Single-wing formation

In American and Canadian football, a single-wing formation, created by Glenn "Pop" Warner, was a precursor to the modern spread or shotgun formation.[1] The term usually connotes formations in which the snap is tossed rather than handed—formations with one wingback and a handed snap are commonly called "wing T" or "winged T". The single wing was superior to the T formation in its ability to get an extra eligible receiver down field.[2]

Single Wing Formation
Typical Single Wing set. Note the unbalanced line. "C" will snap the ball, even though he is not strictly in the center. This diagram uses the modern terms. In the original single wing, the primary ball handler was called the "tailback" and "quarterback" was used as a blocking back.

History

There is no way to improve on football beyond the unbalanced line single-wing

Among coaches, single-wing football denotes a formation using a long snap from center as well as a deceptive scheme that evolved from Glenn "Pop" Warner's offensive style. Traditionally, the single-wing was an offensive formation that featured a core of four backs including a tailback, a fullback, a quarterback (blocking back), and a wingback. Linemen were set "unbalanced", or simply put, there were two linemen on one side and four on the other side of the center. This was done by moving the off-side guard or tackle to the strong side. The single-wing was one of the first formations attempting to trick the defense instead of over-powering it.[5]

Singlewingformation vs5
Single-wing formation similar to Pop Warner's playbook.

Pop Warner referred to his new offensive scheme as the Carlisle formation because he formulated most of the offense while coaching the Carlisle Indians. The term single-wing came into widespread use after spectators noticed that the formation gave the appearance of a wing-shape. In 1907, Warner coached at Carlisle, a school for Native Americans, where his legacy consisted of at least three significant events. The first was the discovery of Jim Thorpe's raw athletic ability. The second was the use of an extensive passing game that relied on the spiraled ball. Finally, faking backs who started one way, but abruptly headed the opposite way, kept defenses guessing.[6] Because Jim Thorpe had so much raw talent, Coach Warner more than likely designed much of his single-wing offense around this gifted athlete. Thorpe, the proverbial triple threat, was a good runner, passer, and punter.[7]

PopatPitt1919Owl
Glenn Scobey "Pop" Warner at the University of Pittsburgh in 1917.

For much of the history of the single-wing formation, players were expected to play on both sides of the ball. Consequently, offensive players often turned around to play a corresponding location on defense. The offensive backs played defensive backs, just as the offensive linemen played defensive linemen. Unlike teams of today, single-wing teams had few specialists who only played on certain downs.

College football playbooks prior to the 1950s were dominated with permutations of the traditional single-wing envisioned by Warner. Two-time All-American Jack Crain's handwritten playbook clearly denotes how the University of Texas ran their version of the single-wing circa 1939–1940. University of Texas Coach Dana X. Bible ran a balanced line, which means that there were the same numbers of linemen on each side of the center. Also, the ends were slightly split.[8]

Slightly splitting offensive ends, called flexing, was in widespread use by Notre Dame's Box variation of the single-wing. Knute Rockne's Notre Dame Box offense employed a balanced line, which had 3 linemen on each side of the center. Another Rockne innovation was a shifting backfield that attempted to confuse the defense by moving backs to alternate positions right before the snap.[9] Another variation of the single-wing saw the quarterback move out as a wingback on the weak side. Besides adding different blocking angles for the quarterback, the double-wing formation facilitated the passing game. Stanford had a variation on the double-wing in which the quarterback stayed right behind the strong side guard, while the tailback became the wingback to the weak side. The fullback, being the only deep back left, took all the snaps and directed the plays.[9]

The advent of the T formation in the 1940s led to a decline in the use of single-wing formations. For example, the single-wing coach Dana X. Bible, upon his retirement in 1946, saw his replacement, Blair Cherry, quickly install the T formation like many other college coaches of the day.[10] Wallace Wade said he was "not convinced that the single wing is not a more potent formation than the T. The single wing we used caused the defense to spread. It called for more intensive coaching on individual assignments."[11][12]

However, from 1949 to 1957 Henry "Red" Sanders elevated a seldom distinguished UCLA football program to an elite level with his precision single-wing system, realizing a National Championship for UCLA in 1954.

The single-wing style of football is still practiced by a small group of teams across the country, almost exclusively at the high school and youth level.[13] The Pittsburgh Steelers were the last NFL team to use the single-wing as their standard formation, finally switching to the T formation in 1952.[14] In 2008, the Miami Dolphins utilized a version of the single-wing offense (calling it the "wildcat") against the New England Patriots on six plays, which produced four touchdowns in a 38-13 upset victory, and again two weeks later defeating the San Diego Chargers.[15] In college football, by the early 1960s the only major teams still relying on the single wing were Tennessee, UCLA, and Princeton; after 1964 only Princeton, which had been particularly known for the single wing under its longtime coach Charlie Caldwell, still used the formation, finally giving it up in 1969 after the retirement of Caldwell's successor Dick Colman.[4][16]

Sutherland single wing

The Sutherland single-wing was a variation of the single-wing used with great success by Coach Jock Sutherland of the 1930s and 1940s. Note that coach Sutherland mastered many forms of the single-wing, but the formation described here is the one he invented and was named for him.

