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The Wing-T, championship offense or glass ceiling offense?


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So there is a debate going on in another thread, from that thread:

I believe the Wing T is a very good offense to help get some teams some wins and for teams that may not have much overall talent, which can help that team wins some games. However, I think the Wing T also limits teams when they do have more talent and doesn’t allow them to reach their true ceiling. Which is why you may see some wing T teams win a good amount of games against average and below average teams. But then struggle to get those wins when they play more top 10 level type teams. - futurecoach

High School football is so much about the talent that you have....there are dominant teams that run single wing, wing t, and other old school offenses. The top tier teams separate from the lesser talented teams because of their roster, not the offense they run. Not only that, the wing can be pretty versatile and you see elements of it still at all levels. And it's great for small schools who may not have the talent at the QB position all the time to consistently run a more wide open offense. - rjs4470

I disagree with much of the sentiment here regarding the Wing-T.  The Wing-T allows you to punch way above your class so to speak.  It gives you more chances to win.  I also like the evolution into the Gun-T, but that's nothing new (Dale Mueller essentially ran Gun-T for decades at Highlands). - New Colonel

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What do you think about the Wing-T?

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I think it all just depends on a coaches philosophy. There are strengths and weaknesses to every offense. I think the wing t/gun t is a great offense and truly makes a defense have to be disciplined and focused at all 11 spots. Teams can and do win a lot of games running the wing t. 

I know for me personally I am just not a fan of just one system and making players have to fit that system year after year. Which is what happens for wing t teams, spread only teams, etc. I think any offense where that is the only thing you run can limit yourself, because it may not fit your current players for that year the best, because every year is different. I have always been a believer in having your system fit the players, not the other way around. 

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I like it. It may not be utilized as heavily as it once was, but it can still be an effective scheme at many levels of football. The focus on misdirection, isolation plays, and a versatile ground game makes it difficult for defenses to prepare for and defend consistently. I do not follow Scott County close, but hasn't that been a staple of Jim McKee? It hasn't been too long (2013) since he had a state championship run with that offense, in 6A, and I know he had some runs in the 2010's prior to the school split where he had deep runs including trips to the championship game.

It has been 20 years since I have played high school football but I remember the late Ivan McGlone's offense at Russell when we played them during my time at Ashland. Our coaches harping, especially on the linebackers, about reading their keys. My senior year was the year that Coach McGlone won his second state title in 2005. It was in a 2A class at a time when there were four classes and I remember even then it was questioned if the offense was running out of style. Russell lost several key players from their 2004 team, including Josh Gross who set numerous records at the school and if you check the KHSAA record books you will see his name appear a few times. Russell came back in 2005 with a team that was still good, but if you watch that state championship game on YouTube you will see how Russell comes in and executes their Wing-T offense to near perfection, controlling the clock against an Owensboro Catholic team that had an explosive offense. Russell had a superstar in Kasey Clark and some good pieces around him, but still had several missing parts from the prior year and were expected to take a dip from the year before when they lost to eventual champion Belfry in the state semifinals. Owensboro Catholic was primed to win 2A that year with an offense that featured David Woodward who threw for 40 touchdowns and receivers Neil Holland and Jared Johnson that combined for nearly 2,000 yards and 26 touchdowns. Then they had two runningbacks that combined for nearly 2,000 yards on the ground. Russell came in as a slight underdog but was able to execute the offense and utilize clock control to keep that explosive, more modern-style Owensboro Catholic offense off the field, winning 27-14.

I feel like this is also part of a broader debate. You consider offenses like the wishbone, the T, and the flexbone. Another coach to look at is Coach Haywood of Belfry who is just three years removed from his eighth state championship. Although he does not run a Wing-T, a lot of the concepts are similar. Talent sure helps (Like having a player the caliber of Isaac Dixon in 2021) but the discipline and execution of the lines can take things to another level. A fun fact about Coach Haywood's eight state championship teams - they have a combined total of two pass completions.

One team I encourage you look at if you have the time if you're a fan of the Gun-T. Kirtland, OH is so disciplined - I have only seem them a couple of times but every time I have, their lines seem to be half the size of their opponents and they execute their system so well. I'm amazed at how their lines fly off the ball and are so mentally disciplined. They won close to 60 regular season games in a row at one point and have won several state championships with the offense. I will be the first to say that I do not know a great deal about their system, but the times I have seen them it has reminded me of the Gun-T type offense and they heavily emphasize running the ball with clock control.

