Defending the Wing-T

Counteract one of the most difficult offenses to prepare for.


The spread version of the Wing-T is gaining some steam at the lower levels of football, but the old school version is still around. The most popular of the new age Wing-T teams is Auburn. With the slot-H and the jet motions, Gus Malzahn has transformed the old smash mouth Wing-T into a sleeker version that fits the new age spread model. In the spread version, the passing game has been able to expand and many teams turn to RPOs to challenge the defense even more. With a lot of moving parts, the Wing-T can do some serious damage on a defense’s psyche.

Like the Triple Option, the Wing-T is an offense that is hard to prepare for and rarely seen by many. In some parts of the country, it is still run, but for most, it is seen once a year, if ever. The Wing-T and its pulling guards, buck sweeps, and trap plays are difficult to defend. Overload the strong side, and the offense runs weak. Play in a base Over/Under front and they will trap the defense to death or run midline down the defense’s throat. The key to any Wing-T offense is its guards. The pulling of one, or both in the buck sweep, establish extra gaps to the play side and traps for defensive linemen. It is important for a defense to stay even against any Wing-T formation.

There are several ways defenses attempt to attack the Wing-T outside of the base 3-4/4-3 defenses. The first is the Double Eagle (or 303). Even with the OLBs walked up to make the Double Eagle a 5-2, there is still room for the guards to pull and the Wing-T offense can still Belly Trap the 3 tech. If the Nose shades to one side or another, it makes it easy for the offense to run midline and read the Nose. The second is a 50 front where the Ends align each in a 4 or 5 tech. The problem with the 50 front is again, no one is addressing the guards. To counteract the pulling and trapping of the Wing-T offense, the defense has to eliminate the guards. the Double Eagle is probably the safest of the two five down schemes because someone is at least lined up on the guard, but the outside shade makes it easy for the Wing-T offense to pull the guard outside, trap the 3, or read him in the run game.

The Double G

The Double G (or double 2i) look is the best against a Wing-T offense. With any Wing-T or Slot-T offshoot, the defense must address the guards. It is imperative for the defense to eliminate these to lineman from ever being able to pull. Unlike the Double Eagle, that aligns the interior linemen in 3 techs, the Double G puts the interior linemen on the inside hip of the guards. This alignment allows for the interior linemen to cut the guards if they pull. By cutting the guards, the defense has been able to eliminate the extra gap being created by the offense.

Even if a guard is able to pull, the mass of humanity that is created in the middle of the formation hinders the ability of the offensive line to climb to the next level. The second key cog in defending the Wing-T is the LBs. A free-flowing LB is important in defending against the run. The alignment of the Double G also allows for the 5 techs to crash down on any block away. The aggressiveness of the Double G defense creates freedom for the LBs. The LBs in the defense need to be patient and read the initial pull attempt of the guards.

In the diagram below, the defense is essentially aligned in a 6-2. To the open side, the DS is aligned 3×3 of the Tackle in order to set the edge if the play is to him and to fold back in if the play is away. The Mike and Will are aligned in 30’s. They are responsible for the “B” gaps. The Sam aligns outside of the TE and is responsible for smashing him down and holding his release. The FC is 3×3 off the Wingback and holds the edge to the outside. The CS is aligned on the strong side guard and is technically the double alley player. His responsibility is to hold down any vertical route by the TE and run the alley versus an outside run play. If the offense runs an interior run play, the CS assists up the middle.


Pressuring the Wing-T

The key to pressuring a Wing-T offense is to keep it simple. If the offense is a buck sweep heavy team, full line movement might be an answer in certain formations. Simple line movements and single LB blitzes can be used to create quick penetration without sacrificing fits and can counteract trap plays. Basic gap plug run blitzes are a good way to attack the Wing-T. The quick hit of a LB running through his gap doesn’t mess with the fits. Where Wing-T offenses gain an advantage is when defenses try and do too much, or stay in the same place. A defense can’t just sit in the Double G front all game long. Even if successful, it will only take a matter of time before the offensive coordinator finds a way to take advantage of the defense’s alignment. Running the Double Eagle as a changeup puts an extra lineman in the box, and the 3 tech’s can still affect the guards enough to keep the LBs clean. Plus, the zero Nose can gain a push in the middle, making the Center work.

