While most Wing-T proponents will point (understandably so) to the Buck series as the first series to learn, I’m biased towards the Belly series as the best way to introduce series play for youth football. Granted, there might be some dad-pride going on here: My two sons both played tight end for Sherwood High School, and my younger son played fullback for most of his years in the Sherwood youth football program. The TE plays a critical role in this series: he owns the down block at point of attack on the Down play, he pulls and lead blocks on the Counter play, and he is usually the primary target on the Down play-action pass.
In my most recent (2014) season coaching 8th grade football we ran about 420 offensive plays during the 8-game regular season. Belly series counted for nearly one third (131 plays total) of our play total, with Down coming in at 82 plays, and Counter 31 plays. If you love a between-the-tackles running game with a deadly play-action option, this is the series for you. Add the Down Sweep (it takes a lot of practice!) and you have a great way to attack the flank as well.
Let’s examine the base play of the Belly Series – 36 Down. It is a strong-side power play with a trap block off-tackle by the right guard. When blocked properly, especially by the RG, RT, TE, and RH, this can be a play that will almost guarantee 3-5 yards. This is a play you can run multiple times, watch the defense adjust (e.g., weak-side linebacker and outside linebacker start to cheat in to strong-side C gap) then run one of the other plays in the series (Counter or Down Sweep, for example) to achieve long yardage.
The blocking will change depending on the defensive front, so let’s focus on an odd front and see how we block it. The hole in this case will likely be to the outside of the right tackle off the down block by the TE. Consider the following adjustments:
- The LT will likely have a defensive tackle heads up. He should use a fire block technique and be prepared to reach block the DT. If the DT slants hard to the weak-side, the LT should push off and move to the second level and cut off the first linebacker he sees.
- The LG will likely be uncovered and can immediately work to the second level and execute a backer block on the weak-side linebacker.
- The C will reach block the N. This may require a flat step if the N is quick.
- The RG will most likely be kicking out the outside linebacker (force/contain player). This player may be playing tight to the line of scrimmage and TE so the guard should be prepared to get flat for the kick out. If he is a read-type player and staying off the LOS, the guard should “scrape paint” and get downhill for the kick out.
- The RT will backer block the Mike backer but should be prepared to help the C if there is a dominant N.
- The TE will down block the play-side DT.
- The RH back should not engage with the outside linebacker but should work to the inside to the strong-side inside linebacker
After teaching just three key blocks to your line (reach, down, and pull/kick-out) you can be ready to run this play.