If you live in Michigan it’s likely you have seen the tight packed offense with a line of running backs all looking the same as the other. A mirage of ball carriers with forearms pressed together methodically running down the sidelines and up hashes. No one cheers until one of the three potential ball carriers breaks form and exposes the ball or better yet it’s discovered the sneaky carrier had been under a pile of bodies all along while officials sort out the chaos. Depending on your facial expression when reading this you either ran the Wing T in high school or you were beaten by the well disciplined machine that’s a Michigan staple. In the very entertaining book “Blood, Sweat, and Chalk” Tim Layden traces the origin of the Full T to Hillsdale College where it took form based off the effective trap blocking schemes of the single wing. The basics of the offense come from a backfield action of a short fullback trap, to cross, to quarterback keep sequence. The linemen most often take defenders and spectators to the ball as the guard pull almost always designates what gap the play was designed to attack. Ball hiding wizards gain an advantage of forcing defenses to play assignment football while at the same time being able to adapt to personnel. Teams like the Constantine Falcons can play a more power based form of the T where big bodies can both pull and trap but worse yet help piles fall forward. The kind of three yard blast plays that nightmares are made of. Elsewhere teams like Zeeland West can run the Michigan T at lightning speeds where they barely have time for the traditional fakes T teams are known for. New wrinkles are being added all the time like how the Edwardsburg Eddies read defenders but from the same flow of plays that define the Wing T. The T has branched out so far as to have a basis in the unique offense being run by Gus Malzahn at Auburn.
Hopefully you haven’t been able to tell in my tone that I am not a big fan of the robotics of the offense but I respect it. I have spent a good portion of my life on the opposite sidelines listening to my dad on how to slow down this form of attack. We aren’t alone the tons football clinics being run each offseason in Michigan often have a speaker focusing on “stopping the Full T” and the room is always full. My family and our penchant for making adjustments a part of our game plan is what I’ve always enjoyed most about coaching football. If you have a way to slow the T then you need to be able to do so while showing different looks so that the offense doesn’t have the ability to t off on you knowing where you’ll be. Alignment shouldn’t change assignment and with that in mind there are multiple looks you can give a Full T team so long as all the potential ball carriers have a person designated to tackle them. Kids need to know they won’t have a clue as to who has the ball and so tackling the person they are assigned to is crucial. When the fullback scampers for forty out of a pile of people running in the opposite direction it is instant disappoint for me. It’s like watching a small child drop their ice cream cone. I can’t stand it. We liked to use a six man front where defensive tackles have the fullback directly behind the quarterback. We would love for them to be able to hip pocket and run with the pulling guard but most T teams have a very deep alignment with their linemen. Sometimes they are almost an entire yard off the ball! Irregardless the defensive tackles need to be able to trap the trapper, a process by which the player attacks the offensive guard coming to trap them, while the other attempts to fight across the centers face. Help with the full back should come from an inside linebacker wherever he may be positioned. Defensive ends have the back farthest from them on the cross. If they are unblocked they should trap the trapper to the ball. Once again there should be help from an inside linebacker with the cross back. We position our outside linebackers in a spot where they can squeeze any outside runs underneath them without getting their outside arm and leg pinned by the tight end. The outside linebacker and secondary players on the same side have the quarterback. Everyone off the ball must start the play by keying in on offensive linemen. Linebackers are looking for a guards pull to take them to the ball and secondary plays are slow playing through tight ends waiting for a pass attempt. Wing T teams seldom pass the ball, but their run heavy style often lulls secondary players to sleep. It is important to fill the box as best you can, we like to take a secondary player off the field and add a linebacker. We have put this new linebacker in multiple spots but after watching several games where Wing T teams play each other we noticed the most popular way of add in the linebacker is tucked in behind the original two inside. This backer can slow play through the guards and hopefully prevent big plays. The linebacker can also play as a nose guard at times which helps to give your defense multiple looks.
If you’re in Michigan tucked into a crowded stands full of family and neighbors there is a good chance you’ll have to sit through a Friday night trying to figure out who has the ball. Find the guard and hopefully it’ll help.