Wednesday, 11 January 2012

The Clinic: Double Wing Offence

Well done to those of you that haven't closed the blog after seeing the subject of this article! There are many formations to choose from when looking to install a playbook, but none are so polarising as the Double Wing we are now seeing spread across the BUAFL.

One of the assumptions when facing a Double Wing team is that they don't know anything about football. The majority of teams we that write Double Wing teams off as bad football teams tend to get a bit of a surprise and those who respect the formation are those who are successful against it.

Why choose the Double Wing?
The Double Wing is a simple system in comparison to the plays you see on Saturdays and Sundays in the NFL and College ball. It is widely used in youth and high school football in the US due to this simplicity. It is good for players with little football experience to learn the game and get involved early and Double Wing teams often have rookies participating in the walk through after only 1 session of football.

It also teaches good blocking fundamentals, as the line will learn to execute head up drive blocking, double teams, chip blocking, pulling, trapping and cutting all as part of the blocking system. The RBs learn shifting and motioning pre snap, as well as running in traffic and reading their blockers.

The formation is great for teams who don't have a stud QB and is perfect for the BUAFL because there is only a handful of high level QBs. An arm is useful, but a Double Wing QB will often be a converted LB who can call a cadence, take a snap and lead block.

Is it Effective?
Simple answer. Yes. Last year there were three Double Wing teams. Newcastle, Hallam and BNU. They went a combined 20-4 and were among the highest scoring teams in the division (One of the losses was because of a game between Hallam and Newcastle). This year Hallam are leading the league in scoring with over 300 points in four games and Newcastle have the third highest points total with 214 (Loughborough have 2nd with their Pistol triple option).

The long answer is that a Double Wing team has never won the Championship. Newcastle went to a bowl and were beaten by one of the best teams the league has ever seen with the Tristan Varney led Lions. Hallam lost 8-0 to eventual champs Portsmouth last year in the playoffs. It is fair to consider the fact that few teams run the Double Wing, but now there are five teams running it therefore sooner or later it will win a title.

The Basics

The basic double wing formation has 5 Linemen with zero splits. There is a TE at either end, then a wingbacks next to them and off the LOS. The QB is under centre with the FB within arms reach. Each team will have their backfield at different depths and positions, but each base Double Wing will have 7 down OL/TE and 4 in the backfield.

There isn't a special Double Wing language in the cadence and the motions and cadences of each team are very different for each team.

For the majority of plays a Wing goes in motion. This is often an indicator of where the ball is going, but should not be taken for granted because of the counter or reverse plays.

Super Power!

Every Double Wing team has the super power play in their arsenal. Some like Hallam use it often and effectively. Others like Northampton use it rarely favouring other misdirection plays.

The backside Wing is put in motion around the full back and the ball is snapped. The QB pivots and tosses the ball to the Wing back in motion. This Toss is different from an I form Toss play where the QB is looking to lead the back. The toss is behind the QB so that he can turn full circle and lead block for the wing, adding even more blockers to the play side.

The blocking scheme on the play looks very similar to the traditional GT power or counter trey blocking scheme with a fullback kicking out and the Guard and Tackle pulling around and off the backside of the TE.

Reverse: now you see it, now you don't!

With the player in motion on each play there is a lot of potential for misdirection on each play. The motion lulls defences into a false sense of security and once they begin over pursuing the super power play they can hit you with the reverse!

A Double Wing team only shows you the ball when they want you to see it and if you get to see it early then the chances are it is on purpose. The play looks much the same as the Super power with the back going in motion receiving the ball on a Toss, but he hands the ball off inside to the opposite wingback coming the other direction.

The Line perform the Super Power blocking scheme going away from the direction of the initial motion and if the defence has over pursued they will find themselves completely outflanked in a foot race to stop the play going the distance.

Here is an example of the reverse play, shot during the 100 point thriller this season between BNU and Southampton. The Stags had been over keying the man in motion all game and were caught out by the change in direction!

The Wedge

The wedge is probably the most hated play in all of football because of the nature of this rolling maul. I wince every time I see it used, but it is tough to stop a good wedge, especialy when you are struggling to stop the power play and have to overload the edges of the formation.

Newcastle pioneered the wedge in this country and BNU have taken it on as well. A good wedge involves no binding from the lineman but a lot of drive and good pad level. Cutting the wedge will not bring it down as cutting it only brings down the lineman it doesn’t stop the FB. A decent RB will feel the linemen going down and run over the top or around the outside for an even bigger gain!

The centre is used as a battering ram and guards position themselves scrum style behind him and drive forward. The OT also do this to the guards and the TE to the OT. It forms a spearhead for the RB to sit in as it goes forward, much like the flying V from The Mighty Ducks. There is always a lineman between the tackler and the RB, that’s if the tackler can even tell which player is the RB.

The Pass
Rare with some teams and not so much with others, one thing is certain, DW teams CAN pass. Four of the five Double Wing teams have passed for Touchdowns this season. If you over compensate for the heavy run game you will be caught out for the big passing score.

