When most people think of a balanced offense, they think of a relatively even percentage of yards gained rushing to yards gained passing. However, I think of this term in a different way. I think of a balanced offense as one that can give you the plays you need to get a first down or to win a game, regardless of the statistics involved. As a side note here, I will mention that last year the New England Patriots achieved a record number of victories in a row and won the Super Bowl although they ranked 27th in the NFL in yardage gained rushing. When that team needed a running play, apparently they often chose one on which their players could do an efficient job.

Now I will go through a single wing offense, discussing which plays I might use to achieve the desired result. Since most of the readers of this article are familiar with my new book, Winning Single Wing Football, I will designate plays by name and also mention the pages or chapters where I have discussed them in my book.

Let’s begin with what we might use in short yardage when we want to make a first down or a touchdown. For me the fullback wedge (pp.44-45) and the off-tackle (Play No.48, pp.35-36) would be two of the plays that I would choose first.

If the defense was jammed to the inside, or featuring a lot of blitzes by the linebackers, I would want to use something that would get outside in a hurry: e.g., the end run (Play No.49, pp.36-37), the solo play (pp.45-46), the fullback or zip sweep (pp.88-89), or play No.79, the running pass (pp.62-63). I do not say these are the only choices I might make, but at least they are intelligent ones.

If there was a big gap in the defensive line, I would turn to seam bucks (pp.41-45). If you face a looping line, you might think about using the fullback wedge, regardless of down and distance.

When you positively have to run the ball, you must find plays that will get the job done. Please see my discussion on pp.110-111 “Stay With What’s Successful.”

Remember that if you are running an effective single wing offense, you will be posing a dangerous threat to the strongside with end runs, off-tackle plays, running passes, and the like. For this reason, many teams will use some sort of an overshift to defend against you. Therefore, you must be able to run effectively either an inside reverse (Play No.43 pp.38-39), or an outside reverse (Play No.21 power, pp.40-41), or the solo play (pp.45-46), or the fullback weakside attack featuring option or sweep (pp.88-90).

If your opponent is slow to set up a defense against your left formation, you should think about running something on a quick count like an end run or Q sweep (p.89).

If you are having trouble during a game, you might think about using a variation of the basic formation that you have prepared that week (see chapter eight). In addition, sometimes a blocking back false key play will help you get started (see chapter 10).

When you must make a first down, a good suggestion might be the pro pass (p.60) or delay 8 pass (p.71). If you are faced with a 2-deep defense I would suggest a play like 80-divide wing (p.69). Against a man-for-man secondary defense, I would choose a play like 80-2 cross (p.68) or 30-ends cross pass (p.70). When teams start rotating their secondary on wingback motion, you should think about 20 counter pass (pp.69-70) or the 21 double reverse (pp.54-55).



If you are faced with an aggressive pass rush, you might think about the Statue (p.75-76), the fullback screen (p.75), or the draw play (p.73).

Most teams will usually run the ball on first down. To counter this tendency, for an action pass on first down I would suggest 30-ends cross pass (p.70), the basic reverse pass (Play No.40 pp.65-66), or 99-8 cross pass (pp.63-64).

Every coach wants to have in his arsenal a “big play” that can change the momentum of a game. A few of my suggestions would be option trans (pp.90-91), 21 double reverse (pp.54-55), q sweep (pp.113-114), 40 throwback pass (p.66), or the fake quick kick handback (pp.82-83). For the all-important two point PAT plays you might think about 3x option (p.90), 99-8 cross pass (pp.63-64), solo pass (p.72), or the running pass (Play No.79, pp.62-63).

In my opinion, a coach must have at least one variation ready for a game. On p.95 I have a brief discussion of what a simple variation, end over, can do for you with a basic play. (See Conclusion to Chapter 8.)

I hope these suggestions, in the form of a work sheet, will give you some helpful ideas on how to achieve a balanced, effective offense. If you get only one useful idea, it will be worthwhile.

Good luck this season.
Coach Ken Keuffel

Interview: Ken Hofer

July 29th, 2004

U.P. Power!

Coach Ken Hofer has been practicing the single wing for over 30 years. His Menominee Maroons are a perennial powerhouse in Michigan’s Upper Penninsula. In 1998, the Maroons captured Hofer’s first state championship.

Menominee, Michigan is city of about 10,000 people located on the Wisconsin and Michigan border. On the Wisconsin side of the border, Marinette resides. High school football is taken very seriously in the Twin Cities. They have been squaring off since 1894.

Hofer is a member of the Michigan High School Coaching Association Hall of Fame.

He has been a mentor to me in regards to helping me understand the fundamentals of the single wing offense. Hofer’s version of the single wing is a balanced line with multiple backfield alignments.

I want to thank Coach Hofer for his time and contribution to this interview.

Direct Snap: Where do you coach currently?
Ken Hofer: Menominee H.S, Menominee, MI

DS: How long have you been coaching football?
KH: Too long — since 1964 with a three year break.

