Going Back to the Future Against the Wing-T.
BACK IN THE 1970S, our college football championships were won by teams that could run the ball and stop the run. Legendary coaches like Bo Schembechler (Michigan) and Frank Broyles (Arkansas) were in demand as clinic speakers because of their outstanding Slant 50 defenses.
As time moved on and the pass became a more dominating weapon, even-front defenses became the rage.
At the high school level, the championships were still being won by teams that could run the ball and stop the run. In our part of the country, the most popular high school offense is the Wing-T. Three-fourths of the teams in our conference run versions of it, including the four teams that have won large-school state championships over the last 10 years.
At Kennedy High School, we have been playing the Slant 50 defense because we believe it is still the best run-stopper in football, and especially against the Wing-T.
Our early experiments with slant techniques were frustrating because neither a "flat" slant nor a "penetrating" one worked consistently well.
In executing the "flat" slant, our players, being good readers, played off the down blocks very well, but their lack of aggressiveness hurt our pass rush.
The "penetration" slant produced the exact opposite results. It improved our aggressiveness and pass rush, but made us easy prey for down blocks as our linemen were seldom able to re-direct after slanting away from the play.
Our slant technique improved when we began to combine shade calls with our slant calls. Our defensive coordinator, Tim Whalen, did an outstanding job with shade technique. He taught our players to attack the "U" of the blocker's neck with their hands and with proper techniques.
We now teach slant technique the same way. Our "attack" slant is directed toward the "U" of the adjacent blocker's neck (as shown in Diag.1).
Advantages of Slant 50
Unobstructed View of Guards: The Wing-T is difficult to defend because of its unique combination of power and deception, and the difficulty that high school linebackers have reading the pulling guards, who are the keys for the defense.
But our linebackers have the advantage of an unobstructed view of the Wing-T guards. Our two-linebacker alignment enables them to see "through" the guards to the fullback. Their angle toward the LOS provides more information about the play being run (Diag. 2).
Noseguard vs Center Matchup: Every Wing-T coach deploys his most agile, athletic lineman at the guard positions. This means the center is, at best, the third best athlete among the offensive linemen. We can always find a noseguard who can defeat the opposing center one-on-one, especially when the NG is slanted.
Since our opponents do not know beforehand in which direction we are going to slant, their blocking scheme must always incorporate an extra blocker on the playside to account for our noseguard.
Quickness vs Sire Matchup: Like most football teams, we never have enough big linemen. But we do have some tough kids who are quick enough to defeat the offensive tackle's block, especially when we put them on the move.
Disguise is an integral part of the Slant 50. Since our opponents cannot predict the direction of our slant, they find it much more difficult to block us or exploit our coverages.
The Slant 50 enables us to slant in either direction and to compensate with our secondary. From one basic alignment, we can play Slant Weak, Cover 3 (Diag. 3), Slant Strong, Cover 2 (Diag. 4), or Blitz with man coverage.
Compatible with Shade Defenses: Slant 50 is extremely compatible with shade defenses (e.g., "over" and "under"). If the situation warrants a shade call, we will simply instruct our players to align in the positions we would ordinarily slant to. (See the shade markings in Diags. 3 and 4.)
Secondary Coverages: Our basic calls are Slant Weak, Cover 3 and Slant Strong, Cover 2, but these coverages are adjustable, depending on hashmark location and the offensive formation.Since we don't like to roll Cover 3 into the short side of the field, we will check a huddle call of Slant Weak, Cover 3 to Cover 2 whenever the offensive formation's strength is into the boundary (Diag. 5).
Against a Wing-T formation, such as the one in Diag. 5, we may choose to rush both ends (five-man rush) when we check to Cover 2. We prefer to be in Cover 3 or man coverage against the base unbalanced formations of Wing-T offenses. Thus, a huddle call of Slant Strong, Cover 2 will be checked to Cover 3 against an unbalanced formation (Diag. 6).
Once again, we are likely to rush both defensive ends (five-man rush) in this situation.
Defending the Wing-T
The classic Wing-T series consists of the three-play combination of Trap, Sweep and Bootleg, which the Slant 50 is uniquely suited to defend.
Fullback Trap: Whether we slant strong or weak, our charge disrupts the trap-blocking scheme. We engage blockers in the path of the ball carrier and prevent blockers from getting to our inside LBs.