The Sutherland single-wing differs from the traditional single-wing in that the wingback is brought into the backfield as a halfback, flanking the fullback on the other side from the tailback. This allows a more flexible running attack to the weak-side. Both the tailback and halfback are triple threats in this offense. The weakness of this formation is less power than the traditional single-wing and it requires very talented backs to play tailback and halfback effectively.

Sutherland created this formation from the original single-wing he learned from legendary coach Pop Warner at the University of Pittsburgh in the 1910s. Sutherland became the Pitt coach in 1924, where he remained through 1938. Sutherland's Pitt teams were named "National Champions" by various selectors in nine different seasons,[17] including five recognized by the university.[18] Sutherland was the avowed master of the single-wing offense while at Pitt.[19] Sutherland brought his coaching skills to the NFL in 1940 as the coach of the Brooklyn Dodgers. At Brooklyn, he took over a team that had never finished better than second and had only one winning record since 1930. He implemented his offensive ideas and the Dodgers finished with a record of 8–3 and finished only a game back from the Washington Redskins. Sutherland's star was Ace Parker, who played tailback and was NFL MVP. The Dodgers also finished in second in 1941, with a 7–4 mark. Later, Sutherland coached the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1946 and 1947. In 1947, Sutherland and his single-wing pushed the Steelers to their first playoff appearance, for the East Conference crown. They were soundly defeated by Greasy Neale's Philadelphia Eagles, running the T-formation, 21–0. Sutherland died suddenly in 1948, but the Steelers continued to use his single-wing until 1953, when they were the last NFL team to switch to the T. Runningback Austin Horton also rushed for 1,245 yards during the Sutherland season.

Double wing

The double-wing is an offensive formation which should not be confused with the Double Wing offense. The double-wing formation is used in many offenses from the youth level through college. The formation was first introduced by Glenn "Pop" Warner around 1912. Just a few offenses that use the formation are the double wing, flexbone and wing T offenses. It was the primary formation used by Ara Parseghian when he ran the wing T at Notre Dame, winning National Championships in 1966 and 1973.

Double Wing Formation
Double Wing Formation

The formation is not necessarily the same in all offenses and is often a broad term to describe any offense with two wingbacks. In the wing T the double-wing formation is used to refer to Red, Blue and Loose Red formations.

The double-wing formation in American football usually includes one wide receiver, two wingbacks, one fullback, and one tight end.

Single-wing style of play

The direct snap or toss from the center usually went to the tailback or fullback; however, the quarterback could also take the ball. The tailback was very important to the success of the offense because he had to run, pass, block, and even punt. Unlike today, the quarterback usually blocked at the point of attack. As with his modern day counterpart, a single-wing quarterback might also act as a field general by calling plays. The fullback was chosen for his larger size so that he could "buck" the line. This meant that the fullback would block or carry the ball between the defensive tackles. The wingback could double-team block with an offensive lineman at scrimmage or even run a pass route.[20]

The single-wing formation was designed to place double-team blocks at the point of attack. Gaining this extra blocker was achieved in several ways. First, the unbalanced line placed an extra guard or tackle on one side of the center. Second, a wingback stationed outside end could quickly move to a crucial blocking position. Third, the fullback and especially the quarterback could lead the ball carrier producing interference. Finally, linemen, usually guards, would pull at the snap and block at the specified hole. Line splits were always close except for ends who might move out from the tackle.

The single-wing formation depended on a center who was skilled both at blocking and at tossing the ball from between his legs to the receiving back. The center had to direct the ball to any of several moving backs, with extreme accuracy, as the play started. Single-wing plays would not work efficiently if the back had to wait on the snap because quick defensive penetration would overrun the play. The center was taught to direct the ball to give the tailback or fullback receiver a running start in the direction that the play was designed to go. [21] The single-wing formation was a deceptive formation with spectators, referees, and defensive players often losing sight of the ball. A backfield player, called a "spinner", might turn 360 degrees while faking the ball to the other backs, or even keeping the ball or passing it. Defensive players were often fooled as to which back was carrying the ball.[22]

The one play that was unique to the single-wing formation was the buck-lateral series. The terminology for this series of plays associates the word "buck" with the intent of the fullback to plunge into the line. In addition, the short toss, or lateral of the ball, can be made to the quarterback or wingback who may take the ball and do other maneuvers including passing the ball. Consequently, when the fullback takes the ball, he appears to be headed to buck the line. Typically, fullbacks were bigger players who ran plays intended to smash the defensive front. The fullback's initial move pulls the defensive players toward the expected point of attack. Next, the fullback tosses the ball to another back causing the defense to change pursuit angles, thus losing a step in their catching the ball carrier.

