The Wing T offense is a formation that not a lot of defensive coaches and teams are used to seeing.
It is not a traditional base offense in the sense that it has one tight end, one running and multiple wide receivers on the field.
Instead, the Wing T offense is a hybrid of them both.
While the offensive formation is loaded in the backfield with the same tailback and fullback that the Single-Wing offense has, the Wing T has only one wing back and substitutes the other for a wide receiver known as a split end.
The fact that the offense incorporates a wide receiver split out wide makes the Wing T extra deceptive, as traditional passing routes are often run out of it.
Similar to both the Single- and Double-Wing offenses, the Wing T will use deception in the formation to its advantage to keep defenses off balance.
Unlike both of those offenses, though, the Wing T uses more finesse to be successful and less power running plays.
Indeed, the Wing T relies very heavily on counters, reverses, bootlegs and the short passing game, as we’ll soon see.
Who Should Use the Wing T Offense?
The Wing T offense is a great fit for teams that have a lot of players who can run the ball – including the quarterback – but aren’t as suited for a power running game like teams that run the Single- or Double-Wing offenses.
While the Wing T uses three players in the backfield who could all carry the ball, plus the quarterback himself who could run as well, the success of the running game in this offense comes more from speed and deception than straight-ahead power.
Because of this, the offensive line doesn’t have to be as massive and mauling as an offensive line in either a Single- or Double-Wing offense.
While run blocking is very important, it’s better that the linemen are fleet of foot and can move laterally than have the ability to block straight ahead.
In addition, the Wing T is great for a team that has a dual-threat quarterback who not only can run the ball and read defenses for hand-offs, but who has an accurate throwing arm as well.
With one wide receiver split out wide at all times, there will be more “traditional” passing plays run out of a Wing T offense than other offenses that look similar in terms of formation.
Who Should Not Use the Wing T Offense?
The Wing T offense isn’t a great fit for teams that have a quarterback with a strong arm who isn’t very mobile.
Traditional pocket passers will not be able to use their skillset as well in a Wing T offense as they could in other formations.
Similarly, it isn’t a great fit for a team that either has a bunch of skilled wide receivers or that doesn’t have a lot capable backs who can run the ball well.
A Wing T offense would not be run too successfully with players in the backfield who aren’t suited for blocking and running with the football on a handoff.
At the same time, offensive linemen in a Wing T really do need to be quick and agile.
Of course, it’s important that the linemen are strong enough to run block, but because of the reliance on deception, these linemen are going to need to pull and shield off defenders from one side of the field quite often.
Also, since the Wing T offense has a wide receiver and both a tailback and fullback in the formation, that means there will be one fewer up-front players to block than, say the Single- or Double-Wing offenses do.
How the Wing T Offense is Run
Stage 1: The Personnel
The Wing T offense will utilize seven players lined up on the line of scrimmage.
One of those players will be split out wide – a wide receiver that is called a split end in this formation.
The other six players are the traditional offensive linemen – a center, two guards and two offensive tackles – plus one tight end.
The Wing T personnel will also include a quarterback, plus three other players in the backfield – a wing back, tailback, and fullback.
Stage 2: The Formation
The offensive linemen will have smaller splits in between them compared to other base offenses.
This will allow the offensive linemen to combo block and angle/down block easier, as well as double team defenders in front of them.
At the same time, the smaller splits will make it easier for offensive linemen to pull on the ample misdirection plays that will be run.
The split end will be lined up wide on the weak side of the formation, opposite the side of the field of the tight end.
The wing back will line up diagonal to the tight end in the backfield, almost as if he were in the same depth position as the quarterback.
The quarterback will line up and take the snap under center and not out of the shotgun.
The fullback will line up directly behind the quarterback, about five yards deep, and the tailback will line up a few yards to the fullback’s side, toward the weak side of the offense.
There are some variations on formations that can be run, which makes the Wing T offense even more deceptive.
Teams can play around with how all of the backs are lined up as well as utilize pre-snap motion to force defenders to make adjustments before the play even starts.
Stage 3: The Plays
a. Wing T Dive
The Wing T Dive is the basic straight-ahead running play.
Unlike similar runs out of a Single-Wing or Double-Wing offense, though, this play will clear out the middle of the field by having two players run routes to make it look like it might be a passing play.
