Simplifying Play Calling in the Wing-T

Simplifying Wing-T Play Calling

If you follow my writing here, you probably know that I’m re-evaluating our system of calling plays for this coming season. Our theme for this season is “less is more”: smaller playbook, with a focus on perfect execution of the core plays we will run. In addition to improving the quality of our execution, we want to have more control over tempo. We don’t expect to always be in hurry up; in fact with a team of what will likely be 25 or so 8th graders, we run the risk of wearing out our own players. But we want to be able to go fast when we want to go fast.

Our Approach

Going fast means a certain amount of no huddle, but also huddling up with a quick break and subsequent snap. We’d like to keep defenses base whenever possible and maintain tempo leverage. By tempo leverage I mean we are dictating pace and taking away the defense’s ability to adjust before the snap.

In addition to keeping the playbook small, we need a simplified way of getting plays into the team. We plan to use a variety of techniques for this:

  • Simple hand signals for formations. For example, we can signify our base right/left Wing-T formations by just waving to our sideline or the other, signifying where the TE will go. Everyone else can adjust to that.
  • Simple code words for base plays, with an attached word for the play direction. These will be organized under a common theme – for example, Buck series plays might use common ground animals you hunt as the running plays (Elk == buck sweep, Deer == trap) and air animals as the play action pass (Duck == waggle).
  • The QB will also have a wrist coach with more complex than plays plus the base plays on it so that we can relay to a huddle without using the code word. This is a way to have plays that don’t fit into the above scheme work as well as a way to deal with the potential for other teams decoding our signals.
  • We plan to have some false signaling on the sideline as a decoy.
  • We will have at least two memorized hurry-up scripts each week. I suspect this might end up being the primary way we go fast.

What I really like about this scheme is how it will help us go faster in practice. It will be more fun and engaging for the players, and allow us to mix conditioning in with team offense and plays on air.

Considerations to Ponder

We are making trade offs in this approach, but we are going in with our eyes open. It has taken a lot of thought between my co-head coach and me, breaking the offense into its constituent parts and thinking about how we can convey information that will be understood by the players yet not easily cracked by the other team. The key constituent parts are:

  • Formation
  • Motion, though you can skip this completely and only use motions baked into the play call itself.
  • The play to run.
  • The direction to run the play. This is important because many of our plays can be run to the TE or the SE side.
  • The snap count, though you can skip this completely by building the snap count directly into the play call. Stealing from Rick Stewart’s model, you can have one snap count for base run plays and their play action passes, another for quick or drop back passes, and another for trick plays.

What If The Opponents Start to Steal Signals?

If you are going fast enough, it may not even matter if they begin to steal signals. Still, it can be helpful to have some backup options. Consider the following:

  • Mixing up hand signals with the verbal calls for the plays. At least for your 4–7 most often called plays.
  • Having some alternative (but corresponding) verbal calls for your most run plays. For example, if “Deer” is buck series trap, you might also use “Bambi”.
  • Use signal boards. I want to avoid this, but as a last resort (or perhaps against a particular opponent late in the season) you can mix in signal boards and use your verbal calls as a dummy.

I hope this helps if you are thinking about a similar system for the upcoming season. I’ll report back this fall on how things are going and new lessons learned.