Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Pistol is a lot like the old single-wing

Pistol is a lot like the old single-wing

HE'S hiding back there, that pistol back. Crouched behind the quarterback, trying to avoid detection. Disguising his intention. Refusing to tip his direction. Oh, he's back there. You can barely see him, but you know.

And it isn't such a secret, when you think about it. You know where he's headed, on this next play.

He's running straight at you.

SOLOMON ELIMIMIAN STUDIES these things. Of course he does, he studies everything. On the Hawaii defense, he's the brain.

When he was out injured, he was up in the press box, scouting offensive formations. Calling out substitutions.

He's the inside linebacker, he makes the calls. He lines up across from the quarterback. He watches everything coming his way.

Oh, he studies everything.

"You can see him," he says of Nevada's pistol back, crouched hidden behind the quarterback. "As linemen, you've got to get a feel for ... you see the holes. As a linebacker, you see the holes."

You see them opening. His job is to run into the madness, and slam those holes shut.

THERE ARE NO secrets in football, no grand innovations, not really, not any more. Nothing new. Receivers adjusting their routes while reading coverage on the fly? Vince Lombardi did that.

Football's been around for more than 100 years. Got a great idea? Chances are, someone's already tried it once.

Nevada's pistol offense is simply something old that's new again.

That's the nice way of saying it.

"The whole pistol thing is a joke. That's a little fancy name for an offense," Arizona State coach Dirk Koetter said the week of his own Sept. 9 Nevada game. "The name pistol means nothing. They aren't getting any yardage by calling it the pistol."

He wasn't railing against the effectiveness of the offense, just the idea that the name itself made it anything new.

Nevada coach Chris Ault's innovation was brilliant, of course. But in football, if you have a good idea, chances are, someone's already tried it at least once.

The short shotgun snap. The power-running principles. Ault's new pistol was using a lot of the same properties of that ancient power offense, the single-wing. That once mighty dinosaur, extinct for years now, is stomping the Earth again.

"This is the only team that runs a pistol offense that I know of," Elimimian says. "And they run it pretty special, you know."

Yes. It's a brilliant innovation, bringing back these old ideas. You can say what you want, but here is the thing: Someone first thought of it years ago for a reason. The single-wing worked.

HE'S BACK THERE, that pistol back, crouched, hiding, ready to strike.

You can barely see him, but you know he's there. Here he comes. The angles. The timing. The sharp, short snap.

"They use the shotgun different," Elimimian says. "UH, we use the shotgun to give the quarterback more time to throw the ball. Most teams use the shotgun for throwing purposes. Their pistol shotgun is more so for running the ball. And giving their running back a better angle, coming downhill."

It's the second time he's said this. This is the offense. "Running downhill":

"For them it's more angles I guess, coming more downhill. Giving them more time to charge up, I guess."

"Charging up." The power-running game. The hole slamming shut. A collision coming, like something off of "Animal Planet." National Geographic.

Two dinosaurs, stomping the Earth.

Oh, there are counters off of this, and misdirection and play-action and boots. But all of that only works if this does: The pistol is based on that charge-up, that collision, on that short snap, and running downhill.

It's brilliant.

It always was.

There are no secrets in football, not really. Nothing new. Solomon Elimimian knows this. He studies, and this is what he sees:

He's back there, that pistol back. You can hardly see him, but you know. He refuses to tip his direction, but you know his intention.

"Coach is stressing that," Elimimian says. "Hit, and run the ball. You know, their objective is to hit the linebacker one on one. Three yards, contact, and them drag them for three. That's what their objective is, and they think they can drag us for extra, 6 yards. So we've got to hit on contact, and drive on 'em."

He's running straight at you. Here he comes.

Kalani Simpson can be reached at ksimpson@starbulletin.com

© Honolulu Star-Bulletin -- http://starbulletin.com


1 comment:

Ted C is Me said...

Some thoughts on the article:

The Nevada Pistol (placing a back behind a direct-snap receiver) has nothing at all in common with the standard Single Wing apart from the fact of the direct snap.

The only exception to this is the Single Wing variation that Coach Dick Colman experimented with at Princeton in the late 1950's -- the late Dr. Kenneth Keuffel called it Colman's "I-formation look, in which the tailback would line up directly in front of the fullback within the standard single wing formation."

FYI, the Pistol was also preceded by Coach Larry Beckish's 1978 "East" formation at Wichita State:

"The formation we 'toyed' with was named East. In today's football terminology it would be considered a 'shotgun' formation. But, at that time I considered it a single-wing formation rather than a passing formation. (Probably not many coaches reading this article will have any concept of the single-wing.)

"East was considered single-wing becasue we viewed the quarterback as a threat as both a runner and a passer. In the single-wing the tailback was a double threat and he also provided the third threat as a punter. We never considered including the third threat - but, today I would seriously consider that aspect of the formation."