Adapting Single Wing Principles to Ignite Your Run Game

Jan 17, 2019 | Offense, Single Wing, Offensive Systems

By Dan Woolley 
Head Coach 
Scott High School (KY)


There is a lot of talk now of how people are using Single Wing principles to enliven their run game. Whether it is the overloaded formations, wildcat groupings, or misdirection backfields, these age-old systems keep finding their way back to all levels of football.

When I became the Head Coach of Scott High School (KY), their football program had accumulated 76 total wins over a 34 year span. It was apparent that if we were going to be successful we needed to do something unique, simple, and fundamentally sound. The Single Wing concept provided all of those attributes and more.

Since implementing our modified Single Wing offense, we have gone 18-14 and have rushed for an average of 6.94 yard/carry, rushed for 301.64 yards/ game. More importantly, we have outscored opponents by an average of 10 points a game over that time period. Here are a few of the reasons that the Single Wing has helped create such a large turn around.

Unique: We are the only one in our state (that I know of) that runs the offense. This means that opposing teams are unfamiliar with the offense and don’t have a ‘standard’ answer for playing us. Most teams will not run their base defense against us. Instead, they have players have to change positions and/or responsibilities, which causes them to play slower. Since opposing team’s only has 3 days to prepare, this can become a huge advantage.

Proven: The single wing has been around for over 100 years and has been run at all levels. Teams nationwide run this on the high school level and have recently won state titles running the Single Wing including nationally ranked Apopka High School in Florida.

Identity: Our kids have bought in to this system and its physicality. They enjoy this style of play, but more so, the success that has come since its implementation. In today’s world of 7 on 7’s and spread happy offenses, many players are not used to this physical brand of football and are not used to getting the ball run at them for four straight quarters. This can physically and mentally wear down a team.

Numbers: Many times spread coaches talk about counting numbers in the box to create an advantage. We think of our single wing the same way. In our base formation, we line up with 10 players in the box. If we have a numbers advantage in the box, we are content to run the ball. If we don’t have a numbers advantage in the box, then that means that there is no safety and we will try to throw the ball over their heads.

Unbalanced: With our unbalanced set, we look for the side where we have a numbers advantage to and attack that side of the formation. It is important to remember that we use a lot of pullers in our offense. This allows us to get another man or two to the point of attack even if we have a pre-snap disadvantage at the side of attack.

No QB, No Problem: Since we have started running this offense we have had traditional QBs at the varsity level, but we know from experience that this will not always be the case. When that prototype QB isn’t available, we can plug in a running back without changing schemes. In the true single wing, there is no true QB, but instead a running back who receives the direct snap from center. Having a true QB does help as throwing the ball loosens the defense up, but replacing the QB with another running back can end up getting you an extra blocker at the point of attack.

Simple: The simplicity of this offense and the power it provides in the run game allows teams to not change much when they are in short yardage or goal line situations. This offense is built to drive the ball out from under the shadow of the goal line and punch it in when we get close.

Blitz Killer: Because our standard splits are less than one foot, there are no natural gaps for defenses to exploit. For that reason, most teams do not blitz or stunt against us.

Base Formation/Advantages

Our base formation is an overbalanced line with a guard and two tackles to the strong side and a guard and TE on backside (Diagram 1). The offensive line is off the ball as much as is legally possible to aid in pulling and avoid cutting techniques by the defense. The wide receiver (R) aligns to the strong side along with a wing (B) who is lined up one yard by one yard off of the outside tackle. The QB is aligned directly behind the center with heels at 5 yards. The tailback’s (A) base alignment is 1 yard to the side of the QB and 2 feet behind the QB. The most unique position in this offense is our fullback (also known as a sniffer). He is lined up anywhere from the middle of the A gap to the middle of the B gap, depending on the play, and about 1 yard behind the linemen.