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Back to Old School IV: Hadn't Seen That Before

This is the fourth part on the Single Wing series.  You can read Parts One, Two and Three in the respective links.  The fifth and final part will be posted tomorrow.

In the previous posts, I've shown that Clawson experimented with Single Wing formations in the spring practices.  To pick up some perspective on the Single Wing, I've gone through the basic formation and concepts of the Single Wing and shown a few of its plays from the drawing board.  Now I'll show a case study on the use of the Single Wing in modern college football.  Well, depending on how you want to categorize it, the team I'm going to highlight either used the Single Wing as a major part of its offense, or it used a derivative of the Single Wing as such.  You can categorize it however you want, but I think that by the end of this post you'll agree that the Single Wing played a major role in the offense of that team.

In the grand tradition of those weird electronic gaming machines you see at some sports bars, see how many clues it takes to figure out which team I'm talking about.  Which team . . .

  • Absolutely terrorized its conference with a tailback/fullback duo and an unsung wingback?
  • Often ran plays without a quarterback?
  • Very nearly gave OSU a chance to win the national championship?
  • Saw its now-former coach get hired with a conference rival 400 miles away?

Answer:  Arkansas

You've heard of McFadden and Jones, obviously, and you've probably noticed that they would often snap the ball directly to McFadden with the QB on the sidelines.  Can you name the wingback?  And yes, I do believe that Arkansas very nearly cost LSU the chance to go to the MNC, which would have been terrific news for OSU.  And according to MapQuest, Fayetteville to Oxford is 402 miles.  FWIW.

Oh, that wingback is Peyton Hillis.  I'm a huge fan of that guy, and I couldn't be happier that he went to the Denver Broncos.  He was more than a steal when Denver used its last draft pick on him, and I have very high hopes for him.  The dude's talented; he works hard, plays hard, and keeps clean.  If you ever want to see what a wingback does in a Single Wing offense, watch him.  (And he graciously thanked the bloggers at Mile High Report for their support.)

Seriously.  Watch him.  How about now?

2007 Game 9 South Carolina (via stchane)

Keeping it in the conference, we first look at Arkansas and the Wild Hog thingy (a modern day variant of the Single Wing).  The key players are McFadden and Jones as the Tailback/Fullbacks and Hillis as the Wingback.  Again, I highly recommend keeping an eye on Hillis; we're used to watching the others, but Hillis just may be the guy who really made this offense work.  Watch him, and you'll see how having a player flanking the End can really add flexibility for blocking assignments, pass patterns and running plays.  Here are the key moments to look for:

  • 5:59 Note the Single Wing formation.
  • 6:15 Again, a true Single Wing formation without any motion. (For all intents, motion was brought into the game by the T-formation.)
  • 6:29 Another Single Wing. There's a great view of this formation at 6:39.
  • 7:25 Note the Wingback: here, the best analogy is a pulling guard. Watch this play very carefully - perhaps repeatedly - before the next play.
  • 7:54 The play at 7:25 was designed to set up this play. Watch. Do you see the setup? Here, the Wingback leads the Wideout, creating a Fullback/Halfback combination from a very unusual position on the field. Watch the defenders and their first step. Think about it in relation to 7:25.
  • 8:54 The play of the game. Note how the previous plays set up this play. All the blocking went toward the strongside in a very customary play design. But when the Wingback motions over, watch the Safety follow. Now watch where McFadden runs: precisely where the Safety should have been. The motion of the Wingback cleared up some of the clutter in the running lane, but it also took the secondary out of position far enough for McFadden to cause SportsCenter commentatorgasms for weeks.
  • 9:42 One last showing. Here, the QB is under center, but notice that there is still a Wingback. This is a common version of Single Wing philosophy in modern football. Watch McFadden follow the Wingback in this setup.

Say what you will of Nutt, his Arkansas team is good for Single-Wing studies in the modern game.  Here's Arkansas-LSU last year:


2007 Game 12 LSU (via stchane)

  • 2:05 This is a T-formation set with a Wingback (a Winged T). Here, you can see that the play can go anywhere (left, right and center) but the defense has very little reaction time available.
  • 3:00 The Spread Single Wing (my term, as far as I know). This is another common modern-day installation of the Single Wing where wide receivers play a role. All of the pre-snap motion is to the strong side, but McFadden follows the Wingback to the weak side. (Note: we can run this. Watch the QB's block.)
  • 4:12 Another under-center QB play where McFadden follows the Wingback. Sometimes you get the feeling that much of McFadden's success was due to Hillis leading the plays.
  • 4:39 T-formation with no Wingback. But again, there is no QB in the backfield and this is more a Single Wing philosophy out of a different formation..
  • 5:38 Misdirection rather than power..
  • 6:02 Think Tebow with the fake-run jump pass here. It's much the same; watch McFadden and the Wingback. A nice replay occurs at 6:11.
  • 7:46 A pass to the wingback.

More Arky:

2007 Game 8 Florida International (via stchane)

  • 1:48 and 5:05.

Yet more Arky.

2007 Game 10 Tennessee (via stchane)

Saving the best for last, I hope you enjoyed Tennessee for a breather.  But note the following times if you wish:  6:55, 8:50, 9:04, 9:12 and 9:26.  9:12 is particularly intriguing because Crompton lined up as a wideout when UT ran the Single Wing in the Spring scrimmage.  Think about it.

Ok, that's a lot of Arkansas for a Tennessee blog.  But you get the idea.  The wingback provides a lot of interesting blocking and passing options, particularly if the backfield features two capable ball carriers.

In the last installment, we'll look at a more "modern" use of the Single Wing.