The strong side of the formation, where the extra lineman and wingback lined-up, put pressure on the defensive end. Defenses might move extra players to that side or shift the whole defense to compensate. The cut-back play could succeed regardless of how the defense reacted. The cut-back play started like a strong side sweep with offensive guards and quarterback running interference for the tailback. The fullback would fake a smash over the guard hole to occupy the defensive tackles. The play was designed to make the defensive end overreact and try to stay outside to contain the runner. If the defensive end gave ground to the sideline, the tailback would cut-back inside to let his interference push the defensive end out of the play. If the defensive end came too far inside, then the ball carrier would run around him to the outside. After the cut-back play was used in a game, then the offense might run the wingback reverse since both plays started out the same way. At the outset, the defense tries to pursue the sweeping tailback. However, the tailback delivers the ball to the wingback running the opposite way to the weak side. Both the cut-back and the reverse would be set up with quick fullback bucks up the middle, which would cause the defensive line to over-protect their gaps, as opposed to pursuing quickly to the sideline.[9]

Single-wing punt
Single-wing punt formation similar to Pop Warner's playbook.

Single-wing teams used both a standard punting formation and a quick punt, often kicking on second or third downs. The quick punt, or quick kick, saw the tailback-punter quickly backing up 5 yards as the ball was in the air from the center to distance him from rushers. The strategy was to keep defensive halfbacks, expecting a possession play, from dropping back to return the ball. The standard punt formation was often used for either punting as well as running or passing the ball. Most teams had a litany of plays that they might run from a punt formation.[23] Prior to 1930 the shape of the football was a prominent oval shape called a prolate spheroid. Due to the shape of the ball, single-wing backs handled the ball more like a basketball, with short tosses and underhand lobs. Gradually, balls were allowed to be elongated enough to produce streamlined passes with a spiral. The spiraled ball could be thrown farther with more accuracy, thus increasing the potential for offenses to use the forward pass more frequently.[24]

Melon football plus modern football
The single-wing melon-shaped ball measures from 28 to 22 inches in circumference, while the modern ball measures approximately 21 inches.

The single-wing quarterback played a different role than modern-day quarterbacks. While the quarterback may have called the snap count due to his position close to the center of the formation, he may not have called the actual play in the huddle. For much of the history of football, coaches were not allowed to call plays from the sideline. This responsibility may have gone to the team captain. The quarterback was expected to be an excellent blocker at the point of attack. Some playbooks referred to this player as the blocking back. The quarterback also had to handle the ball by faking, handing off, or optioning to other backs.[25]

Modern use

Although the single-wing has lost much of its popularity since World War II, its characteristic features are still prevalent in all levels of modern football. They include pulling guards, double teams, play action passes, laterals, wedge blocking, trap blocking, the sweep, the reverse and the quick kick. Many current offenses, such as the spread option, use single-wing tendencies for running plays, while using wide receivers instead of wingbacks.[26] Once a strong running formation, the single wing has been replaced by formations that facilitate passing, while minimizing the running aspect of the game. Today the single-wing has evolved into what coaches call the spread offense or shotgun, with the emphasis on passing. The most noticeable feature that remains of the powerful Carlisle formation is the long toss from center to the main ball-handler. The main talent and field general has become the quarterback instead of the tailback. The other single-wing backs have moved close to the line of scrimmage and are split farther from the main line. Wide receivers are called split-ends, flex ends, slots, and flankers. Also, linemen spacing has increased in distance. Moving offensive players farther apart serves the purpose of also spreading the defense. The goal is to make defenses cover the whole field on every play.[27]

The current incarnation of the Wildcat offense, which has been adopted by many college, NFL, and high school teams uses many elements of the single-wing formation.

Successful teams

The single-wing has had a successful revival at youth leagues, middle schools, high schools, and some colleges.[28] Here are some examples of single-wing high school teams that have had success all across the country. In 2005, Virginia saw three teams ride the single-wing to the state playoffs. Two of the three teams, Giles High School and Osbourn High School, actually won their division. Giles High School returned to the state championship game in 2006 and 2013. In 1998 and 1999, Park View High School in Sterling, Virginia advanced to consecutive state championships using the single wing offense. When Park View coach Mickey Thompson moved to nearby Stone Bridge High School in 2000, he took the single wing with him. As a result, the Bulldogs have won 9 District titles, 6 Region titles and won the 2007 AAA Division 5 State title game, 38–0, against Potomac High School. On February 1, 2010 Stone Bridge Offensive Coordinator Matt "Hate-Dog" Griffis was named Head Coach of nearby Broad Run High School. Griffis announced he will be running the Single Wing as well as his hybrid Single Wing formation dubbed the "Griff-Bone". Tower Hill School in Wilmington Delaware perfected this formation which led to numerous state championships. Warren County High School in Front Royal, Va. also used the single-wing to moderate success.[29] In Louisa County, Va., the local high school has had similar success by running the single-wing formation since 2003.[30]

Colton California has been a consistently successful single-wing team by reaching the state playoffs on six consecutive seasons.[31]

In 1998 The Menominee Maroons won the Michigan high school class BB football championship, and in 2006 and 2007 won the Michigan High School Class B football championship, winning 28 consecutive games over the last 2 years, and reaching the state playoffs for the last 11 years.[32]

In 1971 the Corning High School Cardinals of Corning, California had a 9–0 undefeated season utilizing a balanced single-wing offense under coach Tag McFadden. They were the number one rated school Division 4 in the state and Mcfadden was garnered coach of year by Cal-Hi Sports.