Diag. 7 shows that when our noseguard slants away from the Trap, our playside tackle is slanting into it. Our tackle is on a collision course with the trapping-guard, effectively shrinking the hole. Our tackle's charge also prevents the OT from advancing toward our playside LB.
Our playside LB will see both keys that indicate Trap, the down-block by his guard and the mid-line path by the fullback. When the LB steps up to make the tackle, there is no one to block him.
Diag. 8 shows our noseguard slanting into the Trap, attempting to split or stalemate the double-team. Our playside tackle and LB are vulnerable, but help is on the way from the backside. Our slanting backside tackle is right on the heels of the trapping guard, filling the backside A-gap.
Our backside tackle also prevents the OT from blocking our backside LB, who is free to scrape over the noseguard with no blocker in his path. He will get there in a hurry because the trapping guard will take him to the play.
Sweep: Against the Slant 50, it is nearly impossible for Wing-T teams to run Sweep away from the tight end. The defense outflanks the offense.
Toward the tight end, Sweep can be a good or bad play, depending on the direction of our slant. If we get caught slanting away from the tight-end side Sweep (Diag. 9), we are in a bad situation. Our three interior linemen are going in the wrong direction.
Our playside end will engage the opposing tight end, who is attempting to down-block our tackle. Our playside LB, who is in the path of the wingback, can "chip" upfield from our end. Our run-support cornerback will be targeted by their lead pulling guard.
Our backside LB is the one defender they cannot block, and his keys will take him to the play. But he has a lot of ground to cover and he might have to dodge a collision between our playside LB and the wingback.
We need one, or more, of our playside defenders (end, linebacker, cornerback) to defeat their blocker and make a play on the ball-carrier.
Our best situation is when we slant toward the tight-end side Sweep. At least four of our defenders are in great position to make the play. Not the least among these is our backside tackle, who begins with his attack slant toward the backside guard. He will follow that pulling guard and have a great shot at bringing down the ball-carrier for a loss (Diag. 10).
All of our playside linemen (noseguard, tackle, end) will be down-blocked, but their slants will enable then to attack these blocks. Our end is in a great situation at the POA, against the wingback, who is frequently less of a blocker than he is a runner or pass receiver.
Both linebackers will see keys that will move them toward the POA. Our slants will occupy every down-blocker on the playside, preventing those linemen from chipping up to linebacker level. As a result, neither linebacker will be challenged by a blocker.
Our backside LB will initially respond to keys that suggest Trap. As soon as he eliminates the fullback as a ball-carrier, he will be in a perfect position to play the cutback run-through lane.
Our playside LB will be drawn to the Sweep by his pulling guard, who will be looking to kick out our cornerback. Our playside LB will scrape, without interference, to the intended running lane. Many of our linebackers have made this tackle for a loss.
Bootleg: Our Slant 50 pass rush presents unavoidable problems for the Wing-T Bootleg. All five of our defensive linemen are potential rushers, including both ends who outflank the offensive tackles. The only way the offense can account for all of our potential pass rushers is by pulling both guards.
When we are slanting away from the Bootleg (Diag. 11), our playside end will be the, contain rusher. His wide alignment and the lack of a playside run fake enable him to get upfield and contain the QB.
Historically, our most effective pass rusher when we are slanting toward the Bootleg (Diag. 12) is the noseguard. As stated earlier, the playside guard must pull outside to block our DE. Consequently, our noseguard is matched up one-on-one against the center, which is a battle we usually win. Our noseguard's slant also puts him on a direct path toward the QB's launch point.
Whether we are playing Slant Weak, Cover 3 (Diag. 11) or Slant Strong, Cover 2 (Diag. 12), we will have the playside flat and deep route covered. But the route that gives most defenses the worst trouble is the 12-15 yard drag.
Our playside LB has two big advantages in reading this play and covering this route.
First, he has an unobstructed view of the playside guard, who must pull to the outside, because of our alignment.
Second, he has a clear view of the fullback, who will always run a wider path on the Bootleg.
When our LB sees this combination of obvious keys, he will get an early release into his hook-to-curl area -- right where the drag is coming.
The Slant 50 defense rose to prominence two decades ago because of its effectiveness against ground-oriented offenses. As the passing game evolved, so did the defenses. But if you coach in a league like ours, that is dominated by running teams, it may be time to go back to the future.
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|Publication:||Coach and Athletic Director|
|Article Type:||Brief Article|
|Date:||Apr 1, 2000|
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