Roger Holmes concluded his clinic Wing-T talks with a session on game planning for the Wing-T. These are the talks I enjoy the most, where we get inside the head of a successful coach and learn how they make key decisions before and during the game.
He believes in being multiple, and if the defense is going to be balanced then he will run a lot of unbalanced formations. Then you have to be smart about monitoring how the defense adjusts.
The Wing-T is a ball control offense, and Coach Holmes designs his scheme around what the quarterback can do. If you only have buck, belly, and down then you will have a hard time versus most defenses. Because Roger rarely has a quarterback with a strong throwing arm (he said “he couldn’t throw it in the ocean if he was standin’ on an island!”), he looks elsewhere:
- Assignment conflict
- He has found that adding just midline and inside & outside veer can help mix things up
- At least a threat of a passing game
- When facing an odd front, use balanced formations
- When facing an even front, use unbalanced formations
- When facing teams that flip personnel (strong/weak, field/boundary), use shifts and trades
Specifics on Unbalanced Formations
- If the safety is getting involved in the strong-side run game, use “Northern / Southern” which a split-end over formation. Move him off the TE and wing.
- If the play-side linebacker is unblockable, go to his “North / South” formation which is also split-end over, but with the SE tight at a 4-yard split. Use him to crack the LB.
- Against 8 defenders in the box, go to the loose Delaware formations, splitting the TE out and bringing over the SE. He’ll use both an 8-yard and a 5-yard split for the first end.
- Finally, he will use a trips formation with two receivers and a HB lined up in a closed TE position opposite the trips (see below)
General Thoughts on 8-man Defense
Usually you will see a balanced look to attack, with a cover–3 shell or man-to-man coverage. Teams running an 8-man look will usually have a difficult time finding two seven-technique defenders that can handle 2 TEs. Also, sometimes you will start with a 7-man look but they will bring up a SS on the weak-side making an 8-man front.
As you begin to formulate a game plan vs. an 8-man front, start by considering different unbalanced formations that will give you a flank advantage. Examples:
- North (SE over @ 4 yards) creates a good off-tackle opening
- Northern (SE over wide) takes out the DB on run support
- East removes an SE and brings in an extra tackle, keeping the TE.
How Defenses Adjust to Unbalanced
Coach Holmes asserts that when using unbalanced formations, the defense has five different was to adjust. Try to know in advance what they will likely do by studying film.
- Do Nothing – if the defense does nothing, then you have an extra blocker at the point of attack. Write down 4–5 plays that you would run against that non-adjustment.
- Slide down one man – an even front now becomes an odd front. They are now creating conflict in their option responsibilities, so he would likely move to the option game.
- They move a man when you move a man – for example, if the SE moves over the TE and they move an outside LB over. Coach Holmes likes this because they lose their pitch contain to the weak side.
- Rotate secondary, maybe to cover 2 – like #3, he likes this because they get a better weak side game and it takes away secondary support.
- Slide linebackers over one man – Roger likes this because it opens the inside running game because of modified LB run fits.
On Sunday Coach Holmes will work with his staff to try to identify how their opponent will adjust. They may have to go back to the previous year’s film to see how they adjust to similar situations. They will only try certain plays vs. certain adjustments. He will look at what they gain vs. each adjustment, and the ones they choose will be the only plays they will use in practice against that adjustment.
During their team period they will run 7 plays in a 5-minute period. They must get them right, and will stay until they do.
The coach in the press box must have a complete understanding of these adjustments and be able to communicate these to the head coach (or OC).
Coach Holmes will script the first three plays of the game, and this script will include an unbalanced formation and play, their best play, plus one more. He will also build a list of 7 plays to run against each front he expects to see in a game. These will also involve simple, small adjustments such as running sweep one hole tighter.
Throwing vs. 8-man Fronts
Roger is a big proponent forcing the #4 defender to play in conflict by running play-action passes. Force him to defend the option and the flat with the belly and ride passes. You can also create conflicts with speed option.
Sometimes you will get surprised by a defensive look and things won’t go well. Appeal to your players to hang in there and make it to half-time so that you can make adjustments.
The underlying scheme is sound and has withstood the test of time! Surround yourself with people that want to win, not be popular.