Single-Wing Making Its Way Back Into The College Ranks
Editors Note -- I ran across this article from last September. Even though the article is dated, the interesting thing is the number of Colleges running a direct snap, "single wing" package.
Arkansas is leading the pack in new-look offenses
September 27, 2007
Remember those backyard football games after school? Every neighborhood had a kid who did it all. He took the snap. He ran. He threw. Sometimes he even handed off.
Why not? He was the best guy ripping up your dad's lawn.
That philosophy worked back then, when you drew up plays in the dirt, and it's working again now -- on much better turf at colleges across the nation.
The growing trend: Get your playmakers as many touches as possible, even if it means snapping the ball to them. Running backs, receivers -- even tight ends. Hike them the ball and let them work their magic.
No school does it better than Arkansas. Star running back Darren McFadden, a Heisman front-runner, has gone hog-wild in the WildHog formation. "He's a great athlete who has quarterback mechanics," says Razorbacks coach Houston Nutt. "We wouldn't do it unless we had a difference-maker."
Arkansas has been running a variation of the WildHog since 1999, Nutt's second year as coach. McFadden caused a stir in the scheme last season when the formation was known as the Wildcat. The absence of a steady passing threat -- and McFadden's megaskills -- prompted Arkansas to snap him the ball so often that in some games the Wildcat looked like the base offense.
McFadden took 16 snaps against LSU and 13 against Tennessee. Arkansas scored touchdowns on three of those plays against Tennessee and averaged 8.3 yards on the snaps against LSU. McFadden threw three touchdown passes from the Wildcat formation last season and one from the WildHog in the opener this season against Troy. He took the snap and ran 56 yards for a TD last week against Kentucky.
"When he's a quarterback, they're basically a spread-out offense running a lot of wishbone principles, creating a pitchman with somebody going in motion and running a misdirection zone read," says Alabama coach Nick Saban. "You have to have run support on both sides. That isn't simple to do unless you load the box. And when a defense does that, it becomes vulnerable to the pass."
Arkansas also has a variation of the WildHog called the Race-Horse, which features running backs Peyton Hillis and Felix Jones flanking McFadden as he waits for the snap.
Defenses be warned--and prepared. You never know when a Wildcat, or WildHog, will show up on the other side of the field.
Four others who make it work ...
What it's called: Stallion.
Guys to watch: RBs James Davis and C.J. Spiller.
The skinny: Tigers coaches faced a conundrum: how to get Davis' power and Spiller's speed on the field at the same time. The Stallion set is the answer -- and each player has taken snaps.
But the formation sometimes leaves coach Tommy Bowden unnerved because "their eyes are downfield."
Still, the possibilities resulting from a Davis-Spiller backfield are too delicious to pass up.
What it's called: Doesn't have a sexy name.
Guy to watch: WR Percy Harvin.
The skinny: This is old hat for Urban Meyer, who featured similar formations in his days at Utah and Bowling Green. The Gators also snap the ball to wideouts Andre Caldwell and Jarred Fayson.
"We did a lot of this with (QB Tim) Tebow last year," says Florida offensive coordinator Dan Mullen. "Each guy brings something different, with Percy's speed and Tim's power."
What it's called: Rucker left/Rucker right.
Guy to watch: TE Martin Rucker.
The skinny: Using Rucker (6-6, 225) in this formation gives Missouri a change-of-pace runner in short-yardage situations, when its spread offense tends to bog down.
The Tigers also have snapped the ball to wide receiver Jeremy Maclin and running back Tony Temple. Maclin scored on a 17-yard run after taking a direct snap against Western Michigan.
Expect Missouri to build on what it has shown so far, with pass plays coming off the scheme. "No doubt, that's the plan," says Tigers coach Gary Pinkel. "It's all about giving defenses something else to prepare for, too."
What it's called: Wildcat.
Guy to watch: RB LeSean McCoy.
The skinny: Dave Wannstedt knew his team would be green at quarterback and might struggle to move the ball. So, Wanny met with good buddy Houston Nutt in the offseason to cook something up. Voila!
McCoy, a freshman, lined up in the funky set for the first time two weeks ago at Michigan State and sparked the attack. "We are just trying to make a play," says Wannstedt.
... and others getting started
If these teams are on the schedule, you better be ready for anything. Each runs a version of the Wildcat formation. And chances are it's in the works at other schools, too.
California. No name, but you had to see it coming with all of the Bears' explosive skill players. RB Justin Forsett ran for two TDs after direct snaps last week against Arizona.
Colorado. RAQ LUQ or Rack-luck, with RB Demetrius Sumler.
Georgia Tech. No name, but RB Tashard Choice and FB Mike Cox take snaps.
Miami. No name, with RBs Graig Cooper and Javarris James. Cooper ran for a TD after taking the snap last week against Texas A&M.
Texas A&M. J-Train, with RB Jorvorskie Lane.
Wake Forest. K-Mo, featuring WR Kenneth Moore.