Hurry Up Wing-T with Bruce Cobleigh

Advanced Concepts with Bruce Cobleigh

This is the first in a series of posts about the 2015 National Wing T Clinic held in Pittsburgh in January of 2015.

Bruce Cobleigh ran several clinics at the event, with the first one focused on hurry up, no huddle, and tempo control while running a hybrid Wing-T. Bruce coaches at Roswell HS in Georgia and took an 0–10 team from three years ago to 8–4 in 2014. Much of this is high school specific, but I’ll relate it back to youth football in my summary. This is a bit of a ramble and a very long post but there was just a lot of great information he shared.

Here’s a brief summary of their approach:

  • They run a 2 minute drill pace for the entire game.
  • They have a built in pass/run combo on all internal runs
  • Motto (every football coach invents acronyms right?) is EAT: Effort Attitude and Tempo. Bruce believes that they can teach effort through tempo in practice.
  • They use team and inside 7 on 7 for effort and speed work.
  • They demand effort and chart loafers in games / practice, cutting reps if they see poor quality

Bruce visited Auburn practices 9 times last summer and Clemson 5 times with a goal of learning more about how they manage tempo and no huddle. He made an interesting point: both schools have no issue at all sharing their playbooks with other coaches, but won’t talk at all about tempo and no huddle. So he had to infer a lot from observation and adapt to how he installed his own system.

Here are some characteristics of Bruce’s strategy:

  • They generally run no huddle but sometimes will short huddle
  • They signal formation, play, and a direction call from the sideline
  • His goal is to snap the ball within 3 seconds of the spot. They can’t always control time between plays (long plays, refs are sometimes slow) so this is their benchmark
  • ONE WORD PLAY NAMES: they moved away from traditional Wing T numbering conventions thinking it didn’t help the players and was really meant for the coaches. For example, buck sweep might just be BUCK. Belly cross-block would just be BELLY.
  • They use signal to show the play direction. For them thumbs up was right, thumbs down left

How they call plays

For plays, they use college teams as the base, grouping by letters to make it easy to remember for the line. By using a college team as the base, they have a lot of options for how to call something. For example, they have Army and Air Force as their A letter, so they can show wings like an airplane, pretend to march, pretend to shoot, etc. A was for their jet and rocket sweeps which are blocked the same, so the motion call would then dictate what the specific play was. The line doesn’t care either way so the difference between Air Force and Army was generally immaterial to them as the blocking rules were the same for jet and rocket sweep.

For formations they had some complexity that I don’t think is necessary in this kind of scheme, and even Bruce admitted that they could probably just yell out the formation and be fine (Auburn does it this way). For motion they relied on just jet motion and rocket and would make a tearing signal like you are tearing cloth (RIP).

To avoid teams locking into motion or jumping the snap count they would use a frozen call as a tag. For example, if they called Alaska or Siberia the snap count was off and they would run through motion but then abort and check back with sideline.

Rolling Big Runs

When they get a run of 10 or more yards, the coaches will roll their hands and they will run exactly the same play again. The tempo triumphs here, even for teams that scout them. The defense will often get stuck in their base defense with no time for an adjustment call. If they wanted to still roll the play but have a slight adjustment, they would call “Pete Oppo” (repeat opposite) call to just flip the play and run it the opposite direction. They rarely had to do this though.

Game Time Approach

The offensive coordinator (Bruce) would call the play, the head coach would signal. Bruce claims it is too hard to do both, and having done some offensive play calling using signaling from the sideline this year I couldn’t agree more. For the start of each series they huddle on the sideline and call the play there. They then sprint to the field and GO. After every run play the ball carrier hands the ball to the official. QB immediately gets the formation call and relays to the team so that they can get aligned. The offensive line gets to the ball, the QB then gets the play and yells audible to team. Bruce advises against using wristbands – he thinks it slows down the tempo too much. The only reason it is used in the NFL is because they have microphones in the helmet.

They rotate players a lot during games, and hence get many more reps for 2nd and 3rd string players than in the past. It also makes the sideline much more electric as more players are involved.

Practice Approach

They found that running practice at this tempo doubled their reps. It also led to superior conditioning (I’ve used practice tempo for conditioning for years). Their practice was roughly organized like this:

  • Indy period – 10 - 15 minutes
  • Group – 15 –20 minutes
  • Tempo period with thud level of contact – 10 min, 25 or more snaps
  • Inside period – 10 min, 30 or more snaps
  • Team period – 20 min, 50–55 snaps

They end practice with a jet/rocket drill which looks like the bandit drill. This is for just the 1s and 2s at each offensive position. Every offensive position has a fixed defensive position that they go to (e.g., QB to FS, FB to Mike, WR to left CB, etc). The 1st string players come out from the goal line and run hurry up plays in five yard increments (quick whistle, player hands ball to coach, coaches spots and give ready to play) and run out to the 40 (they only have half the field available). They then immediately flip and the second string repeats coming back to the goal line.

Additionally, they focus on a small set of plays each practice. For example on Monday they just do Jet, Rocket, and Trap. On Tuesday Down and Buck. On Wednesday they might run their Counter play.

