherwise, there is no need to teach anything new - all blocking rules remain the same. The B-Back hits inside, setting up the trap, same as he does on the Reach play. I'm certainly going to take a look at it.
19. HOW CAN I BLOCK A "REACH" PLAY AGAINST A DEFENSE WHOSE ENDS BOX? If the defensive ends are boxing, you ought to be kicking them out and running inside them, not trying to reach them. They are boxing specifically to prevent you from running outside them. When you need to reach them is when they are playing tight and pinching down to the inside to stuff your power plays. A reach - a sweep - is like the traps or the counters or play action passes: it's either there or it's not. You can't force it. Now, the power plays are something else - you have to be able to run them against anything. Think of the other plays - traps, counters, sweeps and play action passes - as responses to things that defenses do to try to stop your power plays.
20. 3 MINUTES TO PLAY, AND YOU'RE AHEAD BY LESS THAN A TOUCHDOWN. IT'S 4TH AND ONE - ON YOUR OWN 25-YARD LINE. DO YOU GO FOR IT? I think it depends to some degree on whether a field goal can beat you or tie you - and whether they have the kicker to do it - but mainly, I think, it depends on how your defense has been playing. Faced with this exact situation in a recent playoff game, Coach Paul Herzog of North St. Paul, Minnesota, chose to punt. A few fans called his decision "gutless," but his defense held, and his Polars won, 14-12. In a somewhat similar situation last Friday, we found ourselves facing a fourth and three on our own 42, winning 24-19 with under two minutes to play. We were playing a passing team which just the week before had upset a highly-ranked opponent with a 3-play drive in the last 38 seconds - after the opponent had just scored and seemingly pulled out a last-minute win. We knew that they had the ability to strike quickly, and we had just dodged a bullet ourselves, having only a minute earlier choked off a drive with an interception at our own 35. So our decision was to ask our offense to "strap it on" and win it for us. We got the first down and ran out the clock. Fans may have called what we did "gutsy," but guts had nothing to do with it. The great Joe Paterno, incidentally, knows a little something about these calls. Few people now remember the Gator Bowl game following the '67 season, in which, with Penn State leading Florida State 17-0, Coach Paterno went for it on fourth-and-short deep in his own territory. But the Seminoles held. And scored. And rallied to play the Lions to a 17-17 tie. (That tie, incidentally, interrupted a seven-game State win streak, and turned out to be the last time that fabulous group of Penn State athletes would fail to win until 1970 - 23 games later.)
21. OUR EIGHTH GRADE YOUTH TEAM HAS MADE THE STATE PLAYOFFS. PRIOR TO THIS SEASON, THIS GROUP OF KIDS NEVER WON MORE THAN ONE OR TWO GAMES A YEAR. THE POWER GAME HAS REALLY STARTED TO CLICK, AVERAGING 10.2 YARDS A SNAP OVER THE LAST MONTH. NOW WE'RE IN THE STATE SEMI-FINALS AGAINST A TEAM THAT AS A GROUP HAS NOT LOST A GAME IN FIVE YEARS. THIS YEAR THEY HAVE AVERAGED 46 POINTS A GAME, HAVE LET UP NONE, AND ALLOWED ONLY 9 FIRST DOWNS. THEY ARE THE ONLY TEAM TO DESTROY OUR RUNNING GAME THIS YEAR. WHEN YOU ARE TOTALLY OUTMANNED, DO YOU GO TO THE SPREAD AND THROW 25 TIMES A GAME OR DO YOU STAY THE COURSE AND GO WITH WHAT GOT YOU THERE? Been there. Painful experience over the years has taught me the importance of changing as little as possible going into a big game. I know the feeling of looking at what you've got, and looking at what they have, and thinking, "we can't beat them straight-up." And I've gone to something else. And laid an egg.
There is always the danger that the new and different approach will fail - which is likely, if those guys are as good as you say they are - and then what are you left with? You've not only lost the game, but you've trashed your basic offense, because the kids now know you didn't have confidence in it, or you'd have gone into the game prepared to run it. And now you're stuck with the remnants of an offense that you tried to slap together in three or four days - not even the Green Bay Packers can do that.
Another downside to spreading it out and throwing against a really good team is the greater possibility of a real butt-kicking, since every incompletion you throw stops the clock, allowing them more time to run their offense. Not to mention what interceptions and sacks might do to you.
