Author: Barry Gibson
Originally Published: January 10, 2005
Copyright Scholastic Coach & Athletic Director, 2001. Posted by permission of Scholastic Coach & Athletic Director.

In my 23 years of football coaching, I have run just about every kind of offense known to man: power plays, misdirection, options, and wide-open passing schemes, to cite a few.

Innovation can create problems. In my most recent offensive planning, I was looking for something new and exciting, yet old and different. So different that our opponents would see it just once a year — when they played us.

Having always been fascinated by the single wing, I decided to coordinate it with my established shotgun package. I was sure the mixture would have great scoring potential, but since each offense had a significantly different formation that limited what you could do from it. I had to figure out an alignment that would enable us to run either package with maximum power without tipping our hand to the defense.

Diagram 1 shows our single wing with our quarterback four and a half yards off the ball, our “A” back upright with his hands on his knees and heels parallel with the quarterback’s insteps, “B” directly behind the right tackle one yard deep, and “Z” a yard outside the unbalanced guard.

Diagram 2 shows our shotgun with the quarterback five yards deep, “B” four yards deep, “A” two yards deep outside of the left tackle and “Z” 17 yards wide.

By moving the “Z” receiver to a slot position two yards outside the tackle and one yard deep in the backfield, and moving the “Y” receiver 17 yards out from the ball, we were able to make our shotgun formation look very much like a single wing, except for the unbalanced line.

I call this our “Gun Formation” (Diagram 3).

The last piece of the puzzle was putting the “A” back into short motion to his normal alignment in our single wing (Diagram 4). I felt that if I could spread the defense with a new school shotgun formation and throw the football all over the field, while still running the power and misdirection plays from the old-school attack, I would have the best of both worlds!

The accompanying diagrams show the new combo attack at work.

Spin Sweep

The Spin Sweep has always been a big single wing play and it works just as well from our Gun, especially with the quarterback spinning and diving into the off-tackle hole to freeze the linebackers (Diagram 5).

The ball is snapped as the motion man (A) reaches the back side tackle. He then instantly accelerates to top speed — reaching the quarterback’s left hip as the quarterback begins his 360-degree spin. The quarterback hands the ball off with his back turned to the line of scrimmage.

“Z” stalemates the defensive end until the play side guard arrives to help hook or seal him to the inside. The back side guard pulls and seals the most dangerous man to the inside, while “B” (fullback) leads the play to the outside.

Spin Reverse

In order to slow the defense down and stop them from pursuing hard to stop the Spin Sweep, the formation must have a reverse off of the same action. I believe that there is none better than the Spin Reverse from the old single wing (Diagram 6).

The “A” back does exactly what he did on the Spin Sweep, except that the quarterback now fakes the hand off. With his inside shoulder slightly tucked (to hide the football from the defense), he runs like a scared rabbit toward the sideline.

In one continuous spin, the quarterback fakes to “A”, hands off to “Z”, and then runs into the off-tackle hole with his shoulders down and hands over his stomach — making the defense believe he has the football.

“Z’s” aiming point is the quarterback’s right hip. He must receive the hand off one step inside of “A” and run for daylight out the back side. Both guards will pull for two short jab steps, then whirl back and lead the play for “Z”.

Reverse Keep

Just to give the defense one more thing to think about, we run a Reverse Keep that coordinates beautifully with the Spin Keep and the Spin Reverse. If you want to see the opposing linebackers cross their eyes and develop migraine headaches, watch them try to defend the Reverse Keep (Diagram 7).

This is misdirection at its finest. The quarterback fakes the Spin Reverse and runs for daylight through the back side. I coached him to run away from the near linebacker, but not to get too concerned about him because with all the faking going on, the linebacker isn’t going to know where he’s going most of the time!

We plunge the final dagger in the heart of the defense on this play by having “Z” turn up field, keeping a 5-yard pitch relationship with the quarterback. After clearing the line of scrimmage, the quarterback has the option to pitch to “Z” at any point down the field. We have embarrassed many free safeties who, coming up hard to tackle the quarterback, are left watching the ball being pitched to “Z” at the last moment for an easy walk-in touchdown.

Throwback Pass

Most coaches look at shotgun formations strictly as straight drop-back sets. Very few play-action passes are run from the shotgun, but with the motion that we use with our single wing attack, such passes can be very effective from the “Gun”.

The Throwback Pass (Diagram 8) is one of our favorites, particularly against defensive ends and linebackers who like to quick-read and run hard toward our motion.

The beginning of this play (short motion with “A”) looks identical to the three previous plays and this really keeps the defense guessing and back on its heels. The quarterback will make only a half spin. Then, with his back to the line of scrimmage, he will fake the Spin Sweep to “A”, drive straight back for three steps (again hiding the football from the defense), before bootlegging to the back side ready to run or throw.

The primary receiver, “X”, has three options on his pass route:
1. If the cornerback is playing back or loose, hook inside or outside at 14 yards.
2. If the cornerback is playing up or tight, run a deep “Go” route by him.
3. If the cornerback is playing normal (7-8 yards off), run a sideline route, breaking hard to the inside at 10 yards for three steps before cutting outside and receiving the ball at 14 yards.

“Z” can become a popular secondary receiver by running a 4-5 yard “drag” route across the formation to the bootleg side. “Y” runs through the free safety deep.

“Z” Middle

The “Z” Middle (Diagram 9) is one of our more successful drop-back passes. Once the defense begins anticipating motion on every play, the ball will be snapped to the quarterback and five receivers will take off quickly. Each will have an opportunity to become a primary target.

“X” and “Y” run post patterns, while “A” and “B” run crossing patterns. We tell our “Z” receiver to find an open spot 10-12 yards down field between the linebackers and then hook up, facing the quarterback.

Well-coached linebackers will drop into zone coverage versus an outside curl zone, leaving a nice little void in the middle. If they decide to run some type of man coverage, they will have to deal with the difficulty of covering our speed guys on crossing routes, which can be a nightmare for most linebackers.

My philosophy on throwing the football has always been: Turn bad guys into cover guys.


I firmly believe that a lot of coaches with all kinds of ideas for their offense have trouble deciding which one to go with. Staying up late at night, struggling over which one to trash and which one to commit to, is a common problem.

Our advice is, stop worrying. With just a little imagination the solution can be very simple: Just Combo It!

By Barry Gibson
Offensive Coordinator
St. Andrews Episcopal School
Ridgeland, MS