In 1974 and 1975, St. Mark's School (MA) compiled a 13–1 record running the Princeton Single Wing.

In 1980 Coach Ted Hern brought the single-wing to Moriarty High School, the "Fighting" Pintos made three state championship appearances winning 2 state titles, one undefeated season and suffering only 3 losses in four seasons. Coach Frank Ortiz was an assistant coach in the later seasons.

Since 1985, Santa Rosa High School has used the single-wing formation under Coach Frank Ortiz. The Lions have made the playoffs every year except three, won their district title 17 times, won the New Mexico AA State Championships in 1993, 1996, 1998, 2007, 2010, 2011, and 2012 and made a total of 13 State Finals appearances.[33]

Xavier High School's (NYC) Head Coach Chris Stevens recently changed the team's offense to the single-wing. In 2007, they went 11–1, and averaged 39 points in the New York Catholic High School Football League A Division. They had two 1,000-yard rushers in Seamus Kelly and Jimmy Kowalski, while both also scored 17 TDs. In the championship game trailing by two scores with less than 8 minutes to play, Xavier scored 31 unanswered points to win their first championship in over 10 years. The following week they beat Fordham Prep 20-14 in the annual "Turkey Bowl", a game that dates back to the late 1800s. Running the single-wing since 2006, they have been at the top of league in rushing. In 2007, they were in the top three rushing and scoring schools in New York. They again won a championship in the New York Catholic High School Football League in 2012 this one coming in the AA division. They averaged 34 points a game scoring 35 or more points 9 times, rushed for 46 touchdowns and 3,700 yards with a 9-2 record.[34]

In 2005 St. Mary's of Lynn in Massachusetts won the D4A Eastern Mass Title following two consecutive division titles with Ed Melanson running the Single Wing. Prior to Coach Melanson installing the Single Wing there in 2002, St. Mary's had not had a winning season since 1977.

In Kansas, Mark Bliss installed the Single Wing offense at Conway Springs High School in 1997, coaching the team to Kansas Class 3A state championships in 1998, 2001, 2002, and 2003. During his seven seasons at Conway Springs, his teams compiled a record of 81–4, including a 62-game winning streak.[35] Conway Springs continues to run the Single Wing offense and added state titles in 2004, 2008, and again in 2011 and are perennial playoffs contenders under Coach Matt Biehler.[36]

In Kansas, Ed Buller created a football dynasty centered around the Single Wing offense. In his 40 years of coaching, which ended in 1984, Buller's only losing season was his first. Buller compiled a record of 335–78–7 and coached the Clyde Bluejays to 10 undefeated seasons along with 39 consecutive winning seasons.[37][38]

In Nebraska Dave Cisar's Screaming Eagle youth football teams have been running the Single Wing offense for 8 seasons. During that time period those teams have gone 78-5 and averaged over 35 points per contest and won two State Titles. He did this with 6 totally different teams in 4 different leagues in various age groups. His teams even used the famous "fullback full spinner series" along with the other traditional Single Wing plays. Coach Cisar published a book "Winning Youth Football a Step by Step Plan" in 2006 to help youth coaches install this "old school" offense.[39]

In Connecticut Anthony Sagnella runs the single wing with his North Haven High School Team that reached the 2015 Class L state Championship Game and were defeated by New Caanan, 42–35.[40] Tailback Mike Montano was an All-State Selection as a RB with over 1800 Rushing yards and 30 TDs. [41]

In Colorado, Brian Christensen's Akron Rams (Class 1A) high school football team has made running the Single Wing offense a local tradition. Akron won back-to-back undefeated state championships in 2001 and 2002. They also took home State titles in 2006, 2007, and 2008.[42] Christensen's teams have made the playoffs every year since 1996 and have made it to at least the semi-finals of the state playoffs all but 4 times within that span. The Akron Rams are renowned for their "exceptional prowess executing the single-wing offense."[43] One coach characterized Akron's single-wing attack as, "A Chinese fire-drill in the backfield every single play. You have to play mistake-free defense or Akron's single-wing attack will burn you."[44] Christensen took over the Akron program in 1996, his overall record at Akron is: 163–31 (.841 winning percentage).

In Iowa, Bob Howard, the coach of the Sigourney-Keota Savage Cobras (2A), has led the Cobras to three state championships (1995, 2001, 2005), using the single-wing offense. He used the offense when he first started coaching at Sigourney in the 1970s, before Sigourney and Keota conjoined teams. In 2005 the vaulted Cobra single-wing offense set a new state record for points in a season with 696, 537 of which coming in the nine regular season games, and in 2007 the Cobras set a new state rushing record racking up 718 yards in a single game. Howard left Sigourney-Keota after the 2006 season to become the new head coach at Webster City High School and was charged with rebuilding a once-proud program that hadn't won over six games or made the Class 3A playoffs since 1996. Installing his vaunted single-wing offense, in 2007 the Lynx led District 2 in rushing by gaining over 2,200 yards on the ground despite their overall record of 3–6. However, in 2008, the Lynx not only made the playoffs for the first time in 12 years, but also finished the season with a final record of 7–4. Tailback John Hill rushed for 1,420 yards—the sixth highest total in school history.

