The Wedge

December 13th, 2004

The wedge play and the series built from should be a very important cog is any single wing offenses playbook. When I first researched this offense and play four years ago, I thought it looked like a silly play. I decided to put it in anyway, as I came to the conclusion the coaches suggesting it had much more success and experience than I had. The wedge play is a very simple play that can be built into a very successful series and base offense out of the single wing and double wing formations.

Why Run It?
1) It can be run to a variety of ball carriers on any down and nearly any yardage situation at any spot on the field.
2) It sets up other plays in the series.
3) It can be a power play or a deception play (if you have a small ball carrier)
4) It is surprisingly deceptive
5) It can be used with both strong and weak players at several positions, and a great play to help you guys with minimum play rules.
6) It is very demoralizing to the other team.
7) Your kids will love it and it will end up being their favorite play.
8) When the defense sells out on the wedge or submarines, sets up other plays.
9) Linemen are interchangeable.
10) Backs are interchangeable (on base wedge), great way to get non ball carrier the ball.
11) It is our signature play.

Base Plays
1) Wedge
2) Wedge with Motion/Fake Tailback Spin
3) Fullback Full Spin, Blocking Back Wedge
4) Whacky Wedge (Blocking Back under Center)
5) Blocking Back Wedge (Fake Fumble)
6) Blocking Back Wedge (Fake Tailback Sweep Pass)

Complimentary Plays
1) Buck Wedge
2) Buck Wedge Pass
3) Buck Wedge Reverse
4) Buck Wedge Keep (Fullback Wedge Keep)

Teaching/Drilling the Wedge
Start with a set line with the probable positions, preferably two full lines one in front of the other facing the coach. Tight splits toe-to-toe, guards toes on heels of center.

Progression Drill
We are wedging at the strong guard, he is the point of attack. He always just steps directly forward with fists touching, flippers out at shoulder level, think like the blockers on your old electric football set.

1) From 2-point stance take first step with inside foot towards inside, putting it just behind and inside the outside foot of the man to his inside.

2) From 2-point stance same as above but add the shoulder goes to rib cage of inside player. Inside arm stays in, outside arm/hand goes to outside shoulder of the inside man you are pushing on. This outside arm to outside shoulder along with the leg drive create the push. On go, we slowly take that step to the inside looking for proper foot placement and shoulder to ribs along with outside arm/hand to outside shoulder. Make sure player is staying low and head is up. Ends will have to take more than 1 step to make a good fit, they must be quick.

3) Next progression, do it from a 3-point stance. One step to a good first step only. Again ends will have to take more than one step. Look to make sure we have a very tight fit and “V” look. Do it very slowly, then move up the pace.

4) Next progression, do a 3-point to a wedge fit and then freeze. Here we are looking for shoulder to rib cage, feet placement and hand placement. Make sure all the kids are frozen and you have a tight fit. The wedge has to be tight at its inception.

5) Next progression, do a 3-point. Once you have the tight fit, and have them freeze on it to check for a tight fit, have then take three steps forward on your count, slowly 1, 2, 3, making sure they stay together, strong guard leading. To start your counts will be very very slow. As they progress, make the counts quicker.

6) Next progression, speed up the counts, then get to ten pretty fast. It is never at a run, just quick and methodical. Make sure they stay low. Keep it together for 15 yards.

7) Next, put blocking shield dummy with coach at point of attack, providing resistance, remember your kids are pushing on each other to launch your strong guard into the secondary. They block none, they push on the inside guy next to them. Must stress that they can never break the wedge to block ANYONE.

8) Have the kids close their eyes tightly shut (except for strong guard), and run the entire progression until they can stay with each other against resistance for a ten count. They should be able to stay fit to their counterpart.

