Defeating the 4-4, 6-2, Wide Tackle 6, and other eight man front defenses.
© Dennis Creehan: All Rights Reserved
As a follow up to my article on the 5-3 defense I have been asked to write another article describing the wing-t attack against the 4-4 defense. The 6-2, Wide Tackle 6, and other eight man fronts would be attacked with the same basic philosophy. These are even looks with the center uncovered. The 5-3 is also an eight-man front but it is an odd look with the center covered and is a very peculiar defense that requires special attention but has very specific weaknesses. This article deals only with even eight-man fronts. If you are interested in odd eight-man fronts please refer to my first article about the 5-3.
There are many variables to the even eight-man front defense. The first is the alignment of the defensive tackles and inside linebackers. Normally you will see the defensive tackle to the tight end side in a three technique or lined up outside the offensive guard somewhere in the B Gap. The other defensive tackle will be aligned in an inside shade on the guard to the split end side somewhere in the A Gap. The two inside linebackers will shade opposite the defensive tackles and have the opposite gaps. In the wide tackle six defense both defensive tackles align head up or slightly inside the offensive guards and are responsible for the A Gaps. The linebackers are usually aligned wider and are responsible for the B Gaps. Some teams will occasionally put both defensive tackles in the B Gaps but this is unusual.
Next is the alignment of the defensive ends and outside linebackers. Normally you will see the defensive ends in seven techniques or shaded slightly inside the tight ends. They are responsible for the C Gaps. The outside linebackers use a variety of alignments, which include stacking behind the defensive ends or aligning outside the defensive ends in a force position. Some outside linebackers will even align on the line of scrimmage in a blitz position. The outside linebackers are responsible for the D Gaps and for forcing the ball back inside on all wide plays. Some 6-2 defenses will put the defensive ends in five techniques or shaded on the outside of the offensive tackles and the outside linebackers in nine techniques or shaded on the outside of the tight ends. In either case the defensive end is still responsible for the C Gap and the outside linebacker is responsible for the D Gap.
Finally we examine the defensive backs. Because they are using an eight-man front they are limited in their choice of coverages. They can use a three deep with the free safety in the deep middle third, they can roll to a two deep with the free safety and weak side corner in the deep halves, or they can use blitz man coverage with the free safety covering the tight end and the corner covering the wingback to the strong side. You will be able to see the blitz man coverage by the alignment of the free safety in close proximity to the tight end.
Now how do we attack these defenses? Well let me say that the wing-t was created to beat the eight-man front! At one time the wide tackle six was the most prevalent defense in college football and the wing-t was basically invented to combat the problems presented by this defensive spacing. Most notably the use of a wing back in a position to block the fourth defender to a side created a balancing effect and neutralized the fourth defender.
The wing-t eight-man front game plan is a classic! We will destroy this defense regardless of which variation they use and we will do it using only two series: the belly series and the buck series.
To begin lets review how to game plan. There is a detailed explanation of how to do this in my books and my videos but I will review some of the basics for you. If you draw an imaginary line through the outside foot of the offensive tackles and count the numbers, you will see that (if the defensive ends are in seven techniques) you have a five on four advantage in the box. In this situation you should begin with your off tackle game. Once the defensive ends have moved back into the box (by alignment or by reaction) then you will attack the flanks. It is very important for your play caller to be watching this during the game! It is also very important for the offensive line coach to watch the #1 and #2 defenders to tell you when to go to the internal game. At the same time the receiver coach should be watching the #4 and #5 defenders to tell you whether to throw at the flanks or to run at the flanks
To begin off tackle I would use the combination of the belly cross block and the keep pass to the tight end side. I would also use the combination of the down and down option to the tight end side. The reaction or alignment of the third defender tells you to stay off tackle or go to the flank. If he reacts or aligns inside then move to your flank attack, if not, stay with your off tackle game. To aid you in your off tackle game you may want to move the tight end out into a five foot split. This puts the third defender on an island and stretches the off tackle area making it impossible for him to defend. If you choose to use this split on your off tackle plays then be sure to use it at other times as well so you are not tipping off your attack.
Begin your attack by running 183/987 Cross Block to the tight end wingback side. The tackle blocks down and the guard traps out. The tight end takes the fastest release to the inside linebacker and the wingback influences before blocking out on the outside linebacker. All other linemen are fire, on, backer. The QB gives the ball to the FB deep so that he can find the opening in the defense. The QB and backside halfback finish the play by faking the keep pass.
Once you have forced the third defender to react or align back inside to stop the belly then we will progress to the belly keep pass. The tackle blocks down to give the picture of the belly but now the guard pulls and logs the defensive end that has reacted back inside. The center, backside guard, and backside tackle all step and cup. The tight end runs a seam pattern and the wingback heads for the flat at a depth of 4 to 6 yards. The split end runs a backside crossing or dig route. The QB and FB fake the belly with the FB becoming a blocker and the QB attacking the flank with a run-pass option. The backside halfback leaves in early motion to get in front of the QB and blocks the fourth defender if he blitzes. The QB should be ready to throw quickly into the flat. If the outside linebacker covers the wingback in the flat then the QB should throw the seam to the tight end or run the ball.
