Author: Adam Wesoloski
Originally Published: February 28, 2005
Dr. Ken Keuffel
Legendary Single Wing Football Coach
Author of “Winning Single Wing Football”
The running pass by the tailback is one of the most potent weapons in the single wing arsenal. We have executed the running pass in two similar ways. The last digit of each play is 9, indicating that each can end up wide to the strongside as a run. Blocking assignments on both passes are the same for all interior linemen and for the fullback, who blocks the end man on the line. The plays are similar in design and operate on similar principles. The difference comes in who the two strongside receivers are.
On Play No. 79 Pass, the pattern we have used most, the wingback is a deep receiver running a banana course, and the blocking back is a shallow underneath receiver running in the flat at about 3 yards’ depth. On Play No. 99 Pass, the No. 8 end runs a deep banana route, and the wingback runs a sprintout course at about 3 yards’ depth with the blocking back blocking the second man in.
There are good reasons for having two such similar plays. Sometimes we have a real difference in the receiving ability of players. For example, the blocking back may be a poor receiver and we may want to use the wingback in the flat pattern. Also when we line up the wingback on the weakside, we still have a deep outside threat from the No. 8 end with Play No. 99 Pass. Finally, we have found it convenient to designate variations of the running pass by 99 as I’ll show in the next part of this chapter.
Play No. 79 Pass
Now I’ll discuss Play No. 79 Pass in more detail. From near position (behind the center) the tailback takes a 4 (lead) center and runs under control to the strongside while setting the ball in his hands to pass. We want him to look for his receivers early. Ideally he should be ready to throw by the time he is behind the wingback’s original area. The wing must run his banana course from the start. He must not run downfield and then veer to the outside or the safety can rotate over and pick him up while the halfback moves up to cover underneath. If the wing is open, the tail throws him a high, soft pass over his outside shoulder. The blocking back runs at the defensive end and then slides into the flat.
Both the wing and the blocking back are effective receivers on this play, and both are in the tailback’s line of vision. The tail can look to throw to the wing first and, if he’s covered, throw to the blocking back. Or on what we call a “79 Run It,” he can expect to run the ball unless he’s rushed, in which case he throws to the blocking back. We practice these possibilities and thus can easily adapt to the way the defense is playing. As I said earlier, I never want the passer to have more than one option.
Here are the other assignments for Play No. 79 Pass. The No. 8 end blocks any man in his area, usually the second man in. No. 7 blocks anyone from his outside seam to head-on No. 6. The No. 6 lineman pulls with some depth and blocks where needed. However, he must not pull against packed defenses but instead must block the man on him. The reason: No. 7 cannot block men on both himself and No. 6. The No. 5 lineman blocks anyone from his outside seam to head up. The center blocks any man on him. The No. 3 lineman blocks anyone on him or (if no man on him) the first lineman to the weakside. The No. 2 end runs through the short middle zone as a receiver.
For many years we used a three-man pattern on Play No. 79 Pass with the No. 8 end going straight downfield about 8 yards and then cutting sharply to the outside. We sometimes had success in hitting this receiver. In one Lawrenceville School game in 1971, the No. 8 end caught four passes for good yardage on this play, but we don’t usually have that kind of player at tight end. In recent years we have had the No. 8 end block any man in his area. This gives us maximum protection and allows the tailback to focus in a progression on the wingback deep and the blocking back in the shallow flat. With practice, a schoolboy passer can handle this simplified task.
Freshman Head Coach
The biggest hurdle that needs to be cleared, in my opinion, is the coaches ability to get the tailback to make the decision to run or pass at the right time. We rep it this way. I and another coach will pre-determine who’s going to cover the wingback, who’s going to rush, or both stay back in coverage, one take the wingback one take the quarterback. Make the tailback make his decision quickly and not be indecisive.
The other thing that always gets forgotten is the 49 Short Option drill. This drill is essential for the tailback to throw on the run. To make this a precise throw the tailback needs to know that while he’s moving his target is also moving. Instead of leading the receiver he needs to throw directly at the receiver as they are both moving at the same speed. This coaching point is critical and is generally the reason that the play fails. Most coaches don’t teach this and therefore give up on the play claiming it doesn’t work, or the completion percentage isn’t what they’d like it to be.
Youth Football Coach
Stateline Comets, Richmond IL
We had great success with this play in 2001 and 2002 in part because we ran the sweep often and we ran the sweep well. This usually causes a rotation of the secondary as the strongside corner steps up to force as soon as he reads sweep. We position the wingback in tight to the formation and have him run right off the tail of the power end into his pattern and we have the blocking back take his first few steps more or less straight down the line of scrimmage. This action not only sells the run, but also conceals the first step or two of the receivers from the defense.
The wingback’s path is at one o’clock for 7 yards and then he breaks at one-to-two o’clock to run away from the rotating safety. He is often able to get completely behind the defense very quickly. The blocking back’s path is at three o’clock for a 3-4 steps, bending at 10 o’clock for 3-4 steps to cross the line of scrimmage and then back at two o’clock to run away from the coverage. The tailback sells sweep, keeping the ball hidden on his right hip. He gets some depth, running at about 4 o’clock for 4 or 5 steps before looking deep first, then to the blocking back. In 2 seasons, we completed this pass to the wingback 10 times for 322 yards and 6 touchdowns. We completed it to the blocking back 7 times for 75 yards and 2 touchdowns. We threw it incomplete 10 times and we threw 2 interceptions, neither of which was returned.
Youth Football Coach
Green Bay, WI
In 2000 our team ran a direct snap double wing offense. We were loaded with talented wingbacks. Our best passers were our left wingbacks so we set up our running pass play where we used our basic wingback reverse backfield action but with pass routes. We coached the wingbacks to recognize the open receiver quickly and get them the ball or otherwise keep the football and run. At our age level, 8-10 year olds, they have a more difficult time seeing the play develop so they ended up running the football more often than pass. I preferred this decision making since it prevents uncertainty and lowers the risk for turnover.