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Back to Old School V: What Doesn't Kill You

This is the final segment of the series on the Single Wing and the UT offense.  You may read parts One, Two, Three, and Four in their respective links if you wish.

To recap the series, we've noted that Clawson used the Single Wing quite effectively in the Spring Scrimmage.  From those two data points, we went on a trip back in time to learn about the Single Wing formation.  Then we looked at how the Single Wing plays looked in motion, along with a few concepts that are foreign to the modern mind.  Most recently, we saw how Arkansas used the Single Wing to exploit the advantages that their unique personnel gave them.

In this final eposide, I'd like to start by giving the conclusion.  I'm not trying to sell you on the idea that Clawson is going to return UT to the Neyland era of smashmouth Single Wing.  Rather, I'm trying to show that Clawson is searching deeply for ways to make the most out of the talent he has; that many concepts from the Single Wing are quite valid in the modern game; and that UT's personnel just might fit the system well.

That's the conclusion.  You may stop reading if you wish.

If you are a true Vol, however, you'll take a long hard look into the mirror.  Only truth is reflected.

Neverending Story Clip (via Raze71)


Ready?  Ok.

Let's play a little game of Name That Team.  Which major college football team (other than Arkansas):

1.       Uses a Tailback or Tailback/Fullback combination to receive the snap?

2.       Regularly employs a Wingback?

3.       Uses unbalanced line formations?

4.       Runs the Single Wing with stunning success?

Intermission while you think about it:

How not to Drive: Yes and No (via crespor)

The answer:  Florida.  (Yet there are multiple right answers, with West Virginia being the second-easiest to remember.)  There's a reason that Tebow is often referred to as a Tailback: he is a Tailback.  And Urban Meyer's "genius" is simply in realizing that a Single Wing style of offense makes for easy recruiting.  It's flashy and athletic, and many high schools run it because there are very few pro-type quarterbacks at such a young age.  Since most colleges don't recruit for the Wing, he often gets his pick of the best Tailbacks out there.  But to disguise its anachronism, the Wing offense gets called the Spread offense.

...the Spread?

Yep.  If you don't believe me, then take this little trip down a little road called Unpleasant.


Tebow's 51 TDs (via Year2Wordpress)

  • 0:09 Single Wingback. Balanced line, one End split wide and the Fullback and "Quarterback" shifted out as receivers. Watch the blocking assignment of the Wingback and the fake run of the Tailback.
  • 0:23 Single Wing. Split Ends and Tailback/Fullback combination.
  • 0:55 Single Wing. Same as Previous.
  • 1:02 Ditto.
  • 1:13 Motion into the Single Wing.
  • 1:39 Ditto. Getting tired of the run fake yet? It works because he's a Tailback.
  • 1:52 Single Wing with an odd backfield.
  • 1:56 Classic Single Wing.
  • 2:34 Very similar to 1:52. But that dreaded jump pass.
  • 2:57 Traditional Single Wing with close-in "Quarterback". Note the blocking power available.
  • 3:11 Winged T.
  • 3:42 Single Wing with the "Quarterback" on the opposite side.
  • 4:12 Again with the reversed "Quarterback". Basically the same as 3:42 but mirrored.
  • 4:42 Single Wing. Note the backfield action that makes the defense pause.
  • 4:50 Classic Wingback/Spread offense.
  • 4:57 Double Wing

Yeah, that hurt.  But that was necessary for your own good.  The Single Wing philosophy works, and it works very well.  And there were many others in that montage that were quasi-wingback formations; the Wingback was simply inside the End rather than outside, so I left them out of the list.  To be fair, the Spread isn't just an adaptation of the Wing.  There are many "Spread" offenses that really don't rely on Wingbacks or even Tailbacks.  That's partly because the term "Spread" seems to get thrown at almost any new offensive scheme nowadays, particularly when the guy receiving the ball lines up in a shotgun without a close-by running back.  But many Spread schemes are indeed Single Wing packages with split Ends and a shifted ‘back.

To sew things up, remember that Tennessee showed the Single Wing for only two plays in the whole Spring Scrimmage.  In both cases, they passed the ball with a balanced line formation.  UT isn't returning to the Single Wing of Neyland anytime soon, but there are good things to exploit.  In particular, UT has the running back corps to pull off this set.  If Jones is left as the Tailback, the Single Wing formation could really fly.  If, as was once mentioned during spring practice, both Jones and Berry are in the backfield as Tailback and Fullback (or Wingback), the possibilities are endless.


With Joel's help, I finally got my video of the Single Wing play up and running.  As a reward for hanging on through this series, you get to see the {ahem} best video available of the Single Wing TD pass from Jones.  You also get to hear my lovely voice in its natural state of dumbfoundedness.  Crompton is split wide on the near side; at the end of the play, you'll see him run to congratulate Denarius Moore in the end zone.

A peek at Tennessee's single wing (via RockyTopTalk)

And with that, is it football season yet?