In youth football you are very likely to see 8 man fronts like the 6-2 and 4-4 stack. I'll call a defense a 6-2 if their defensive ends (or outside linebackers - whatever you want to call them) are playing at or very near the line of scrimmage outside your tight end(s). If they are clearly off the line and playing more of a LB position I'll call it a 4-4. Let's talk about how to game plan against a 6-2 defense with the Wing-T.
What are the Key Concerns?
There are two primary concerns I have when I face a 6-2 defense:
- Am I going to see a lot of A-gap pressure, either from the interior nose guards or inside linebackers?
- How are the defensive ends going to play? Is the strong DE going to play outside shade on the TE and squeeze in hard? Will the weak DE be crashing / blitzing every play? Or will they keep width and be focused on force / contain?
The answer to (1) is usually going to be yes, and that will usually steer me away from the Buck Series (Buck Sweep, Buck Trap, Boot, etc.). Why? Because I'm reluctant to pull both guards with A gap pressure on both sides, and because I think trap is hard to run well against double A gap pressure. We have better options in our Wing-T playbook.
The answers to (2) will then guide the series selection and play calling, both pre-game planning and early game scripting of plays / probing. Here's how I might script an opening series, making sure all the assistants understand what we are looking for and with some specific assignments for each coach to observe. You probably don't have 10 assistants roaming around, so to keep it simple I would make sure you have one coach watching the play-side DE and another coaching watching what is happening near play-side A gap (watch the nose and inside linebacker). Here's a sample opening script:
- Right 36 Down
- Right 28 Power Sweep
- Right 47 Counter
- Right 36 Down Pass
Let's start with some easy concepts to try out. These are appropriate for all ages and would be my go-to choices for the younger kids right out of the gate because they don't require formation shifts, unbalanced looks, or any special rules.
- Down, Counter, and Down Pass – You can follow along with these plays if you download my free Belly Series playbook. I love running Down against a 6-2 because while it can be hit or miss when you have a good defensive end, it can turn into a huge play if you can kick him out and get a good wingback block on the Mike. The Counter off this play works great if you block it and run it correctly. The weak-side tackle must block down and not be distracted if the defensive tackle is playing heads up our outside shade. The guard will kick out this player and the TE will lead right through B gap or even directly over the tackle – this play hits hard and quick on the inside. Finally, if the strong-side DE starts crashing in to stop the Down play, you have two perfect flank attack options: the Down Pass and the Down Sweep. The Down Pass is almost guaranteed to be open as there will likely be no flat defender.
- Power Sweep, Counter XX – Another option when you have a loaded box is to go to Power Sweep. I like this especially if the strong-side DE is playing close to the TE as we can usually get to the flank on him between the WB block and the FB lead. We teach the play-side guard on Power Sweep to only pull if there's no man heads up or in B gap, so against a 6-2 he will almost certainly stay home and reach block to play side. The Counter Criss-Cross is the counter play we use off the Power Sweep and is blocked almost identically to the Belly Series counter play.
More Advanced Concepts
For older youth teams you can try some additional tweaks:
- See if you can play with the strong-side DE by varying the split of the TE. Spread him out an extra five feet and see if the DE continues to widen. If he does, run Down over the tackle and even consider having the TE do an on or kick out block on the DE to hold him up.
- Go with an unbalanced look and see if the defense adjusts. For example, make an “over” formation call and bring the WR over the TE and run the Hammer power play (you can find this in my full playbook).
- Install “Wings Hot”, a quick 3 step drop pass where you release the TE and both wingbacks on vertical routes. With 8 in the box the safety will be in serious conflict. The TE runs a straight vertical route and the wing on his side runs vertically but slightly wider, making his way to between the hash and numbers on his side. The weak side WB runs a straight vertical route. It is a quick pass and we'll usually have the QB look off the safety by locking his eyes on the TE/WB side, then throwing to the weak side WB.
- Run Jet Power Sweep with an offset fullback. We make a “plus” or “minus” call to shift the FB over towards or away from the TE and have him lead block (usually log) for the jet wingback. We keep the guard home on this and have the line simply reach to play-side. The FB must be able to block the DE and the jet back should “run for the numbers” and get wide fast.
In summary, I like attacking off-tackle and the flank when I see a 6-2. Script your early plays to do both and see what the defense is giving you and take advantage of it. We've been known to run Down 60% of the time until they adjust to stop it. If something is working, don't be afraid to shove it down their throat and make them react.