On September 21, 2008, the Miami Dolphins used a version of the single-wing offense (specifically the Wildcat offense) against the New England Patriots on six plays, which produced five touchdowns (four rushing and one passing) in a 38–13 upset victory,[45] after its successful adoption on the college and high school level by several teams.

The 1957 Cass Township, exclusively used single-wing offense. The Cass (Schuylkill County) PA Condors rolled through a season unbeaten, untied, and unscored upon over 50 years ago, going 9–0 in the regular season before defeating Shamokin, 2–0, in a special playoff for the Eastern Conference Southern Division title for a season of 10–0. They are the only high school football team in Pennsylvania that can lay claim to that feat. The late Coach Pat Droskinis, listed in the PA Sports Hall of Fame, coached them and led by a strong 4–5–2 defense that featured All-State ends in 6-foot-3 Russ Frantz and 6-2 Harry Butsko, the Cass Twp Condors blanked Minersville, Nescopeck, West Mahanoy Township, Schuylkill Haven, Ashland, Blythe Township, Mahanoy Township, Lansford and Saint Clair, and then Shamokin in the playoff game (2–0).

In Pittsburgh, Coach Pete Dimperio ran the single wing at Westinghouse High School from 1946 to this retirement in 1966. Westinghouse played in the City League championship game every one of those 21 years and they won 17 times. Coach Dimperio's league play record was a phenomenal 118–5–1 and (158–26–1 overall). His Bulldog teams ran the single-wing formation with mostly buck-lateral and fullback spinner plays. He did not use a multitude of plays, rather he won because his players were so well-schooled and disciplined they were all but unstoppable. When Coach Dimperio started at Westinghouse the student body was mostly the children of Italian immigrants, but by the late 1950s it was almost 100% African American. It didn't matter to Coach Dimperio; he and his single wing won nonetheless. Being from a relatively poor inner city school, Westinghouse usually had no assistant coaches and rarely suited up more than 40 players. Yet, in exhibition games against some of the biggest suburban schools, Westinghouse usually won. Once in an exhibition game against South Hills Catholic which suited up 90 players and had five coaches, Coach Dimperio's deceptive single wing made mincemeat of the heavier and slow opponent to the point where one of the South Hills Catholic coaches remarked, "they (the Westinghouse backs) ran down the field so many times it looked like track practice." Coach Dimperio was inducted into the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame in 1964.

Keith W. Piper, head coach at Denison University (Ohio) had played center in the single wing in high school and at Baldwin-Wallace University, and he went against trends by using that offense for three seasons at Denison in the early 1960s. After the Big Red went 0–8–1 in 1977, he returned to the single wing for good because tailback Clay Sampson offered a dual threat. He became the only player in Division III history to rush for 3,000 yards and pass for 3,000 in a career when he totaled 6,920 yards for Denison from 1977 to '80. In 1985 Piper's single wing offense featured a potent mix of speed, athleticism and experience that produced an average victory margin of 29.6 points. That year Denison set nine school season team records—including most total yards of offense (4,330), most rushing yards (3,510) and most points (377)—and set five single game school marks.[46]

See also

References

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  3. ^ http://library.la84.org/SportsLibrary/CFHSN/CFHSNv11/CFHSNv11n2e.pdf
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  19. ^ Wallace, William N. (October 15, 1994). "COLLEGE FOOTBALL; This Pitt Backfield Is Still a Dream". The New York Times. Associated Press. p. 30, section 1. Retrieved December 10, 2009. They ran an offense called the Sutherland Scythe after Coach Jock Sutherland, a titan of his time. It was a precision double-wing attack that ravaged opponents. But more distinctive than its offensive power game was the players' decision at the end of the season to turn down an invitation to play in the Rose Bowl.
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External links

1940 Stanford Indians football team

The 1940 Stanford Indians football team, nicknamed the "Wow Boys", represented Stanford University in National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) intercollegiate competition during the 1940 season. First-year head coach Clark Shaughnessy inherited a team that finished with a 1–7–1 record the previous season. He installed his own version of the T formation, a system that had largely fallen into disuse since the 1890s and was viewed as obsolete. The Indians shocked observers when they won all ten of their games including the Rose Bowl, which prompted several selectors to declare them the 1940 national champions. Stanford's dramatic reversal of fortunes prompted football programs across the nation to abandon the single-wing formation in favor of the new T formation.

1947 Michigan Wolverines football team

The 1947 Michigan Wolverines football team represented the University of Michigan in the 1947 Big Nine Conference football season. In its tenth year under head coach Fritz Crisler, Michigan compiled a perfect 10–0 record, won the Big Ten Conference championship, and defeated the USC Trojans by a score of 49–0 in the 1948 Rose Bowl game. Although ranked second in the AP Poll at the end of the regular season, the Wolverines were selected as the nation's No. 1 team by a 226–119 margin over Notre Dame in an unprecedented (and unofficial) AP Poll taken after the bowl games. The 1947 team outscored its opponents, 394–53, and has been selected as the best team in the history of Michigan football.The 1947 Michigan Wolverines included five players who have been inducted into the College or Pro Football Halls of Fame: left halfback Bob Chappuis (who finished second in the 1947 Heisman Trophy voting), right halfback Bump Elliott (who received the Chicago Tribune trophy as the Big Ten MVP), defensive quarterback Pete Elliott, defensive end Len Ford, and tackle Al Wistert. Offensive tackle Bruce Hilkene was the team captain, and quarterback Howard Yerges was the field general who became known as "Crisler's 'second brain.'" Jack Weisenburger was the "spinning fullback" and the 1947 Big Ten rushing leader.