You can still install a wrinkle or two in your basic offense without giving your kids the idea that you're deserting what got you there. It might be something as simple as running some plays from unbalanced. If your opponents haven't seen this, it could cause them some problems.
Now, more than ever, is the time to stick with the basics: work hard on your double-teams, on protecting your gaps, on pulling correctly, on making sure the kick-out blocker's head is "in the hole," on sustaining your blocks, on hanging onto the ball, on avoiding stupid penalties.
Don't forget, there's always the chance that your kids may have improved enough since your last meeting to play them closer this time. And the longer you can play them close, the better your chances of finding a way to win.
I guess the question you need to ask is, "what approach gives us the best chance of playing them close the longest - and coming out of it with our system intact?"
22. WITH AN EMPHASIS ON BALL-CONTROL AND A RELATIVELY SMALL NUMBER OF PLAYS, THE DOUBLE-WING PLACES LESS EMPHASIS ON PLAY-CALLING, RIGHT? Wrong. On the contrary, unlike passing attacks, which might sputter for ten plays in a row and then get it all back on one play, intelligent, consistent, patient play-calling is especially important when you are running the double-wing, which even its most ardent boosters would not call a "come-from-behind" offense. You don't want to put yourself in the hole, and the stupid call is just as much to be avoided as the stupid penalty. The double-wing is a keep-the-ball-rolling kind of attack, and often your biggest job as a play-caller is to forget about the heroics and just stay out of the way. Here are three examples, from recent games I've seen, of the dangers of the heroic call. (These were not, incidentally, double-wing teams.)
Example #1: with first-and-goal on the one, team #1 runs an option. The QB is forced to pitch, the pitch man is tackled in the backfield, and they wind up with second-and-goal on the seven - same result as a five-yards-and-loss-of-down penalty. (The great Paul Brown once said that the best play in football is the one that goes straight ahead...and the second-best play is the one that goes - almost straight ahead.)
Example #2: backed up on their own one, team #2 calls an option. The QB is forced to pitch, and does so - back into his own end zone. The pitch man barely makes it out, narrowly escaping a safety - or worse.
Example #3: in the process of upsetting a superior opponent, team #3 opens the fourth quarter with a second-and-two on the opponents' 20. But rather than getting the first down and inching forward, working the clock, they instead throw a dump pass over the middle; it's intercepted and returned 85 yards for a TD. This seems to jolt the opponents awake: they go on to win.
When I see some of the situations we coaches get ourselves into as a result of ill-considered play-calling, I'm reminded of the admonition given to all new physicians: "First, do no harm."
23. CAN YOU RUN A "SPEED SWEEP" SIMILAR TO WHAT THEY RUN OUT OF THE FLY OFFENSE? We can and we do. It is our "Sprint Sweep." Originally called SPRINT 38 REACH or SPRINT 38 SWEEP, it is shown in my first video, DYNAMICS OF THE DOUBLE WING, along with the trap that complements it. Both are shown out of our "spread" formation, but over the past three seasons we have developed it into a pretty decent play from various other sets, including "tight", "slot" "over" and "uptight." At the request of our kids, we changed the name of the motion to "Rocket" (Right) and "Lazer" (left). In its simplest form, "TIGHT ROCKET 38 REACH" looks like this:
(Incidentally, my DYNAMICS IV tape, deals with the sprint sweep, among other topics)
24. WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN YOUR SPRINT SWEEP AND THE CLASSIC WING-T BUCK SWEEP? The major difference is that in our sprint series, the wingback goes first, followed by the fullback.The series depends on the speed of the wingback's motion, which will get him outside a defense that is preoccupied with pinching down; with the threat of the sprint sweep established, the companion trap (shown here) becomes a good call.
25. HOW DO YOU GO UNBALANCED? Normally, you create an unbalanced line by moving a guard, tackle or end to somewhere on the other side of center, giving you four linemen on one side (the "strong side" or "long side"), and only two on the other side (the "shortside"). See the example below. Some people achieve the same effect by having a back step up onto the line. Once you begin to experiment with the different ways you can do this - the different people you can move, and the different places you can put them - you begin to see how many possibilities there are. One reason we like to go unbalanced is that without a whole lot of changes in assignments on our part, we can force defenses to take precious practice time learning to adjustment to us - if they recognize it. A word of warning: most people who go unbalanced are looking for a temporary advantage in taking a defense by surprise. Unless that is your purpose - if instead you plan to run a number of plays from an unbalanced set - you'd better be prepared for a few surprises yourself. You will see a lot of unpredictable defenses.