Troubleshooting
If your having a tough time keeping the wedge together, make sure you have quick enough kids on the ends, if not make a change. If they still can’t stay together start the drills with only wedging the strong guard with a player on both sides. When you get that down, keep adding players to both sides until all seven are there. I like to put two long dummies about 3 yards in front of the line, perpendicular and tighter than the formation by three feet on both sides. Run the drill and make sure you are getting enough compression to get through the dummies. It needs to look like a “V”. This drill must be done every day, as we found even though we ran the series very well, when we went away from it, the kids struggled with the play.

Backfield
Running the wedge takes a bit of getting used to, it is an art of sorts. It is NOT a dive play; it requires power, patience and acceleration. We start with the fullback getting the snap running right to the back of the strong guard and actually pushing on his back with the free arm with a pretty good shoulder lean. He must STAY IN THE WEDGE until it breaks up. That means no going around either end or looking for an off-tackle bubble. Stay in the wedge, keep your head up and keep your legs pumping and moving forward, until it breaks up, then sprint to daylight. Stay inside; do not run parallel, it either breaks right up the gut or at a very slight angle. Often the daylight does not appear until 10-15 yards downfield, stay in the wedge until you see the daylight, stay patient until then, just staying low and pushing forward. When feeling pressure, both hands over ball. Encourage your backs to think small, they need to stay very low, under the height of the linemen and keep their heads up. We stress to our ball carriers, if they do not stay in the wedge, they do not carry the ball, period. Natural inclination is to break it outside or look for the hole. In the wedge there is no hole, it opens up downfield.

Other Backs
If you have a fake, must carry it out convincingly, if not you do not play. We have to threaten the perimeter with the fakes to keep the ends and linebackers honest as well as the defensive backs. We found we averaged over 12 yards per carry with the motion and tailback half spin, threatening the perimeter versus 6.5 with the base wedge. Double wing would be faking with reverse action and motion to threaten the flanks. We also averaged over 20 yards per carry on the blocking block wedge with full spin fakes.

Many teams have their backs protect the perimeter with blocks, We have tried both and found it much more effective to threaten the perimeter with fakes or having them push on the backs of the tackles to get a bigger surge and create confusion as to who in the pile has the ball. Remember they cannot push on the back of the runner because it is a penalty. Review it and stress it. During our first entire season at 8-10 year old age group with over 275 wedge plays we were called for it once. At 13-14 year old level with about 150 wedge plays we were never called for it.

Notes
Make sure you tell the officials ahead of time that you run the wedge. Let them know that you know it is a penalty to push on the backs of the runner, you have taught your kids not to push on the back of the runner and they do not. Let them know that often the wedge breaks up past the line of scrimmage and please don’t blow a quick whistle as long as there is still movement. Also let them know that sometimes inadvertent whistles get blown on the play and that they need to make sure they see the player down before they blow the whistle, as you run lots of misdirection off the play. We have film of our blocking back tapping the official on the back in the end zone to hand him the ball, as the official is following our fullback.

In practice, you can’t really run the wedge against your own kids. It is very demoralizing and too much to ask, lots of kids will not be there the next day if you run it live. Run it on air or with a coach providing resistance at the point of attack.

If your opponent submarines (it is the ONLY way to defend the wedge), tell your kids not to get uptight about it. Have your kids keep their knees high and step on defenders. Most teams believe it or not never submarine. Many will put everyone up tight and have the linebackers moving toward the line of scrimmage at the snap. Some did 10 man lines (not for long) and many just yelled at their kids and got mad.

Our most successful strategy when the wedge was not working well has been to go to the buck wedge, off-tackle, sweep or buck wedge pass. We then go back to the wedge. We scored 3 or 4 times on the first play of the game running the “Wacky Wedge”. It only worked a few times before we went back to the base offense. This play also worked very well at the 11-12 year olds and 13-14 level out of our double wing formation. This is the play where we put our blocking back under center with his hands on the center’s hams. We line our fullback and tailback foot-to-foot with the fullback right behind center at about 2 yards, we have the center snap through the “quarterback’s” legs to our fullback who runs wedge. The tailback and “quarterback” run to right as an option look.