The 1947 Wolverines were the first team fully to embrace the concept of defensive and offensive specialization. Previously, most players had played their positions on both offense and defense. In 1947, Fritz Crisler established separate offensive and defensive squads. Only Bump Elliott and Jack Weisenberger played on both squads. In November 1947, Time magazine ran a feature article about the 1947 Wolverines focusing on the new era of specialization marked by Crisler's decision to field separate offensive and defensive units. The Time article noted: "Michigan's sleight-of-hand repertory is a baffling assortment of double reverses, buck-reverse laterals, crisscrosses, quick-hits and spins from seven different formations. Sometimes, watching from the side lines, even Coach Crisler isn't sure which Michigan man has the ball. Michigan plays one team on offense, one on defense...Whenever Michigan's defensive team regains the ball, Crisler orders: 'Offense unit, up and out,' and nine men pour onto the field at once." Crisler's single-wing formation in action was "so dazzling in its deception" that the media nicknamed the 1947 team the "Mad Magicians".

1950 Princeton Tigers football team

The 1950 Princeton Tigers football team represented Princeton University in National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) intercollegiate competition during the 1950 season. The Tigers were led by sixth-year head coach Charlie Caldwell, a future College Football Hall of Fame inductee, who utilized an "unbalanced" version of the single-wing formation. The Princeton offense, which made use of the buck-lateral series, was one of the last successful employers of the single-wing formation, which had been made obsolete by the modernized T formation.Princeton finished with a perfect undefeated record of 9–0, and the Tigers outscored their opponents 349–94. Against other future Ivy League teams, Princeton compiled a 5–0 record.Some selectors named Princeton the national champions, most notably the NCAA-recognized Poling System and Boand System. Princeton was ranked sixth in the Associated Press and eighth in the United Press final polls. After the season, Tigers halfback Dick Kazmaier, tackle Holland Donan, and center Redmond Finney received first-team All-America honors. Kazmaier and Donan were eventually inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.

1952 Pittsburgh Steelers season

The 1952 Pittsburgh Steelers season was the franchise's 20th in the National Football League they finished the season with a 5–7 record under head coach Joe Bach, who returned to the organization replacing John Michelosen.

The season was notable in that it was the last year the Steelers used the single-wing formation on offense, switching to the T formation the following year. The Steelers were the last NFL team to use the single-wing as their primary offensive formation.

1953 Nebraska Cornhuskers football team

The 1953 Nebraska Cornhuskers football team was the representative of the University of Nebraska and member of the Big 7 Conference in the 1953 college football season. The team was coached by Bill Glassford and played their home games at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Nebraska.

A formation

In American football, the A formation was a variation of the single-wing formation used with great success by the New York Giants of the 1930s and early 1940s. This formation was masterminded by Giants coach Steve Owen and relied heavily upon Hall of Fame center Mel Hein for its success.

The A formation differed from the traditional single-wing in that the quarterback played further back from the line and closer to the center. It also place the backfield opposite the "strong" side of the unbalanced line, providing more flexibility in the running game (though less power). The wingback is on the opposite side compared to the single-wing and the quarterback is the primary passer, rather than the tailback. The name of the formation was arbitrary, not from its slight resemblance to the letter "A", unlike formations named "I", "T", "V", and "Y" for the shapes formed by the backs' positioning; Owen labeled the standard single wing his team's "B" formation.One major advantage of the A is the center could snap the ball to any of three players; typically to the fullback or blocking back for runs and the quarterback for passes. The fourth back, the wingback, became a crucial part of the system when Owen introduced a half-spin sweep series in 1938 which featured a wide sweep play to the motioning wingback, a dive inside by the deep fullback, and a bootleg threat away from sweep action by the quarterback. This triple-threat, highly deceptive series anticipated the Wing-T Buck Sweep series by well over a decade.A great center like Hein was a major asset, albeit not essential, in running the A formation — however only the Giants used this set-up with any frequency. This gave the Giants an advantage in that teams had to prepare specifically to defend the A whenever they played New York.

Coach Owen experimented with the A from the early 1930s on. Mel Hein joined the Giants in 1931, but Owen didn't use the A full-time until 1937. The Giants, using the A, became the first team to win their second official NFL championship games when they defeated the Green Bay Packers 23-17, adding this 1938 title to their 1934 defeat of Chicago. Green Bay ran the Notre Dame Box, another unique single-wing variant. The 1938 win was the last time the A brought the Giants a title, however, as George Halas' modern T formation began to dominate professional football after 1940. Mel Hein retired after the 1945 season and proved difficult to replace. The Giants and their A formation were beaten for the NFL championship by the Chicago Bears and the T in 1941 and 1946. Owen finally installed the T formation as an additional offense in 1948, although the Giants continued to run the A through his retirement in 1954. No other team used the A formation in the NFL and the offense today is used only by some aficionados at and below high school varsity level. Ted Seay is known to many of them as a coach who decades later developed greater passing possibilities from the nearly forgotten A.

