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Friday, September 03, 2004

The Single Wing Lives! 

Today is the first day of football season down here in central Virginia, and the place is abuzz. I almost swerved off the road on the way to work today after hearing on the radio that Western Albemarle High was dominant last season playing the single wing offense.
I was amazed, as the single-wing was a relic in the early 80's when the Lawrenceville School still employed it as its offense under Coach Ken Keuffel. I last saw it executed in 1985 by Denison University in a Division III thrashing of the University of Rochester. Yet the single-wing, apparently, lives on among a handful of coaches not afraid to swim against the stream.
With good reason too. If well executed with a talented tailback, the single-wing is effective. It was much used at the collegiate level in the 40's and 50's, and it allows an offense to get the ball to its most talented player on nearly every play, whether its a running play, a pass, or a kick. It is for this reason that the best single-wing tailbacks were referred to as "triple threat men." Princeton's last Heisman Trophy winner was a single-wing back, as was Hawkeye hero and Heisman winner Nile Kinnick.
At the high school level, what makes the single-wing especially effective is that nobody uses it anymore. The formation uses a heavily unbalanced line and a shotgun snap, giving a huge strong side advantage to the offense if the defense lines up as it normally would, noseguard on center. If the defense shifts to compensate for the unbalanced line, it becomes prey to misdirections and reverses. Of course a good coach with time to prepare can neutralize the single-wing, but if you're only facing it once all year, you are at a supreme disadvantage.
I love football.

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