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10 minutes ago, TCR said:

I like it. It may not be utilized as heavily as it once was, but it can still be an effective scheme at many levels of football. The focus on misdirection, isolation plays, and a versatile ground game makes it difficult for defenses to prepare for and defend consistently. I do not follow Scott County close, but hasn't that been a staple of Jim McKee? It hasn't been too long (2013) since he had a state championship run with that offense and I know he had some runs in the 2010's prior to the school split where he had deep runs including trips to the championship game.

It has been 20 years since I have played high school football but I remember the late Ivan McGlone's offense at Russell when we played them during my time at Ashland. Our coaches harping, especially on the linebackers, about reading their keys. My senior year was the year that Coach McGlone won his second state title in 2005. It was in a 2A class at a time when there were four classes and I remember even then it was questioned if the offense was running out of style. Russell lost several key players from their 2004 team, including Josh Gross who set numerous records at the school and if you check the KHSAA record books you will see his name appear a few times. Russell came back in 2005 with a team that was still good, but if you watch that state championship game on YouTube you will see how Russell comes in and executes their Wing-T offense to near perfection, controlling the clock against an Owensboro Catholic team that had an explosive offense. Russell had a superstar in Kasey Clark and some good pieces around him, but still had several missing parts from the prior year and were expected to take a dip from the year before when they lost to eventual champion Belfry in the state semifinals. Owensboro Catholic was primed to win 2A that year with an offense that featured David Woodward who threw for 40 touchdowns and receivers Neil Holland and Jared Johnson that combined for nearly 2,000 yards and 26 touchdowns. Then they had two runningbacks that combined for nearly 2,000 yards on the ground. Russell came in as a slight underdog but was able to execute the offense and utilize clock control to keep that explosive, more modern-style Owensboro Catholic offense off the field, winning 27-14.

I feel like this is also part of a broader debate. You consider offenses like the wishbone, the T, and the flexbone. Another coach to look at is Coach Haywood of Belfry who is just three years removed from his eighth state championship. Although he does not run a Wing-T, a lot of the concepts are similar. Talent sure helps (Like having a player the caliber of Isaac Dixon in 2021) but the discipline an execution of the lines can take things to another level. A fun fact about Coach Haywood's eight state championship teams - they have a combined total of two pass completions.

One team I encourage you look at if you have the time if you're a fan of the Gun-T. Kirtland, OH is so disciplined - I have only seem them a couple of times but every time I have, their lines seem to be half the size of their opponents and they execute their system so well. I'm amazed at how their lines fly off the ball and are so mentally disciplined. They won close to 60 regular season games in a row at one point and have won several state championships with the offense. I will be the first to say that I do not know a great deal about their system, but the times I have seen them it has reminded me of the Gun-T type offense and they heavily emphasize running the ball with clock control.

Great post. 

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This has been a constant conversation in Hardin County, where a majority of the teams run a version of the Wing-T offense. Here are some interesting facts about Wing-T and Central Hardin Football over the last 10 years. The run heavy offense of the Wing-T and the inability to throw the ball and to be a more balanced team on offense has ALWAYS been a detriment come playoff time in Kentucky 6A football. Like clockwork, Central Hardin will face a team like Bullitt East, Ballard, North Hardin, Trinity, and Male, to name a few, who are balanced on offense, have a stout defense that can stop the run game and force Central Hardin to throw the ball, which they haven't done all year. The result is always the same, a loss in the playoffs. The last team to win a state title game in 6A with a run heavy offense was Scott County over Meade County in 2013. I have been to all state championship games for the last 6 years and one thing that the 6 state champions almost always have in common is that they are balanced on offense, have a solid run game and can also pass the football when needed with efficiency. The only game that I can think of where a team  wasn't balanced and won a state title was Belfry with Isaac Dixon in 2021, when they defeated Paducah Tilghman. When I sit at these championship games in Lexington every year, there is no one who can sit there and watch these games, look me in the eye with a straight face and say that a Wing-T team has a chance to win the 6A Championship. This applies across the board, in High School, College, or Pro football. You must have a balanced offense to keep the opposing defensed honest. Wing-T may allow you to win a few more games during the season with less talent, but I would argue that if you, as a coach aren't trying to evolve your offense to be more balanced you are not giving your players a chance to win a state title and  are doing a disservice to your players and fans who deserve more. Ask any player at the beginning of the season what their goal is and most would tell you it is to win a state title.