Buck-lateral series

Buck-lateral is an American football play or a series of plays used in the Single-wing formation. Since the Single-Wing formation lost prominence by 1950, the football play referred to as the Buck-lateral is almost gone from football's vocabulary. However, prior to this time, the buck-lateral play gave fullbacks the option to run, lateral, or hand-off the ball to another player. Running the buck-lateral required an offensive scheme that needed the fullback to possess many specialized skills, as opposed to today's fullback who mainly blocks and carries the ball infrequently.

Charley Seabright

Charles "Charley" Edward Seabright (February 13, 1918 – March 18, 1981) was an American Football player from Wheeling, West Virginia, where he spent the majority of his professional career with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Seabright played both offense and defense with the Steelers from 1946–1950, including stints as the starting quarterback. Seabright started every game for the 1947 Steelers in a season that ended in a one-game playoff to eventual champion Philadelphia. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette considered Seabright, who wore number 33, a star player during the championship run. Seabright was one of the last NFL players to play both offense and defense. In addition, Seabright is recognized as being the last professional football player to be a quarterback in the "single-wing" formation, the precursor to the T-formation regularly used by all NFL teams. Seabright began his professional football career with the Cleveland Rams in 1941. However, he left football from 1942-1944 to serve in combat in World War II.

Dick Colman

Richard W. Colman Jr. (November 11, 1914 – April 5, 1982) was an American football player and coach. He served as the head football coach at Princeton University from 1957 to 1968, compiling a record of 75–33. Colman had been the assistant to Princeton's previous coach, Charlie Caldwell; like Caldwell, Colman was known for his successful reliance on the single-wing formation offense, and ultimately he became the last major college coach to use the single wing, which Princeton gave up only after Colman's departure in 1969.After retiring from coaching, Colman was the athletic director at Middlebury College from 1969 to 1977. Colman was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame as a coach in 1990.

End (gridiron football)

An end in American and Canadian football is a player who lines up at either end of the line of scrimmage, usually beside the tackles. Rules state that a legal offensive formation must always consist of seven players on the line of scrimmage and that the player on the end of the line constitutes an eligible receiver.

Before the advent of two platoons, in which teams fielded distinct defensive and offensive units, players that lined up on the ends of the line on both offense and defense were referred to simply as "ends". The position was used in this sense until roughly the 1960s.On offense, an end who lines up close to the other linemen is known as a tight end and is the only lineman who aside from blocking can run or catch passes. One who lines up some distance from the offensive line is known as a split end. In recent years and the proliferation of the forward pass, the term wide receiver covers both split ends and flankers (wide receivers who line up in split positions but behind the line of scrimmage). The terms “split end” and “flanker” are often replaced today with terms like "X" and "Z" receivers. Bill Carpenter was the first "Lonesome end."

On defense, there is a commonly used position called the defensive end. Its primary role is to rush the passer, as well as to stop offensive runs to the outer edges of the line of scrimmage (most often referred to as "containment"). However, as there are no rules regulating the formation of the defense, players at this position commonly take on and share multiple roles with other positions in different defensive schemes.

Henry Russell Sanders

Henry Russell "Red" Sanders (May 7, 1905 – August 14, 1958) was an American football player and coach. He was head coach at Vanderbilt University (1940–1942, 1946–1948) and the University of California at Los Angeles (1949–1957), compiling a career college football record of 102–41–3 (.709). Sanders' 1954 UCLA team was named national champions by the Coaches Poll and the Football Writers Association of America. Sanders was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame as a coach in 1996.

Known for being witty and hard driving, Sanders used the single-wing formation at Vanderbilt and UCLA. He is widely credited with coining the saying, "Winning isn't everything; it's the only thing". When asked about the UCLA–USC rivalry, Sanders said "it's not a matter of life and death, it's more important than that!" He was the first "Wizard of Westwood" before that title was attributed to UCLA Basketball coach John Wooden.

History of American football positions

American football positions have slowly evolved over the history of the sport. From its origins in early rugby football to the modern game, the names and roles of various positions have changed greatly, some positions no longer exist, and others have been created to fill new roles.

Jim Myers

James A. Myers (November 12, 1921 – July 17, 2014) was an American football coach. He coached for 40 years at the collegiate and professional level. He is probably most remembered for his time as line coach and (since 1971) associate head coach with the Dallas Cowboys under Tom Landry. He was also an offseason member of the Card-Pitt team in 1944, playing as a guard. Card-Pitt was the contraction of the Cardinals and Steelers teams during World War II and was generally considered one of the worst teams in history, finishing 0–10 and outscored by 220 points.