The way the Double Wing blocking schemes work opens up the defence selling out on the run for screens and deep passes (Just like the Steelers last weekend vs Tebow). Many teams run a cover 1 or cover 0 against the Double Wing and those Double Wing teams teams know this. Despite the close formation there are 5 eligible receivers and you never know when the tight ends could pop out of the formation. Here are some examples of pass plays out of the Double Wing:

Regardless of how you view the Double Wing, you have to admit that in the UK game it is incredibly effective and the points put up by the established Double Wing teams support this. It may not be football the way many see it, but it’s here to stay and you’re going to have to learn how to stop it!


  1. Well written and researched article, a lot of opinion on Double Wing is ill-informed. Good to see you acknowledge the different variants of the system too.

    It is ugly as hell if not run properly, but if you have an coach who is experienced in running it and knows the intricacies of the formation it can be brutally effective.

    The problem is that at the minute too many teams have seen Hallam, Newcastle et al running the DW and thought "We'll have a go at that" and simply don't have the knowledge base to run it properly.

  2. Leicester Longhorns also run quite a lot of double wing, particularly the wedge play.

  3. DW wont win a championship. As soon as its playoff time teams like hallam have to play good teams thus good defenses who if they have a decent sized D, will simply collapse the the play in from the outsides every down. Not to mention DW CANT PASS and will get slaughtered in the pass game. Their D wont be used to good passing as their O doesnt do it in training.

    Its really a disgrace that coaches are turning to DW as its simply not good football and just a cop out for shit teams to try and win games. I'd rather lose playing the real sport than win by just running 6 fat boys down the middle every play.

    1. obviously a glory boy DB posted this! bottom line the offence works and just cause u can't stop it don't drag others down to your level bytch

    2. Yeah but it doesn't work again GOOD TEAMS! Hence, why DW teams lose in the playoffs... the guy above was spot on.

    3. Nobody disputes DW can affective but what about the fans its as boring as watching paint dry and thats why the NFL and American college teams don't play it. They would be booed of the pitch.

  4. Balanced View - WOuld you class BNU and Northampton as 2 of those teams?

  5. Sounds like someone has been beaten by the DW or has never understood its advantages.

  6. Hallam only lost to last years National Champions by 8 points, not exactly a drubbing...

  7. 11:49 - No, not especially as both sides are relatively successful. More aimed at teams who are bringing elements of it into their games and failing as a result. One such team has been mentioned...

  8. Balanced View - WHo are you referring to? Leicester? If so they are a 100% DW team in their first year of running it.

  9. Who are the 5 teams?
    Hallam, Newcastle, BNU, Nortampton and..?

    1. leicester and huddersfield

  10. Leicester also run the Double Wing.

  11. Coach O'Hare11 January 2012 at 13:35

    There is (probably) no offence that causes so much contoversy. The fact is that this is an offence run by several colleges and hundreds of high schools in the US and they don't do because they love ugly football. The fact is that love it or not this offence lets little guys compete with big guys, score tons of points and allows small programmes to go up against big programmes with a chance of winning.

    For programmes that might be short of time and/or natural talent it can be an answer. If you don't like it don't play in it, but don't abuse those who do, it's just another way to move the ball and score and last time I looked no-one scores points for style!

  12. 13:14 - I was trying to lead you to the water, but yes, Leicester. I've watched them this season and they have regressed by running it. They had some lads that would look good in a more commonly run offence (I-form, pro etc.), but looked all at see with their version of the Double Wing.

    Coach O'Hare: While I agree with much of what you said about levelling playing fields and all the other advantages of DW, I'll play Devil's Advocate with your last point and say that while no-one score points for style, players like playing in a stylish way. I guess it depends whether the organization is a "win at all costs" set-up or a "Let's have fun and see where we get". As I say, merely posting a counter-point as nothing is as much fun as winning!

  13. 14:11
    I think msot teams play to win. You pick the formation that will work best for you. The coaches at the DW teams obviously think that is the best formation for them.

    They are prob right, how else would universities the size of BNU and Northampton be winning games?

  14. "its simply not good football and just a cop out for shit teams to try and win games"

    Is that not the point? To try and win games that you perhaps are not supposed to.

    Faced with a choice of going 2 and 6 with a "proper offence" or going 6 and 2 and losing in the play offs there must be twenty teams in the league that if they put away prejudice would want that.

    I know that other offenses can be effective and that ultimately the quality of coaching will make the biggest difference but running the Double Wing is a legitimate stratergy of turning a losing team into a winning team. That it has not produced a Championship program here is a factor in its development not the definative statement of its effectiveness.

  15. Technically the DW, and offences like the Single Wing, are 'proper offence' (if such a thing exists). They were here first.
    The problem with any offence in this country is that Coaches need to learn to understand something before implementing it. Too often the copycat aspects raises it's head and you get poorly installed, called and executed plays - not just in DW but in everything else (but with Spread it's easier to blame the players for poor execution - inaccurate, too slow, etc, etc).
    I'd be interested to know where people get their DW knowledge from, I bet no DW O-Co gets approached by another Uni Coach looking to run it to share ideas and learnings (and how many would share?).
    I'd love to help someone into the DW. I ran the Don Markham version as a player and Coach and love it. I've even adapted a lot of the concepts for non DW formations. It's a real equaliser scheme - the hardest part is making people believe!
    Well done to those coaches sticking to their guns on it.