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2 hours ago, theguru said:

So there is a debate going on in another thread, from that thread:

I believe the Wing T is a very good offense to help get some teams some wins and for teams that may not have much overall talent, which can help that team wins some games. However, I think the Wing T also limits teams when they do have more talent and doesn’t allow them to reach their true ceiling. Which is why you may see some wing T teams win a good amount of games against average and below average teams. But then struggle to get those wins when they play more top 10 level type teams. - futurecoach

High School football is so much about the talent that you have....there are dominant teams that run single wing, wing t, and other old school offenses. The top tier teams separate from the lesser talented teams because of their roster, not the offense they run. Not only that, the wing can be pretty versatile and you see elements of it still at all levels. And it's great for small schools who may not have the talent at the QB position all the time to consistently run a more wide open offense. - rjs4470

I disagree with much of the sentiment here regarding the Wing-T.  The Wing-T allows you to punch way above your class so to speak.  It gives you more chances to win.  I also like the evolution into the Gun-T, but that's nothing new (Dale Mueller essentially ran Gun-T for decades at Highlands). - New Colonel

===============

What do you think about the Wing-T?

Welp, from a coach's perspective it's more difficult getting a head coach job with it. A tough sell. 

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1 minute ago, Crazy Legs said:

Welp, from a coach's perspective it's more difficult getting a head coach job with it. A tough sell. 

If I was doing the hiring it would be a concern for sure. 

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In my opinion it all comes down to who you have on the field no matter what brand of football you want to play. If you have 0 talent and lack size in the trenches, do not hop in the shotgun and try to toss the ball around the field, I cannot believe how many teams I’ve seen do this in the past decade and I just can’t seem to understand why that is. This is a style of offense that anybody can run and find success but with it being so detail oriented you have to have everyone on the same agenda. Incorporating the misdirection, having moving parts in the backfield and giving your OL the ability to double team, pull and kick, you’re just putting your players in more manageable positions to be successful.
 

However, it all roots to the QB position, if they are able to orchestrate the triple option to standard then I believe you are working with fire. If you have size and speed on top of that it can make for some dominating football, and quite frankly enjoyable to someone like me. If you are limited in the Wing T and just relying on belly, counter, power, trap, sweep, then I think you’ll find yourself in some trouble. Cannot stress enough how important the triple option is in this style of offense, unfortunately for most coaches majority of the QB’s are multi sport athletes especially at the smaller schools, which takes away from the repetition that is vital to running it productively. 

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14 hours ago, Hardin County Preps said:

This has been a constant conversation in Hardin County, where a majority of the teams run a version of the Wing-T offense. Here are some interesting facts about Wing-T and Central Hardin Football over the last 10 years. The run heavy offense of the Wing-T and the inability to throw the ball and to be a more balanced team on offense has ALWAYS been a detriment come playoff time in Kentucky 6A football. Like clockwork, Central Hardin will face a team like Bullitt East, Ballard, North Hardin, Trinity, and Male, to name a few, who are balanced on offense, have a stout defense that can stop the run game and force Central Hardin to throw the ball, which they haven't done all year. The result is always the same, a loss in the playoffs. The last team to win a state title game in 6A with a run heavy offense was Scott County over Meade County in 2013. I have been to all state championship games for the last 6 years and one thing that the 6 state champions almost always have in common is that they are balanced on offense, have a solid run game and can also pass the football when needed with efficiency. The only game that I can think of where a team  wasn't balanced and won a state title was Belfry with Isaac Dixon in 2021, when they defeated Paducah Tilghman. When I sit at these championship games in Lexington every year, there is no one who can sit there and watch these games, look me in the eye with a straight face and say that a Wing-T team has a chance to win the 6A Championship. This applies across the board, in High School, College, or Pro football. You must have a balanced offense to keep the opposing defensed honest. Wing-T may allow you to win a few more games during the season with less talent, but I would argue that if you, as a coach aren't trying to evolve your offense to be more balanced you are not giving your players a chance to win a state title and  are doing a disservice to your players and fans who deserve more. Ask any player at the beginning of the season what their goal is and most would tell you it is to win a state title.

North Hardin runs a spread with better kids than Central and North can't beat those teams mentioned either. John and Etown have had the most success of any of the city/county schools and both ran the Wing T or something similar. 

 

Pikeville won the State championship this year throwing maybe a handful of passes in the title game.

 

With that being said IMO more than a certain offense it comes to Jimmy's and Joe's. With the skill kids Boyle County has they could run it 50 times a game, or throw it 50 times a game. A lot of points will be put up on the board either way. 

