Playcalling and “Setting Up” the Defense

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The Wing-T is an offensive system, not a formation. You run a play, see how the defenders react, and then make them wrong.

In reading Denny Creehan’s books, I came across a section on play calling and watching the defense. Basically, he says that the offensive coordinator should watch the third man from the Center on the playside.


If the defensive end is a penetrator, coming upfield on each play, then the Bucksweep will probably not work. You can run Down (FB off tackle to the TE side) underneath the DE, kicking him with the PSG, or you can run Power Off Tackle underneath him, kicking him with the FB. If the DE squeezes and reads, then Bucksweep should go, as well as Power Sweep.


After those examples, let me get back to the idea of “system.”


When you run Bucksweep, your QB fakes to the FB (Trap), hands to the HB, and then waggles (rolls) out to the opposite side. The QB’s eyes go straight to the CB, and hopefully to the backside S. How are those defenders reacting? If the CB sits, then the SE will likely be open on Waggle (the play action compliment to the Bucksweep and Trap). If the CB drops, then the FB in the flat will likely be open on Waggle.


I would bet that a play caller with any experience would say, “Well, I watch how the defenders react and then call plays accordingly. I call plays to make them wrong, just like you say.”  That is probably true, but the Wing-T is designed not just to help coaches adjust to defensive reactions, but set up the defense in the first place.


Unlike the “grab bag” approach used by some coaches, where plays are added because he thinks they are cool, or because he saw it on television, Wing-T plays are each part of a series. What does that mean? Well, each series has a base play, like the Belly play. In a typical formation with a TE on one side and a SE on the opposite side, the Belly play is most often run to the weak (or split) side. The WB often goes in motion toward the SE side. This can be done many ways, but suffice it to say that the defense really takes note of him heading toward the SE flank. The split tackle (ST) and split guard (SG) look to cross block, which means that the ST will block down (inside) and the SG will pull and kick out. The HB steps into the hole that the ST & SG create, looking for the first LB from the Center. The FB takes a lateral step toward the SE side, then a crossover step, squares up and reads the hole, creating a big pocket for the QB to get the ball into. The QB reverses well over the midline so that he can reach the ball DEEP to the FB as he approaches the SE side, continuing to roll out to the SE side after handing the ball off. The defense sees the FB, the QB, the WB, and the SG all flowing toward the SE side, but good blocking makes the play go.


Now, after your (hopefully) tenacious HB makes some decent blocks on the LB, the SG successfully kicks out the DE or OLB, and the FB barrels through the hole and is gaining yards, the defense adjusts. Will that OLB see the ST block down and start to stick his nose in to stop the Belly? Will the S creep up for run support? Let’s hope so. Recall that the WB is heading to the SE side. There are several ways to approach this, but I prefer Jet (FLAT sprint motion) or Rocket (DEEP sprint motion) motion. If that OLB and/or S look inside to stop the Belly, you get the ball to the WB in his sprint motion. Using either motion, he is well on his way to the flank and has a significant advantage over a defender who is flowing inside, or even flat-footed. The WB gets to the outside and can gain yards after putting the defenders at a disadvantage. By establishing the Belly off tackle, and forcing the defense to try to compensate, you have opened up the Jet or Rocket sweep. By the way, the SG pulls and leads on both plays (the way I have learned to block them), so you get the added bonus of giving a false read to a good LB who is reading him.


Feel like passing? The Belly play also sets up the Belly Keep Pass. Again, if that OLB is sticking his nose in to stop Belly (or the S is getting involved), then a pass to the SE flank can hurt the defense. On Belly KP, the HB hits the flat and the SE flies upfield. If the Cornerback sits, covering the HB, the SE is open. If he drops to cover the SE, the HB is wide open in the flat. The Corner can pick his poison. The QB (and the play) makes him wrong. Again, you need to establish the Belly and see that the defenders are adjusting to have this work optimally.


Is EVERYBODY flowing to the SE side when the WB sprints there? Is the D Line slanting to motion? Does it look like they are selling out to stop Belly, Belly KP, AND Jet/Rocket? Let’s hope so. It is time for the Counter Tackle Trap. The WB flies in sprint motion, the FB slashes straight for the ST, and the QB reverses deep to the SE side, but that sneaky HB is going to run underneath the QB, aiming for the first hole he sees past the Center. At the snap, the ST pulls and kicks the first free man past the Center while the FB fills for him. The HB uses the ST’s tail as his cut-up point, squaring up and getting north as soon as he crosses the line of scrimmage. While I like the smashmouth aspect of Belly, and the fact that the HB is almost always open on Belly KP, the Counter Tackle Trap is a thing of beauty. The hole is often absurdly large compared to other plays. Truly a play that will bring a smile to every face on your sideline.


All of these plays are designed to look virtually the same to your opponent for the first couple of steps, and that edge goes a long way. It is not so much that YOU adjust, as you take advantage of THEIR adjustments. I have tried to describe four plays from the Belly series that include an iso play (Belly), a speed sweep (Jet or Rocket), a play action pass (Belly KP), and a counter (Tackle Trap). With some creative use of formations and motions, you almost have an entire offense right there.