Just Wing It

In his book “Scoring Power with the Wing-T Offense” (1957), Forest Evashevski, the father of the wing-t offense wrote:

“The wing as a basis for an offensive attack goes back to the earliest days of American football and was popularized by Glen “Pop” Warner. When one wing proved so successful, it was inevitable that an attempt would be made to use two wings in a formation and the double wing came into being. The wing over the years has been used with about every known formation. The first wings were used by A.A. Stagg in 1890 when both ends were dropped off the line. Warner stated he started using a wing around 1908 when the rules were changed requiring seven men on the line of scrimmage. It is interesting to note that the two reasons for the wing being used fifty years ago, double teaming the tackle and masking reverses, are still valid reasons today.”

Evashevski lists 11 points as to why the wing is important to the success of an offense.

Some of those advantages can be realized regardless of the type of personnel being utilized in a wing position. Here are some that apply to most modern offenses (those specific to the wing-t are not listed, but certainly have validity if the wing-t is the chosen mode of attack (Evashevski’s words are italicized):

The wing permits all the advantages of an away flanker without being lost as a blocker.

Obviously with a tightened alignment, the wing presents a blocking threat on defenders both inside and outside of him. In this set, he is assigned to block the linebacker inside of him and help create a wall for the pin and pull sweep play.

The wing requires an adjustment by the defense that leaves the advantage to one flank or the other, or for the pass.

The wing spreads the defensive front without losing the ability to attack the front in all areas.

With a tight end and wing deployed to one side, and a wide receiver and slot to the other, the defense is faced with a spread set on one side and an extra gap to defend in the run game on the other.

A 3×1 Set with a flanker, wing, and tight end also serves to spread the defense and can cause run fit issues. In this example with an odd front defense, the outside linebacker widens to try to protect the flank. The defense attempts to use a slant to defeat the stretch scheme, but what they are left with are issues with their run fits. The receiver blocks the corner, and the wing and tight end stretch the outside linebacker. The safety is really in a bind on where to fit and because the playside inside linebacker has been cut off, the safety is probably wrong either way, and either the wing or the TE can come off of the OLB to him if they need to.

A shift with two wings and the tight end creates a problem from run fits as well. This example includes two wings outside of the tight end. To complicate the issue even further for the defense, all three shift to the other side of the formation. The defense must respond with an immediate adjustment, but the adjustment they use leaves them short a defender to the strength of the formation. As the video shows, the defense moves defenders, but because they leave a free safety and play cover three, there is an undefended gap, and the result is a big play.

He is an immediate threat to the defensive end as a blocker internally for traps.
This can be accomplished in several ways. For a team that uses zone schemes, the wing working a wham block on the defensive lineman can help separate the defensive front and create a lane. In this example, the H-back motions to a wing position and wham blocks the tackle.

The wing is a threat as a blocker internally on linebackers either through the line or behind the line.
The wing can easily be assigned to block a linebacker inside of him taking a course through the line. In this example, he works inside to the linebacker on a power play.

In the next example he works behind the line and kicks out the linebacker on counter.

The wing doubles the threat of passes to the hooking spot and flat zones.

Spacing is a very multiple concept that suits both the spread and compressed set. In this example, stick is used on one side with spacing on the other creating a horizontal stretch that occupies the five underneath zones. The alley player is stretched both inside and outside by the tight end and wing.

The wing secures the flank for off tackle plays with a double team or lead post block if needed, and influences the end if not needed.
While we typically do not end up in situations where we can do this, we will use the wing to help wall off a linebacker or pin the end man on the line of scrimmage over the tight end on our pin and pull sweep.

The use of a wing certainly has application in today’s offensive systems. While it does not necessarily spread the defense from sideline to sideline, the addition of gaps by alignment, or by moving blockers after the snap on run schemes like counter certainly creates issues for a defense in its run fits. Evashevski wrote about the use of a wing being a sound principle for the same reasons it was in 1908. Those still apply over a century later, and will most likely always remain a staple in offensive attacks.