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There is also a great example recently of what I am getting at. Bardstown vs CAL in the title game few years ago. CAL stopped Bardstown run game. Since Bardstown was not balanced, they were no threat thru the air and got blown out by a CAL team who has a coach that understands how to keep a defense honest by being balanced on offense. I sit at Kroger field the first Friday and Saturday of December every year and these teams constantly confirm my theory that balance on offense is critical. Can you imagine a College or Pro team in today’s game only running the ball and not trying to move the ball thru the air. That would be a train wreck. Please tell me that Central Hardin loosing by 3 TDs and continuing to run belly and trap plays is ludicrous. 

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If Male/X/T ran the wing t, the wing t would win 6A every year, and their wing back would break the state record for YPC solely running belly sweep. If Central Hardin actually ran the wing t and stuck with it, they’d probably win more than they already do (Specifically the BE game a couple years ago). A good wing t system is one of the most balanced offenses you can have, 3/4 dudes getting 10 carries a game and 8/10 passes a game is about as balanced as you can get. There’s also several different variations of the wing t, and depending on the type of kids you have, each year could be ran differently. People often boil offense down to either a pass or a run, and it’s never that simple. I think people underestimate how many kids in the state can run a legit spread offense and would be successful throwing the ball 60% or 70% of the time. 

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41 minutes ago, Hardin County Preps said:

There is also a great example recently of what I am getting at. Bardstown vs CAL in the title game few years ago. CAL stopped Bardstown run game. Since Bardstown was not balanced, they were no threat thru the air and got blown out by a CAL team who has a coach that understands how to keep a defense honest by being balanced on offense. I sit at Kroger field the first Friday and Saturday of December every year and these teams constantly confirm my theory that balance on offense is critical. Can you imagine a College or Pro team in today’s game only running the ball and not trying to move the ball thru the air. That would be a train wreck. Please tell me that Central Hardin loosing by 3 TDs and continuing to run belly and trap plays is ludicrous. 

You simply cannot compare the football you see on TV on Saturday's and Sundays with High School football on Friday nights. The talent level, feel for the game, and athleticism is vastly superior, which opens up all sorts of possibilities on offense. People who expect a high school offense to be able to run the same concepts and balance the pro's and power 5 teams run are going to be sorely disappointed, and why you hear people complain about "systems". 

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A few thoughts...

1. Scott County beat Meade County in 2013.  Meade also ran the Wing T if I'm not mistaken, I'm not sure what that means, it's just interesting.    

2. I think the old John Wooden quote applies when discussing the scheme: "It's not what you do but how you do it".  

3. Another applicable saying is, "It's not the Xs and Os it's the Jimmys and Joes".  

A great example is the 2005 John Hardin team that ran the Deleware Wing T.   They were disciplined, versatile, and threw the ball effectively.  JH had good players including a dual-threat QB and great team speed.  They made a run in the playoffs during the old 4-class system beating PRP, Male, and lost to       ST. X (eventual state champ) by one point 21-20, in the Region Championship.  

You can win at a high level running the wing T.  You need a disciplined approach and talent, but the same can be said about any system. 

 

OPPONENT SITE SCORE    
Aug 19, 05 Seneca away (W) 28 - 6    
Aug 26, 05 LaRue County home (W) 35 - 14    
Sep 9, 05 Owensboro home (W) 18 - 9    
Sep 16, 05 Apollo home (W) 35 - 11    
Sep 23, 05 South Oldham away (W) 35 - 21    
Sep 30, 05 Meade County home (W) 43 - 6    
Oct 7, 05 Bullitt Central away (W) 56 - 9    
Oct 14, 05 Nelson County home (W) 63 - 12    
Oct 21, 05 North Hardin away (L) 7 - 10    
Oct 28, 05 Central Hardin home (W) 42 - 13    
Nov 4, 05 Pleasure Ridge Park home (W) 42 - 14   Class AAAA Football State Tournament
Nov 11, 05 Male home (W) 49 - 47   Class AAAA Football State Tournament
Nov 18, 05 St. Xavier home (L) 20 - 21   Class AAAA Football State Tournament

 

 4. Perception is the issue with the Wing-T, kids want to run what they see on TV and most fans don't appreciate the beauty of the Wing-T offense.    

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Exactly, JH lost to teams like Bowling Green multiple times and Highlands who were more balanced on offense. In fact the hook and ladder by BG was set up by a great pass to the sideline. My argument is not being good but winning state titles by being balanced. 

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