We can create the same conflicts for the defense using the down and down option. The down play is blocked with the same blocking scheme as the belly cross block so why use one rather than the other? The answer is in how your playside tackle handles the defensive tackle. If your tackle can cave the defender down to the inside then run the down play because it hits faster. If however, the defensive tackle is able to stalemate or worse yet get over the top of the tackle’s block then run the cross block to give the fullback a chance to wind the play back.
We begin off tackle on this series by running 182/988 Down. The tackle blocks down on the defensive tackle and the guard traps the defensive end out. The tight end takes the fastest release to the inside linebacker and the wingback influences before turning out on the outside linebacker. All of the other offensive linemen block fire, on, backer. The fullback runs a direct course for the outside leg of the offensive tackle squaring his shoulders when he receives the handoff. The QB reverse pivots flat down the line to give the ball to the fullback. Both the QB and the backside halfback fake the down option after the handoff.
Again we will progress to the flank attack once the third defender reacts or aligns to the inside to stop the down play. Our next flank play is 182/988 Down Option. The down option play is a loaded option which means that the QB will keep or pitch based on the reaction of the fourth defender who is the pitch key. The tackle blocks down on the defensive tackle, the tight end blocks down on the defensive end who has reacted or aligned inside, and the guard pulls and logs or walls off on the inside linebacker. All of the other offensive linemen again block fire, on, backer. The wing back will release outside the fourth defender (which should soften his reaction) and blocks the corner and the fullback takes the first opening he can find on his way to block the free safety. The QB and the backside halfback run the option on the fourth defender. The backside halfback should now be in pitch relationship with the QB, which is five yards in front and three yards behind.
We can also create the same assignment conflicts for the defense by using the buck series. The combination of the sweep and the buck off tackle play will create the same conflicts for the defense but the picture in the backfield is now one of misdirection.
The buck off tackle play is called 122/928 Gut. On this play the tackle blocks down on the defensive tackle and the guard guts for the inside linebacker. The tight end steps at the defensive end to influence him and then blocks out on the outside linebacker. The wingback blocks the corner. The center and fullback block the two A Gaps. You could reach with the center and fill with the fullback or you could block the center back and wind the fullback to the frontside. The backside guard pulls and kicks out the defensive end. The backside tackle blocks the defensive end. The QB reverse pivots to the midline, hands the ball off to the halfback and fakes the waggle along with the split end who runs an out to set up the waggle. The ball carrier starts out like the sweep but then cuts tight into the off tackle area.
Once you have forced the defensive end to react inside or align inside you are ready to run the bucksweep. This play is called 121/929. Notice that this is not the first play we talk about. Many coaches think, “This is the offense.” Granted it is an important play but it is not “the offense.” On the sweep the tackle blocks down on the defensive tackle, the tight end blocks down on the defensive end and the guard pulls and kicks out the outside linebacker. The wingback will block down to the inside linebacker. The center and the fullback block the two A Gaps in the same manner that they blocked on 122/928 Gut. The backside guard pulls through the hole and walls off on the linebacker or free safety. The backside tackle runs across the field to cutoff the last defensive back. The split end runs an out to set up the waggle with the QB who is also faking the waggle after handing off. The backside halfback is the ball carrier. He will run across the backfield and make a sharp ninety-degree cut up into the hole as soon as he passes the down blocks.
In all of these plays the offensive tackle has been blocking down on the defensive tackle and the guard has been pulling to the outside. Sooner or later the defensive tackle will begin to react outside or penetrate. Your offensive line coach must see this reaction and let the play caller know that this is happening.
You are now ready to run an internal play to take advantage of that reaction. The play we run in 124/926 Guard Trap. On this play the tackle blocks down on the frontside inside linebacker and the guard blocks down on the backside inside linebacker. The center blocks to the backside and the backside guard pulls to trap the defensive tackle that is reacting out or penetrating. The backside tackle must block on to protect the QB-fullback mesh. The tight end and wingback will step down like sweep and then release downfield to cutoff the defensive backs and give the play a chance to break big. The QB, fullback, and backside halfback use the same techniques as the sweep but the ball is handed off to the fullback instead of the halfback. The QB and split end will fake the waggle like they did on the sweep play.
All of the plays we have discussed so far can also be run from double wing formation and also from unbalanced wing or unbalanced double wing formations. When running from double wing formations it can be helpful to start out in slot formation and then shift up to a double wing formation. This may get the free safety on the wrong side of the play if he is in man coverage.
The next step in your game plan is to mirror all of these plays to the weak side if the free safety and strong corner start to man up on your tight end and wingback. This is easily recognizable because the free safety will leave the middle of the field and align over the tight end’s area. When this happens it will probably be in combination with some type of blitz. It is common for these eight man front teams to blitz the outside linebacker off the edge to stop the flank game. The free safety has the tight end and when he blocks the free safety fills. The corner has the wingback and when he blocks the corner fills also. The defense has now turned into a ten-man front.
If shifting cannot stop this then you will need to run your attack to the weak side by putting the wingback in three-step motion and running all of the plays to the weak side.
For details of all of these plays I would recommend my books titled “The Wing-T From A to Z” and also the videos I have published through Championship Books and Videos. There is one video called “Attacking and Defeating the 4-4 Defense.” This has details of all of the plays and their blocking schemes. It illustrates the plays to the strong side as well as the weak side. Good luck!
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