Incorporating Malzahn / Auburn concepts

The next session I attended was where Bruce discussed how has incorporated some Auburn and Gus Malzahn football concepts into their system. Auburn’s run plays are mostly focused on putting the end man on the line of scrimmage (EMOLOS) in conflict (hello, that’s just wing-t right there). They believe that jet and rocket breaks run fits for inside linebackers as they tend to slide horizontally when they see jet and rocket motion, opening up buck sweep and inside zone runs.

Because they run so much spread, and because wing backs are often “challenged” at blocking, they use the sniffer concept (I think this comes from the single wing) which is just using a TE or FB type player that they put between the guard and tackle but very close to the line. They bring in the sniffer primarily to run buck sweep. They teach the wingbacks to know how to line up on LOS when they do a personnel switch and bring in the sniffer for the other WR. This is because their normal base is to have two WR, two wingbacks /slots, and a single tailback. So the sniffer replaces the WR.

They block jet and rocket with everyone reaching to playside except for the playside guard who pulls and kicks out or logs depending on what they are reading.

They run buck sweep out of this spread / sniffer formation like this:

  • PST (Play-side tackle) blocks down
  • PSG pulls and kicks out. They have him drop step instead of going 45 deg for depth to allow the sniffer to get around the tackle.
  • Sniffer looks like a WB on buck and logs around the PST
  • BSG pulls and lead blocks.
  • They run from shotgun so TB “aligns himself for success”: he needs to know where to be based on the play call. So buck right means he better get left of QB. He puts his toes on the heel of the QB.

How they double team in the Wing-T

This is really just an aside, but worth mentioning: Bruce Cobleigh moved away from the traditional lead/post technique for Wing-T double teams. Instead they have the two linemen get hip to hip with a 6" step in with appropriate foot (stepping towards the defender to double team). They strive for a push straight back and work this extensively during special teams as very few offensive linemen end up on special teams.

Run Pass Option

For every inside run play (buck sweep included) they have an automatic run / pass option that is the QB’s choice. This means they don’t have WR run blocking assignments as they are always running the appropriate pass route. These are usually quick outs, slants, or screens that the QB can choose to throw based on coverage. At the high school they use very simple reads, mostly looking for soft cornerback play or outnumbered defenders (WR plus slot on edge with just a single CB and deep safety for example).

Vertical Passing Game

Bruce’s approach was to integrate run and shoot concepts into the Wing-T passing game. They do both 3 step drop and play action with a goal of stretching the field and moving the defense back to setup the run game. They have a lot of incompletions but feels that it needs to be done.

They keep their routes very simple, with the base being a four vertical approach from the two WR and two WB. Then they rely on receiver recognition of coverage to pull out of vertical route. Their teaching points are:

  • “Even / Leave In”: if defender is even with you (within 3 yards) in tight coverage, stick to the vertical and continue to drive downfield
  • “Deep / Creep” : if defender is off (more than 3 yards) sit your route. They work on this depending on how fast the receiver is. For a fast guy it would be run to 16 yards and sit back at 14, but might be 14 to 12 if slower.
  • Outside receivers always run to outside numbers and when they sit it will be to 4 yards from sideline
  • Ball will be at outside shoulder when they come back and bail
  • receiver signals that he is bailing by raising his hand as he comes back

They have a SWITCH audible call which turns the auto 4 verticals into a slant/wheel concept. The wide out crashes in like he is cracking on jet or rocket sweep and the inside slot runs a wheel route. In this case he would come back from 10 yards to 8 yards or 8 to 6 if breaks his route. They love running this with jet motion across the field (e.g., starting with trips left, jet motion away with a switch call, jet back continues in the wheel route while his WR runs slant simulating a crack).

They drill the four verticals with 4 different QBs throwing a ball to every receiver on every rep.

Final Thoughts and Relating this to Youth Football

Let’s start with the tempo / hurry up approach and relate it to what I wrote about earlier this week. I think there’s a lot of merit in his approach, and would consider something similar even with younger youth players. Here’s how you might approach it with a youth team:

  • Imagine you have just 5 plays installed: Down, Counter, ISO (Belly cross-block), Buck Sweep, and Trap. And that these are the words you use to describe the plays to the kids.
  • Find a college name that is either well known nationally or locally for your kids that matches the letter. Here in Oregon we might use:
    • Down == Oregon DUCKS
    • Counter == CALIFORNIA Bears
    • ISO == INDIANA Hoosiers
    • Buck Sweep == Oregon State BEAVERS
    • Trap == TEXAS Longhorns
  • Think about creative ways to signal in these colleges / teams to your kids, and even better: get them involved in the process. For Indiana Hoosiers you might simulate shooting a basket, or even driving a race car (Indy 500). For Ducks you might flap your wings or make the O sign with your hands. I do think it is important to have multiple ways to call each school. At least two, though three or four would be even better.
  • Now all you need is a formation, motion call (I would just yell it out), snap count, and a play direction. Lots of options for these.

Is it possible for a team to scout this out and break your system? Yes, it is possible. But consider this: if you are combining this with fast tempo, will it matter? Even if they recognize your call, they would still need to make a defensive adjustment to gain an advantage. Will they be able to do so quickly enough to matter? I think not.

Buyer beware: I haven’t run this approach before so no promises. But I sure will think about it next season I coach.