Right-size the Wing-T for Your Age Group

Right Size the Wing-T for Your age Group

You can run the Wing-T at any level of football from the little bobble heads to college. You will even see nuanced versions of Wing-T plays in NFL games from time to time. Given that the Wing-T is a series based offense and not simply a collection of plays, as you adapt the Wing-T for a specific age groups you should strive to keep play series integrity instead of just grabbing a few plays here and there to build your offense. I’ve coached the Wing-T for kids from age 8 to 14 and have spoken with many other coaches in our program. What follows are some guidelines to help you get started with a particular age group.

Bobble Heads: Ages 8–9

You should focus on just two series until they are perfect, and I recommend the Belly series and ISO series with a mix of Power. You can run a great Wing-T offense with just the following six plays. Run these all from the Right and Left formations.

  • 36/37 Down - This is your C gap play, an easy off-tackle running play to teach with simple footwork for the QB and FB.
  • 47/26 Counter - The required counter play off the Down play, but at the younger level you might consider only pulling the back-side guard.
  • 34/34 ISO - This gives you a weak-side play to the fullback and is your go-to B gap play.
  • 36/37 Down Pass - This is the easiest play-action pass to put in at this age group, and most youth teams will have a hard time defending both the wingback and the TE on their releases.
  • 20/41 Blast - This gives you an A gap play with very simple blocking. It also allows your fullback to get involved in the blocking game.
  • EITHER 28/49 Power Sweep OR 28/49 ISO Sweep.
    • 28/49 Power Sweep - I prefer to run Power Sweep at this age level over Buck Sweep. Because Power Sweep is best run out of the Right/Left formations, you can use this as your D gap play and lead with your fullback. Depending on how your guards are learning and what the defense is doing you might teach just the play-side guard to pull. If the defense is attacking both A gaps you should leave the guard home.
    • 28/49 ISO Sweep - An alternative D gap play is to run the ISO (or even Down) sweep. My main concern with this play for younger kids is that it requires a very good footwork and ball handling by the QB. Stick to the Power Sweep if you can’t perfect this play.

Ensure that the linemen are learning to gap block. This is a key technique to prevent interior penetration and to allow enough time for the sweep, boot, and counter plays to develop. Avoid the temptation to tighten splits for the offensive line. If the linemen are learning to down and gap block properly you should be able to keep your splits at least 1 foot apart.

Tweeners: Ages 10–11

At this level the passing play-action game becomes more important. Practice the sprint-out and boot passing routine frequently. See the drills in the QB section. Even though you may only pass 10–15% of the time, when you do decide to pass you need confidence that it will work. This means you must dedicate more than 10–15% of your practice time to the passing game. Find creative ways to split your backs up to have intense combo sessions, for example:

  • Split your wingbacks up and have half of them join the QB and TEs/WRs to work on the Down Pass drill.
  • The other wingbacks and fullbacks work on ISO and blast linebacker blocking technique. Flip the wingbacks after 5–7 minutes of heavy repetition.

At this level you should introduce the Buck series (Trap, Buck Sweep, and Boot). Emphasize footwork for the QB, especially on the Buck series. The Wing-T hides the ball from the defense by getting the QB’s back to the line quickly as he walks through the FB/WB/boot progression. Reward players after each game for executing great ball fakes. Recognize them as much as you do the great runs and tackles!

You should also be running the Power Sweep by now, and if so you can introduce the Counter Criss-Cross. It is the best counter play off the Power Sweep and even at the 8th grade level this is one of the main plays that we score on. The timing and handoffs are crucial for this play and you must drill, drill,drill.

At this age you can begin introducing different formation and motion looks. At a minimum you should introduce the double wingback formation (Rose/Lily) and the Red/Lee motions.

Line execution becomes especially important at this level as the defense gets better at playing against the Wing-T. The drills in this guide will help ensure proper technique, footwork, and shoulder blocking skills. Emphasize the cross block technique as you will use it for ISO (Sally block), Trap, and Down

Young Men: Ages 12–14

At the 7th/8th grade level the coaching staff should be introducing multiple formation and motion looks for the same series and plays. Players should be comfortable adjusting to this – it will come easily with much repetition.

Consider introducing shifts to keep defenses that overload the strong-side honest. This coupled with a no-huddle will often force defenses back into a balanced view.

The entire playbook is open to this age group, but that doesn’t mean you should install all of it. I’ve run every play you see my book at this age level, but in a given year there are certain plays or even series that we will leave out. For example, one season we didn’t run anything from the Jet series because we didn’t feel like we had the right running backs to pull that off. Instead we focused on Power Sweep, ISO/ISO Sweep, and the Belly series.

Just like I mentioned in the age 10–11 section, you must practice the passing game. You might consider adding some straight drop-back passing plays at this level.

In-game scouting will be important to understand what adjustments need to be made. While the offense is on the field, a coach 30 yards downfield should watch the 3rd defender on play-side (in the box) to see if he is reading or penetrating. Run plays to probe and learn. For example, run 36 Down 2 times in a row and see if the DE/OLB is starting to squeeze down and at risk of losing contain. If he is, then Down Sweep or Buck Sweep may work well. The coach should also count the number of defenders in the box (within 1–2 yards of the TE position on each side of the ball, and within 5 yards of the LOS). If there are 8 or 9 players there, then the Jet series or plays like Hammer and Hammer Pass will be very successful.