Film Study

In the video below, the Wing-T offense we faced was very strong side oriented. To take advantage of that we used full line movement and single gap LB blitzes to the strong side to gain penetration. Our main objective was to cut the guards or trip them up, as much as possible. Even if the guard pulled, our LBs were there to clean up the mess. In order to beat a Wing-T team, the defense has to stay in front of the chains. Penetration by the linemen and using timely simple blitzes can affect the flow of the offense. In our case, cutting the guards didn’t allow the offensive line to climb. Our call sheet for this week literally consisted of two different fronts, two LB plug blitzes, and a full line movement call to counteract the buck sweep.

The beauty of the Wing-T offense is that if the defense gets too aggressive it takes advantage. From Load Option to Trap, to Belly and Midline, the Wing-T makes the defense be as sound as they possibly can at all times. Teams that can run the traditional Wing-T and flip to the Flex-Bone the next play are even more difficult. One way to throw a wrinkle into your defense is to create calls that flip responsibilities versus the option.

The keys to playing teams that run this unique offense:

  1. Keep it SIMPLE — Don’t do more than you have to. Moving parts create angles and options for Wing-T teams.
  2. Control the guards, control the game — Create ways to block the guards. One of my good DL friends even suggested using a read technique with the guards and pinch the edge players.
  3. Use single gap blitzes and simple line movements to create penetration.
  4. Stay even — In the diagram above you will notice we ran a 6-2. This allowed us to have a plus one on each side of the Center.
  5. If a team can switch into the Flex-Bone have a way to flip the option responsibilities to keep the QB guessing. Hesitation in an option offense is a win for the defense.

In the end, and in order for us to be sound, we kept it simple. Here are the highlights:

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Author: MatchQuarters


18 thoughts on “Defending the Wing-T”

  1. 2 and 6 . 4 lb stacked behind them. rollup corner on wing and send him. play cver 2 to wing with safety over top and stacked lb in flat. man on single receiver.. Never had any trouble with wingt or slot t teams. Got this defense from mickey andrews

    1. I’ve had very good experience coming up as a running back with the Wing T. All of these are good ideas. The defense should run a base 4-4 with a backer able to rome. Watching the guards is good until they start running “guards away” or stop pulling them and start pulling tackles. Next, key off the center, but always ensure you never let those offensive ends get loose. Keep them from making that cutback block for the fullback countering back across.

      I learned from the best

  2. I know it’s a crazy idea, but would using offensive lineman on the defensive line make sense. Seems like they may be better at moving the pulling guards and clogging things up. Just a thought.

    1. Have not seen the Dead-T, but if the team we played would have gone Dbl Wing we would have reduced and Clouded both sides allowing the CBs to set the edge w/ safety help over top.

      1. Coach do you have a draw up of how you would reduce and cloud both sides against the double wing?

  3. Have you ever dealt with unbalanced (Offensive Tackle Over) Wing-T or Single Wing teams? Single Wing is no fun to defend. Would you use similar principles like the 5 keys you mentioned? Also, did you tell your CS to key the TE or did he key the backfield. As always, good stuff and thanks for what you do.

    1. Versus Unbalanced you need to reset the front, but the principles should stay the same. The CS keys the TE w/ the FC. They have a “Switch” read if their is a pass (similar to 2-Read – CB is low/Saf. is high).

  4. Thanks coach. I think the Wing-T will make a big comeback in the upcoming decade as the pendulum swings.

    I’ve never cut the guards before…that looks fun and a nice form of payback.

    I skimmed through the video but I didn’t see a ton of counter plays. Would you see that giving your LBs any problems since they flowed away so aggressively?

    1. They were taught to read the Gs, so if they wanted to run Counter they would have been there. Plus, we were cutting them so bad it would have been a major pile-up. The only negative in the scheme is in the secondary. They are all on islands, but then again, if a Wing-T is going to beat you passing they are in trouble, not you.

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