Be prepared to get a lot of funny looks from your parents and players when you start running this. You have to sell them on the play and rep the heck out of it. The reward will be on game days as you methodically crush down the field with one play, the next series scoring on the buck wedge, or buck wedge pass untouched. The other teams will be talking about your “middle play”, coaches will complain about it, opposing players will fear it and hate it. Your kids will love it after the initial discomfort.

Word to the wise, it needs to be repped 10 minutes every day, we were running it perfectly year one and got away from practicing it every day and it hurt us. Once we went back to every day, everything was fine. My personal fall teams at the 8-10 year old level have been 41-1 since we put in the offense and I have never coached the same team twice. This included big select teams, average or less B squads and even a weak tiny all rookie team. You do not need big kids.

Play Descriptions
We line up in a typical unbalanced single wing except we have our tailback and fullback at 2 to 2-1/2 yards away. It is much more deceptive this way and a much safer snap. We also have our center snap low. The fullback, tailback and blocking back must have the tips of their fingers actually touching the ground. This makes the snap harder to see and gives the center a good low target.

Base-SW

Base Wedge

Snap to fullback. He puts his left hand in the right guard’s back, the tailback runs sweep right, dipping inside shoulder, the blocking back pushes on the center’s back, and the wingback pushes on the outside tackle’s back.

Base-Wedge

Tailback Spin

Snap to the fullback with the wingback in motion, the tailback spins counter-clockwise fakes handoff to the motioning wingback and both backs dip inside shoulder and run hard “rocking the cradle” to opposite edges, while the blocking back pushes on back of center.

TB-Spin-Wedge

Buck Wedge

This is a big back breaker play. Same as Base Wedge except at the snap the blocking back turns and faces opposite goal line, he crouches low and puts both arms in an underhand scoop type position. As the fullback runs by he hands the football to the blocking back who gains depth and runs a sweep around the right end. The tailback runs right, just like regular wedge and takes out the cornerback. The wingback seals the end inside, everyone else wedge blocks. This play is so much easier and safer than the buck lateral series and takes no time at all to put in. It is a killer.

Buck-Wedge

Buck Wedge Pass

We ran this in 2003 and went 15-20 for 9 touchdowns. We averaged over 20 yards per attempt. Same play as above except the fullback looks backside after he hands to the blocking back. The tailback takes the right defensive end, the wingback takes an angle inside in order to block the outside linebacker, but at the last second before impact, steps to outside corner pattern. This gets him away from the corner and behind him. Then we just tell him to run to the corner, away from the safety. Usually there is no one even close. You can put your right end into a delay into the flat, but you only really need one receiver. Have your blocking back take four steps getting depth and some width, step and throw. It is about a 15-yard pattern.

Buck-Wedge-Pass

Buck Wedge Fake

Same as Buck Wedge except we have the fullback keep and run wedge. The blocking back turns and fakes running sweep. Great play if you run the Buck Wedge a few times and this play takes no time to put in. It is a free play, if you will.

Buck-Wedge-Fake

Blocking Back Wedge Plays

We run several and they are big plays for us. They almost look like draw plays because everyone runs by the ball carrier. We do the traditional fullback full spin blocking back wedge. We also fake our tailback sweep pass with the wingback going on a corner route with his hand raised and everyone following him. Meanwhile the tailback has his arm back and shoulder shielding the fact that does not have ball. The fullback fakes sweep.

FB-Spin-Wedge

TB-Sweep-Fake

Our other blocking back wedge play is where both our fullback and tailback dive like there was a bad snap. Everyone else wedges with our wingback going on another fake corner route.

Wacky-Wedge

Remember your blocking back has to move over so he is right behind the right guard, even a hair more towards the center, and maybe a half step back of his normal depth. The center needs to just lob it low at an angle and let the blocking back catch it. It sounds much more difficult than it really is.

You guys are really missing out if you do not run both the fullback and blocking back wedges or the big hitting Buck Wedge series.

Dave Cisar
President
Screaming Eagles
Omaha, Nebraska
www.screamingeaglefootball.com

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