The Wildcat… the Best of Both Worlds! By Hugh Wyatt www.coachwyatt.com coachwyatt@aol.

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It’s not exactly double wing… It’s not exactly single wing… It’s the Wildcat, and it offers the best features of both. The Wildcat is definitely the Double Wing – but with a direct snap. Nothing terribly unusual about that. Pop Warner beat us all to it more than 80 years ago with an unbalanced direct-snap Double Wing. And back in the 1960s and 1970s, Jerry Carle at Colorado College was running a direct-snap Double Wing behind a balanced line. But neither of those great coaches was the inspiration for my idea. What I did was adapt an idea that I’d gotten from a coach in Virginia to the Tformation Double-Wing I’d been running since 1990. It’s been so long ago that I’ve forgotten that coach’s name, but during a phone call he’d mentioned a form of single wing he’d been running, and the short snap he occasionally made to a blocking back. The center, he told me, didn’t have to look back between his legs. Now, that got my interest. After hanging up from that coach, I began madly doodling, certain that there was a way to run my Double Wing as a direct-snap attack. I’d been an admirer of the the single wing since running it when I was in high school, and as a coach I’d run it for a few series in the 1980’s, just as a diversion. Now, the notion of running a direct-snap version of my Double Wing had me fired up. That was 1997. I was coaching high school football in the small town of La Center, Washington. There were two games left in the season. When I showed the kids my idea at Monday’s practice, they got as excited as I was. (Possibly their excitement was for a different reason than mine - perhaps they’d become bored with the same-old, same-old.)

Article written for www.doublewingsymposium.com by Coach Hugh Wyatt For more information on Coach Wyatt’s DW see www.coachwyatt.com

We began to work things out on the field. Leaving my fullback at the same depth, I moved him one-half man to the side, and moved my quarterback out from underneath center and right next to him. Their feet were touching, “splitting the ball.” The Virginia coach had cautioned that the center snap had to be low and slow – it was even okay to let it roll on the ground - so I had the “fullback” and “quarterback” crouch like infielders ready to field a low grounder. Their hands were low, nearly touching the ground, and their eyes were on the ball. Here’s how it looked:

We experimented with every play in our bag, and found that with a few adjustments here and there, mostly to accommodate motion, there wasn’t anything we couldn’t run. Experimentation revealed quite a few things that we hadn’t been able to run before, and best of all, since our quarterback was now more like a single-wing tailback, he became really involved. In fact, any play that a wingback or fullback could run could also be run by our quarterback. All we had to do was add the word “FOLLOW” to the play call (“88 power follow”) if we wanted him to keep the ball and follow the intended running back through the hole or “KEEP” if we wanted the quarterback to take the place of the intended runner. Just as one example, by using the same “G” blocking scheme up front, we could run a play at “6” or “7” (off-tackle) with at least four different backfield actions. Basically, there was no need to change anything about our offensive terminology or our offensive thinking. Finally, after two days of practice, the big question came: “Are we going to run this on Friday night?” “I don’t know,” I said. “What do you guys think?” It was unanimous: “Yeah! Let’s do it!” Then one of the kids asked, “What are going to call it?” Article written for www.doublewingsymposium.com by Coach Hugh Wyatt For more information on Coach Wyatt’s DW see www.coachwyatt.com

When I had no immediate answer, somebody suggested, “How about ‘Wildcat?’” Made sense to me – we were the La Center Wildcats. And that’s what it’s been ever since. We played that Friday’s game on the Washington coast where in the fall – and winter and spring, too - it rains. A lot. A big storm had just swept through, leaving the field like quicksand, but the horrible conditions had no adverse effect on our ball handling. We never fumbled the ball, and alternating between Wildcat and our conventional Double-Wing, we rushed for nearly 300 yards, and we wound up winning the game in overtime. The next week, we won our final game. Running from Wildcat about 75 per cent of the time, we rushed for over 500 yards and put 60 points on a larger school. At that point, I knew we had something, and that winter I wrote an article for Scholastic Coach and Athletic Director explaining what we’d done. Since then, the Wildcat has been adopted by a number of other schools and organizations around the country, and it’s played a part in the offense of every team I’ve coached. A few basics: Besides the alignment and stance of the backs, the center makes the other big adjustment. He makes a two-handed snap. His hands are on both sides of the ball, thumbs touching on the laces, and he gently tumbles the ball back with a very slight flip of the wrist. To keep from putting weight on the ball and to keep from snapping high, his tail is down and his head is up (he doesn’t look back). At the snap, he does not fire out. He does not uncock his knees. After he’s made his snap, he should be in the same stance he started out in, knees bent, head up, tail down. The coach in Virginia with whom I originally spoke suggested practicing snapping the ball against a folding beach chair laid on the ground just a few yards back. If the ball knocks the chair over, the center’s snapped it too hard. Article written for www.doublewingsymposium.com by Coach Hugh Wyatt For more information on Coach Wyatt’s DW see www.coachwyatt.com