  16. Leicester are a DW team, out and out. We do have a couple of great players who would be awesome in an effective I-form etc offence, but unfortunately we don't have the line or QB to run that type of offense. We move to DW because it got these guys the ball more often and took advantage of our smallish but mobile o line. Like all coaching teams we sat down and said what offence suits ALL our players, not just one or two. We'll hold our hands up and say that we've learnt lessons along the way about how and when to run what player, but with a very new coaching staff this would be the case whatever we ran. One of the issues we faced as a new staff was how do we help the club raise its profile and recruit better raw recruits? Well we do a good job of advertising, profile on campus etc etc but the main thing is we havent been a winning team, but other teams ( Union, League) have. So if you want to attract winners ( attitude and approach) you need to be winning ( .500 at least). How do we do that with the guys we have? Don't ask our players to do things that they will never be able to do, and make defenses adjust. Currently we're at 1-3. First game Lincoln had spent a lot of their preseason prepping for DW(us and Northampton), 2nd game we lost in double overtime against Lancaster who we felt we would have beat if they had post as we strggled to punch it in despite moving the ball well. 3rd game vs Northampton was always going to be close and was. We beat Coventry at the death with some great defense but move the ball well for most of the game and like many teams at the mid point had players missing. Yes there was a measure of regression from where we were at the end of last season, but we lost our HC,OC and DC in the off season so that was inevitable. We know we're not going to worry Birmingham or Loughborough for the MAC title this season, but we've put ourselves within a score of winning in 3/4 games and could have been 3-1 at the half way without rose tinted glasses.

    Also, not a reason but a benefit for us is that as mentioned above its fairly simple and allows you be effective quickly. We start the autumn term later than pretty much all other uni's and some had had friendly's before we'd got into kit ( 4th training session). Will we go away from DW? not this season. Will we add wrinkles? Doesn't everybody?

    I'd like to thank Luke Plastow at BNU for his help and support as well as the rest of the wolfpack.

    Lee McMahon
    Longhonns HC

  17. Thanks Lee. DO everything we can in the wolfpack.

    Coach Rockell - Ben Johnson actually approached me and offered to help isntall the wing. If I remember correctly which is probably wrong. He came to me through a mtual friend or something like that. All I know is that without Coach Johnson pushing it and helping us LOADS in the first couple of years we wouldnt be running it.

  18. I don’t think the criticism of this offence warranted. The offence may be different to what is considered "normal" in the league but has grown in effectiveness every game as issues with execution etc are ironed out. As a team that was committed to running a spread type offence and not succeeding (for reasons Coach Lee has explained above) something had to change and the double wing was what the coaches choose.

    Currently the team has equalled its wins for last season after 4 games and beaten a team it lost to a season ago(when Leicester ran a spread based offence and failed to score in almost the same situation at the death I might add) so the word regression is not accurate. If anything the results speak of some progress with 2 extremely close defeats. If it succeeds in winning games in the second half then then the team has made a progression rather than backwards as some have implied.

  19. Luke, great job. Very nice to hear. We need more of that.
    Happy to talk DW any time anyone wants - - I'm always looking to learn too.
    I feel a FB page coming on.........

  20. Play the offence what win y'all football games.

    Proper, not proper, it dun matter much.

  21. Gotta say I wouldn't want to be the second team in a conference to install it as things could get ugly against defences schooled to stop a veteran DW or the other DW team who would probably understand defending it well (would not want to run it against Newcastle...)

    I have played in it a bit and against it several times, and it does sometimes break down against really big D-lines who can beat the double teams or collapse the point of attach. I feel that one of the main reasons it is unpopular is the issue of running up the score - whether it be using DW to grind a D into the ground so that you can run gimmick sweeps with a 4.5 40 guy in the last few minutes when 40 points up or similar (I saw that one happen, no naming the team responsible).

    I think that the toughest DWO to defend is the big program like Newcastle who can implement two systems - couple of years back they had two almost separate personnel groups, one to run DW, the other to run Spread, making them even harder to prepare for - if you stopped one (and some teams did) the other would come on, change it all up and the D would often struggle to adjust, especially if they were short on players as some of the Border conference teams are.

  22. This comment has been removed by the author.

  23. I have nothing against the DW in theory, but I feel that to have success in the playoffs, you need more variations within it. Big Defences like Portsmouth last year demonstrated that it can be shut down. However, play action passes can be dynamite if used appropriately and not just on 3rd and 12.

    A very good article and one that our Defence will all read to help prepare for a DW offence that we play in a few weeks time.

  24. I remember seeing this in the Euro's over here back in the 80's, however I'm not sure of the team, I think it may have been the Amsterdam Crusaders, the HC was Don Markham I believe? Can anyone help me out?


Popular Posts

Fantasy Football News