The split end and wing back will both run out routes to clear defenders out toward the sideline.
On this play, the run is designed to go through the A gap on the strong side of the field.
The blockers will therefore try to block their assignments toward the weak side of the field.
The weak-side offensive tackle will shield the defensive end from the inside, and the weak-side guard will do the same with the defensive tackle lined up over him.
The center will help the weak-side guard by double-teaming the defensive tackle.
On the strong side of the offensive line, the guard will block the defensive tackle lined up ahead of him, while the offensive tackle will pull behind that guard and block the inside linebacker who lined up on the weakside.
The tight end will chip on the defensive end and break away to block the free safety who will approach the line of scrimmage once he reads the play as a run.
The quarterback will hand the ball off to the tailback on the Wing T dive.
That will leave the fullback free to block. His job is to get through the A gap as quick as possible and seal off the other inside linebacker from the middle of the field.
That should leave running room for the tailback straight up the middle.
b. Wing T Counter
The Wing T Counter play will create some confusion for the defense by flipping the formation and running a misdirection.
On this play, the wing back will line up on the weak side of the formation, diagonal from the offensive tackle, and the tailback will line up on the strong side of the formation.
The split end will run an out route to clear the cornerback out from the middle of the field and keep the outside linebacker honest.
The tailback will run laterally down the field and act as if he is going to take the handoff from the quarterback.
At the same time, the wing back will delay his movement, and then slide to his right to take the handoff from the quarterback.
He will run with the ball upfield and follow the fullback, who will be running through the C gap outside the strong-side offensive tackle to pick up the defensive end on his blocking assignment.
The tight end will chip on the defensive tackle at the line of scrimmage and then break free to block the outside linebacker.
The strong-side offensive tackle will block the defensive tackle lined up wide, while the guard will chip on the nose tackle and work his way upfield to block the middle linebacker.
The center will block the nose tackle lined up in front of him (with help from the strong-side offensive guard).
The weak-side offensive tackle will seal off the defensive tackle lined up opposite him, while the weak-side offensive guard will pull behind the tackle and block the defensive end/outside linebacker.
c. Wing T Throwback Pass
The throwback pass is one of the staple misdirection passing plays that a Wing T offense will run.
The play is designed to trick defenses into thinking it’s going to be a running play.
The formation will be the normal “base” Wing T formation with the wing back on the strong side of the field and the tailback on the weak side.
Both offensive tackles and the center will block straight ahead of them, but must make sure not to block downfield.
While they need to make sure the play looks like a run to the left, they need to avoid going downfield so they don’t commit a penalty, as they aren’t allowed to block downfield before the ball is thrown.
Both offensive guards will pull behind the line of scrimmage to their left and act as if they are going to be lead blockers for a running play to the weak side of the offense.
The four remaining players other than the tailback will all run passing routes toward the weak side of the field.
This is designed to clear out defenders to the weak side of the field, hopefully leaving an opening on the strong side for where the pass will actually be thrown.
At the snap of the ball, the quarterback will roll out toward the weak side of the field and even possibly fake the handoff to either the tailback or fullback.
He’ll roll out to about the position where the offensive tackle was lined up, making the defense think he’s going to throw the ball to the weak side the entire time.
Then, at the last minute, the quarterback will stop, turn back toward the strong side, and throw what’s called a “throwback” pass to the tailback, who has run a passing route to what should be the abandoned strong side of the field.
The play is designed to make all the defenders think the play is going to the weak side, and then reverse course at the last minute.
The Wing T offense is a great formation for teams at just about any level of football.
Because it requires more players in the backfield and fewer wide receivers, though, you won’t see the formation used very often (if at all) at the professional level.
However, some collegiate teams may run the offense in some fashion because it can take advantage of the throwing and running skill of a quarterback and of the team in general.
If you’re a coach who’s thinking about running the Wing T for your team, one thing that you should love about it is how fun it is to run for both you and the players.
The Wing T is a great offense for deception that keeps defenses off balance on every play.
It’s very hard for defenses to truly key in on running plays because even though the formation looks run heavy, there are a lot of passes that are run out of this offense.
In addition, it’s very hard for defenses to know their assignments on every play, because the Wing T keeps them guessing with variations on the formation, with pre-snap motion and with misdirection plays being run often.