I mentioned that the two backs were crouched behind him, side-by-side. How would the center know which back to snap it to? We struggled with that one until I spoke with Jerry Carle, now retired in Colorado Springs, and here was his answer: snap it straight back, right between them. They ought to be smart enough to know who’s going to get the ball. Problem solved. We experimented with the depth of our backs until settling on “heels at 31/2 yards.” We didn’t want them too close, for fear of increasing the chance of a mishandled snap. Besides, we wanted them deep enough so that a motion man could pass in front of them. But we didn’t want them back at shotgun depth, either, and here’s why: First, the rules state that the free blocking zone disintegrates the instant the ball leaves it. It’s a picky point, but with our need to “scramble block” (block low) on certain of our plays, we needed to keep our backs’ heels no deeper than 3-1/2 yards to make sure that whoever caught the ball, his hands would be within three yards of the line of scrimmage when he did. Second, the deeper they lined up, the greater the likelihood that the defense would see the snap, and know who had the ball. By keeping the backs close to the line and stressing keeping the snap low, we have been able to conceal the ball from the defense by keeping it lower than our linemen. Why a direct snap? How can you possibly improve on something that’s already pretty doggone good? And why would you want to try? Here are some of the advantages we’ve found: 1. The exchange is at least as safe as the T-formation exchange, and especially for younger kids, it’s a whole lot easier to teach. Maybe it’s because the man who’s going to be receiving the ball can actually see it. (I should add that centers really love the direct snap. I suppose only a guy who’s been used to smashing the ball against his privates would understand.) 2. The quarterback’s footwork and ball-handling techniques are a lot simpler and easier to teach. We can take a gifted athlete who’s never Article written for www.doublewingsymposium.com by Coach Hugh Wyatt For more information on Coach Wyatt’s DW see www.coachwyatt.com

played football before and fairly quickly get him involved in the offense. That makes it easier to recruit a baseball player or a basketball player. 3. As a corollary to # 2, I’ve found that I’ve been able to make better use of the multi-talented athlete. We no longer struggle with what to do about the quarterback who’s also our best runner, or the wingback who’s also our best passer. 4. The quarterback can run the ball at any point along the front. 5. We have the ability to involve all four backs, but at the same time, if faced with a lack of talent, we can get by with only one running back, and use the others as blockers. Or flankers. Or decoys. 6. Based on what I’ve seen of the Wildcat from over on the defensive side of the ball, the deception is even greater than with the T-Double Wing. The defense is simply unable to tell whether the fullback or the quarterback has had the ball snapped to him. (Deception, you’ll recall, is a major reason why we don’t want our backs any deeper than they are.) 7. Before even bringing our wingbacks into the scheme of things, we have a complete running game. 8. By using one of the backs as a lead back, we have an instant power game to either side. 9. Should we choose to run option, the QB is already at ideal starting depth, at a good angle for attacking his pitch key. 10. The QB is already at short-pass depth. There is no need to teach the steps of a drop. 11. It is a very effective 8-man offense, because all three backs can play key roles.

12. It is “explainable” to people who know only pro or major college ball. Tell them you’re running a “modified shotgun” and – like that - they’re off your back. Article written for www.doublewingsymposium.com by Coach Hugh Wyatt For more information on Coach Wyatt’s DW see www.coachwyatt.com

13. It easily morphs…into any formation requiring a quarterback under center… or into spread shotgun (by simply deepening our QB and splitting our ends)…

or into punt formation (by dropping the QB/punter back to 10 yards)…

or into “pistol” (by lining up the fullback/running back behind the QB)…

or into single wing (by moving one of the wingbacks - or his substitute - just back of the opposite “B” gap)…

And, of course, we still have the ability to unbalance our line and use motion to any extent. So what are the drawbacks of the Wildcat?

Article written for www.doublewingsymposium.com by Coach Hugh Wyatt For more information on Coach Wyatt’s DW see www.coachwyatt.com

1. It’s hard to develop the quick passing game you can have with the quarterback under center and taking a two- or three-step drop. The fact that he has to look at the ball when it’s snapped means he has to take his eyes off coverage, however briefly. 2. It still won’t please the overzealous parent who accuses you of not preparing his son (the quarterback) for the “next level,” but interestingly, as more and more colleges adopt various versions of shotgun attacks, that argument is fading. I will never desert the T-formation Double-Wing which I’ve been running since 1983 and in its present form since 1990, and promoting since 1996. But one of my main reasons for running it has always been its uniqueness, and as more and more people try to run the Double-Wing (emphasis on “try”), it’s in danger of losing its uniqueness; and my desire to be different and difficult for opponents to prepare for finds me gravitating more and more toward running it as the Wildcat.

Article written for www.doublewingsymposium.com by Coach Hugh Wyatt For more information on Coach Wyatt’s DW see www.coachwyatt.com

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