After serving as line coach under Henry Russell Sanders at the Vanderbilt University and later University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), Myers became head coach at Iowa State University in 1957, where he compiled a 4–5–1 record. He was the head football coach at Texas A&M University from 1958 to 1961. His record there stands at 12–24–4. Myers frequently used a single-wing formation he had learned at Tennessee under head coach Robert Neyland.

Myers was hired by Tom Landry to coach the Dallas Cowboys offensive line in 1962. He later became offensive coordinator and associate head coach.

Myers died at the age of 92 on July 17, 2014.

Justin Armour

Justin Armour (born January 1, 1973) is a former professional American football player who played wide receiver for three seasons for the Buffalo Bills, Denver Broncos, and Baltimore Ravens. He is also the former head coach of the Manitou Springs High School football team in Manitou Springs, Colorado.Justin was a Consensus All-American with the Manitou Springs Mustangs. During high school, he helped the Mustangs to a AA state track and field championship in the spring of 1990 and a AAA state championship in the fall of 1990. The Mustangs football team primarily ran the Single-wing formation which fit Justin's extensive athletic abilities. Justin was coached by George Rykovich.

Justin received an athletic scholarship to play both Football and Basketball at Stanford University. While recruited as a quarterback, he played four years at wide receiver for the Cardinal coached by Bill Walsh and two years of basketball.

Justin's college football resume includes:

As a Sophomore, he received an honorable mention All-Pac-10

As a Junior, he was selected as All-Pac-10 second-team

As a senior, he ranked ninth in the nation and second in the Pac-10 in receptions

Set school career mark with 2,482 yards receivingJustin was drafted in the fourth round (113th overall) of the 1995 draft by the Buffalo Bills.

Notre Dame Box

The Notre Dame Box is a variation of the single-wing formation used in American football, with great success by Notre Dame in college football and the Green Bay Packers of the 1920s and 1930s in the NFL. Green Bay's coach, Curly Lambeau, learned the Notre Dame Box while playing for Knute Rockne in the late 1910s. Rockne learned it from Jesse Harper, who learned it from coach Amos Alonzo Stagg. It contained two tight ends, and 4 backs. The formation often featured an unbalanced line where the center (that is, the player who snapped the ball) was not strictly in the center of the line, but close to the weakside.

Players line up in T formation then shift to a box formation. The Notre Dame Box differed from the traditional single-wing formation in that the line was balanced and the halfback who normally played the "wing" in the single-wing was brought in more tightly, with the option of shifting out to the wing. These two changes made the backs' formation resemble a square (hence "box") and made the formation less predictable, allowing offenses to run more easily to the "weak" side. Additionally, the halfback became a more viable runner than in the single-wing and the quarterback, normally just a blocking back in the single-wing, could become a passer since the center could snap the ball directly to him. The Notre Dame Box relied on a great deal of deception, caused by backs shifting frequently, rather than the pure power of the single-wing. Teams would often adopt the Notre Dame Box if they lacked a true "triple threat" tailback, necessary for effective single-wing use. Rockne's innovations with this formation involved using complicated backfield shifts and motion to confuse defenses, and adapting it as a passing formation. The formation was originally designed as a brute-force running formation, since it had 7 players to one side of the center and only 2 on the other.

Although modern use of this offensive formation is largely defunct and exterminated among college and professional teams, several high school football teams across the United States have revived the Notre Dame Box offense and have been highly efficient and successful. Three notable high schools that successfully implemented the Notre Dame Box offense extensively are Western Harnett High School in Lillington, North Carolina, Nauset Regional High School in Eastham, Massachusetts, and Isabella High School in Maplesville, Alabama.

Ossie Solem

Oscar Martin "Ossie" Solem (December 13, 1891 – October 26, 1970) was an American football player, coach of football and basketball, and college athletics administrator. He served as the head football coach at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa (1920), Drake University (1921–1931), the University of Iowa (1932–1936), Syracuse University (1937–1945), and Springfield College (1946–1957), compiling a career college football record of 162–117–20. From 1913 until 1920, Solem was the head coach of the Minneapolis Marines, prior to that team's entry into the National Football League (NFL). During his time with the Marines, Solem introduced the team to the single-wing formation, developed by the famed coach, Pop Warner, and used by the University of Minnesota, where Solem had played football. Solem was also the head basketball coach at Drake University for four seasons, from 1921 to 1925, tallying a mark of 37–31.

Quarterback

A quarterback (commonly abbreviated "QB"), colloquially known as the "signal caller", is a position in American and Canadian football. Quarterbacks are members of the offensive team and line up directly behind the offensive line. In modern American football, the quarterback is usually considered the leader of the offensive team, and is often responsible for calling the play in the huddle. The quarterback also touches the ball on almost every offensive play, and is the offensive player that almost always throws forward passes.

Spinner play

A spinner play is a rushing trick play in American football, involving a spin move and a fake hand-off. Dike Beede and Pop Warner used it, as well as Hugo Bezdek. It is best run from the single wing formation.

Wingback (American football)

A wingback is a position in American football in the single wing formation or variations thereof; the most obvious running back is the wingback and a halfback, lined up wide beyond the end. One of the positions requirements is versatility. It is the precursor to the flanker wide receiver. A wingback is a running back.

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