Rick Stewart conducted several sessions on the opening night of the 2016 National Wing-T Clinic, starting with how he teaches quarterbacks to read unblocked defenders in his Pistol Wing-T. This is one reason Rick runs the Wing-T from the Pistol formation: it gives the QB more visibility pre- and post-snap to make his reads, including run-pass option (RPO) reads which I’ll cover in a future article.
Pistol Formation Alignment
Here are Rick’s rules for alignment:
- QB at 3 yards depth, though he may move him up on midline run or trap, or back a bit for a called pass.
- He never wants the fullback deeper than 5 yards.
- Rick runs a lot of spread / double split end so teaches his wingbacks to always line up 3 yards by 1 yard off the tackle.
- When his team is huddling, the QB puts back to line of scrimmage right at 4 yards so that after the huddle break he can just turn around and be at 3 yards. Rick usually runs a sprint out of the huddle to try to snap the ball within 4 seconds of huddle break.
- Regarding the snap, Rick wants a knuckle ball from the center. He should keep his butt down and not snap his wrist. “Your arm is a woody!” Let go of the ball at the back of your calf.
In most cases from the Pistol formation the quarterback will not be reverse pivoting and hence not hiding the ball with his back. This is a tradeoff to consider. Because he wants the QB reading on most run plays, it is essential to keep his shoulders and eyes forward for the reads.
Key Reads by Play
The defender that the QB will read depends on the play called:
- On Down and Belly (ISO) they read the force player, usually an outside linebacker.
- On Trap and Veer they read the defensive end.
- On Jet Sweep they read the playside inside linebacker
- On Guard Trap they read the 1 technique
Rick made a point about his QB footwork on Belly: when there is a 0 technique nose or a 1 technique to playside, the QB will not shuffle towards the line of scrimmage (LOS) but will instead just open up to place the ball in the FB belly. The center blocks the NG where he wants to go in this case, allowing the FB a cutback lane back across the midline if the NG slants into playside.
Otherwise, the QB is shuffling back into the LOS as he rides the ball and gets his eyes to the OLB. It is the FB job to get to the ball. The option off the Belly play is Belly Keep (if the OLB squeezes) but Rick says you could also do an RPO off this.
The QB footwork is open pivot on the playside foot (so right foot for Down going to right), crossover the other foot, then plant the playside foot and ride into the LOS. Rick doesn’t call the Down Option play any more and instead has the QB read the OLB – the same player that would be kicked out by the playside guard on Down. If this defender is squeezing inside the kickout block, the QB keeps and can option pitch with the backside wingback.
Jet Sweep Reads
From the Pistol, Rick has the jet motion back go in front of the QB. This allows the QB to keep visibility up field where he will read the ILB. The QB will shuffle laterally with the wing as long as possible while the TB fill for the pulling playside guard. If the ILB scrapes / flows with the jet motion, the QB keeps and runs off the C block on the NG.
Rick will always run Midline at the 3-technique who is the optioned defender, and he calls Midline “Army” as it is the A gap option. He will not run Midline vs. an odd front. He will double team the first guy inside the A gap (so the center and guard on side he is shaded), and option the first defender outside A gap. The QB makes a single shuffle to LOS on Army.
The Inside Veer is called “Baylor” (B gap) and Rick will run this against any front except if there’s a 2 or 3 technique on playside. They option the first defender B gap and outside. The QB will shuffle twice to LOS on Baylor.
Finally, the Outside Veer is “Cal”. The FB has the same aim line as he would on Down (to the inside foot of the TE).
Talking points on all the option plays:
- The motion man (backside wing) yells “ball, ball, ball” to help QB find him.
- Motion man keeps a flat path, doesn’t bow.
- The FB “hugs” the double team, aiming at the outside leg of the defender getting doubled.
- They will sometimes make an “Insert” call and have the motion man lead block for the QB, which eliminates the pitch. This could be a good option (heh) if you don’t want to take practice time working on pitch mechanics and just make each of these a double option.
- Rick commented that Midline ends up being a QB keep about 90% of the time.
If you want to learn more about Coach Stewart’s Pistol Wing-T, check out his full system at his web site.