Author: Adam Wesoloski
Originally Published: September 12, 2004
I am going through a bit of coaching withdrawals. I truly enjoy reading the trials and tribulations all the direct snap coaches are going through this time of year. In searching for an article for this week’s edition of Direct Snap I felt writing about my first coaching experience in 2000.
About 1998 I became very interested in researching the single wing and I was constantly searching the Internet looking for information on the offense. I was on a reference material hunt about this great offense, and having grown up in Menominee, MI, home of Coach Ken Hofer’s single wing, I wanted to learn more. In someways it became an obsession.
After collecting other direct snap books through inter-library loan, trading video tapes, bookmarking websites, I came to the realization that I needed an outlet for my newly acquired knowledge. In the summer of 2000, I threw my application into the local Pop Warner coaching circles in Green Bay, WI. To my surprise I was chosen as a head coach. I was expecting/hoping for an offensive coordinator position at best. I did not have a son playing, he was two years old at the time, nor did I play high school football, but I wanted to give coaching a try. I felt like it was my responsibility to show the Green Bay area that the single wing was alive.
This became more than a hobby of researching the single wing, it became the responsibility of a whole team of young players. I needed to figure out which version of a direct snap offense I wanted to use. After e-mailing back and forth with a few new coaching friends across the country I decided to give the direct snap, double wing with an unbalanced line offense a go. I figured I wanted to spread the work load around, so two wingbacks seemed the way to go. With the help of a coaching colleague and the Tierney and Gray book, The New Doublewing Attack, my 10 play offense was ready to go.
My assistants were on board with everything I had in store. They must have thought I was a little crazy with some of the contrarian techniques, strategies and ideas I had in in my plans. However, the important thing was they were sold and we put into motion our plan.
I have to admit the offense created a great deal of havoc over the course of the season. I was approached many times about the offense, because most football people in the area were aware of Menominee’s single wing (it is 1 hour north of Green Bay and often play area teams) and asked where I was from. I admitted my background with a wry smile.
That season we scored 144 points, averaging 28 points in our 5 victories. We rotated our tailbacks and wingbacks every series to, not only get them playing time, but not to get them banged up. Eight players scored touchdowns that season. Our no-huddle, warp speed game plan worked to our advantage all season as well. The linemen enjoyed pulling and it worked well for the team. Ironically the coaching staff needed the convincing, not the players.
The backbone of the offense was the wingback reverses, both directions, off-tackles as well as sweeping. Studying video I could see defenses consistently following the initial flow of the tailback, long enough to set up the hand-off to the wingback heading the opposite direction.
To counter this attack we complimented these plays with our fullback/blocking back blast play up the middle. The short snap deceived the defense and the running back was immediately into the second level. To assist in the deception of this play the tailback and wingback would execute their normal reverse techniques.
Of course we had a few other plays but the plays above were our core. We really didn’t have a lot of success with straight power plays with our tailbacks for the first 6 games. There were probably a number of reasons – inexperienced coaching, execution, etc. I conducted an interesting experiment for the final game. I decided I wanted the tailback off-tackle plays to be more potent and I changed the blocking slightly. In our original designs, we only pulled one lineman on off-tackle plays. On that day I pulled both guards for off-tackle plays and was pleasantly surprised at how much better this worked.
We lost 2 games in 2000. Both were to the same team. They were tough, well-coached and had some very talented players. We gave them fits in each game. Studying the videotape from the original game, I decided we really needed to keep the ball away from their offense. I wanted to really control the game. For our second meeting with them I added a few plays I wanted to surprise them with. I wanted to incorporate a spin series of some sort. With our alignment and a league rule prohibiting motion I settled on a pseudo-spin series with a direct snap to our fullback/blocking back, who then turned his back to the line of scrimmage and either handed off to a wingback or kept the ball himself and ran off-tackle to the long side of the line. I say pseudo because it really was not a full spin, it was more like a half spin because the fullback/blocking back had to briefly wait with back to the defense for the wingback to take the hand-off.
The big play was the fullback keeper though. We were fortunate to have a very physical 9-year old who could withstand the contact of older players and could cope with significant load of carries. By this point in the season teams were very alert to our wingback reverses. This influenced my decision to concentrate on our blast and new spin plays.
My strategy worked even though we lost the game, 6-0. We completely controlled the time of possession and kept their offense off the field. Our players rose to the occasion and played their hearts out. It was a cat-and-mouse game from start to finish. By the fourth quarter, we consistently set their defense up with inside blast plays over and over and suddenly slip in the fullback spin keeper play and make a big run. It was my most satisfying game to coach that season, by far.
The lessons I learned in 2000 helped me develop my offense for my next season on the grid iron. I learned that less is definitely more. We began the season with 10 plays, and added 3 spin plays for 13 total. The players learned them without trouble, but I learned you really do not need that many at all. We probably relied on 7 at most . I vowed to continue to whittle my offense down to the bare essentials and practice those selected few plays repeatedly so we could concentrate on the vital minutae that could make these plays as powerful as they could be. Simplicity is the key to design.
Second lesson was I did not need to have the lonely split end in a run based offense. I utilized this position with 3 minimum play players. Watching them perform I noticed a great deal of improvement over the course of the season. This led me to believe that every player can be taught the fundamentals of interior blocking. These players, who early in the season, were a little afraid and weaker physically, made some key blocks by the end of the season as their confidence grew through coaching and repetition. I decided I did not need a split end for minimum play kids anymore. I would become a true unbalanced line with four linemen in tight right of the snapper.
I also learned that I really need to use the fullback/blocking back position to perform all kick out blocks. I was using the guards which worked fairly well, but it is a little difficult for these players to pull and find heir intended target.
Next, I learned that I could freely play all the players on offense and defense. I developed a customized substitution pattern with particular players or positions. We had 23 players. We had two players at each position (3 at split end). So I could switch players by quarter or series, depending on the players or positions involved. For example, our two snappers alternated by quarter. This way the could get into a good rhythm. Our wingbacks also had significant roles on defense. Offensively I rotated them by series in order to keep them fresh.
I came to believe that at the 8-11 year old level, the players need to experience all phases of football – offense, defense, and special teams. I did not want to pigeon-hole them to a single phase of the game. This was about learning the fundamentals of the game.
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