DS: Where else have you coached?
KH: Stephenson H.S, Stephenson, MI

DS: Record there?
KH: 6-9-2

DS: Your record at Menominee?
KH: Secret!

DS Note: In his career, Coach Hofer has accumulted over 200 wins.

DS: Who are/were your mentors?
KH: Ken Kueffel, John Aldrich

DS: Could you tell us about your trip to Wabash College back in the 60’s and your visit with Dr. Keuffel.
KH: He is a special human being who is always ready to help any coach. He spent two days taking the time to teach me the offense. I’m very grateful to him.

DS: Have you always coached the single wing?
KH: No

DS: Before running the single wing, what offense did you run?
KH: Pro-Set, I will say no more.

DS: When did you switch to the single wing?
KH: 1965

DS: Why do you run the single wing?
KH: Diversified offense that gives opposing coaches headaches.

DS: Do you prefer the power or the deception of the single wing?
KH: Yes but no. Power serves it’s purpose but the spin series adds deception.

DS: What kind of stuff do you like to run — power, spinner, buck lateral?
KH: We run all of it except the buck lateral.

DS: What alignment(s) do you utilize in your single wing?
KH: Everything possible.

DS: You are one of the few single wing coaches who employs a balanced line. You didn’t start this way. Could you give us an inside look as to why you went in this direction.
KH: It was much easier to read defenses from the balanced line and to have the guards pull on our power play.


DS: What are your bread and butter plays?

KH: Our “blast” and “short option”.

DS Note: Menominee speak…Power = 2 pulling guards; Blast = 1 pulling guard; short option is the traditional sweep run/pass option play.




DS: Any plays in your playbook that are very effective that might be new to us?
KH: No, I too copy.

DS: What positions and skills do you think are the most difficult to teach and coach in the single wing?
KH: Center and the spinning fullback.

DS: Any advice for coaching the centers in this offense.
KH: Go into it with and open mind and patience. You’ll enjoy it because there is so much variation.

DS: Do you have any specific areas where your teams have the most difficult executing?
KH: The weakside attack most difficult without a good wingback.

DS: Is it difficult to keep running the single wing in today’s football?
KH: No, it’s more interesting.

DS: If you could change your single wing to another single wing, which/whose would you run?
KH: None, except I would love to run the buck lateral with precision.

DS: When you attend football clinics, what do you try to get out of it from a single wing perspective?
KH: There are always new ideas.

DS: Advice for beginning single wing coaches?
KH: Keep it very basic until you are comfortable with change.

DS: Do you try to keep the single wing a secret?
KH: As much as possible.

DS: Did you attending this year’s Single Wing Symposium?
KH: Yes I did.

DS: Do you have a favorite single wing player or team? Please tell us about him or the team.
KH: Not really.

DS: Favorite coaching moment?
KH: Maroons 35 Kingsford 29 — OT (1997)

DS: Your team won the state championship in 1998. Why is the Kingsford game your faorite moment? Does this have anything to do with beating your son Chris, who is the head coach at Kingsford?
KH: It was a very exciting game in comparsion to our win at the dome.

DS: Could you explain the phenomenon known as the M&M Game.

DS: How do you feel about the M&M Game. You’ve coached in a bunch, what does the game mean to you?
KH: Very exciting, tough on the nerves, good for the communities. It’s fantastic series, constant homecoming.

DS: Menominee is in Michigan’s Upper Penninsula. I think there is a certain pride and/or character when we say U.P. football. To me it means underdog. But it also means tough football and kids. During the playoffs, the other schools all rally behind each other. Could you explain U.P. football.
KH: You did all that for me, I couldn’t have said it better.

DS: How do you prepare for Lower MI opponents in the playoffs, and how much do you enjoy beating them.
KH: Prepare the same way as always but it’s more exciting because of all the interest.

DS: Could you also explain the scheduling challenges you face each year.
KH: The U.P. is a Class C area and therefore it makes it very difficult to schedule, however we have bus and will travel.

DS: Do you ever feel any pressure from the community, even with your success, that maybe the single wing has seen better days? Has your success the last 4 years squelched any of these rumblings.
KH: I’ve been very fortunate as the young men on the Maroon teams have always given their best effort and this has helped the program stay strong.

DS: What football coach(es) do you admire? Why? Ideas, admire, or just like to watch?
KH: Ones who will schedule the Maroons for a new experience for their players.

DS: Do you enjoy watching the NFL? Why?
KH: Yes. I enjoy watching talented players and coaches.

DS: Reading List?
KH: Don’t really have one, but I enjoy all of the informative articles on football.

DS: How can you be reached?
KH: (906) 863-3393

DS: Anything you would want to see on Direct Snap?
KH: Go Maroons!!!

DS: Anything else you would like to add?
KH: Not really, but to wish you the best of luck on this venture. I know you’ll be succesful because of who you are — a nice, articulate, bright young man — but mostly because you’re a MAROON.

Snap & Go!
adam_wesoloski at yahoo.com

A Brief History and Update

This is a brief examination of one of the most interesting direct-snap offenses I have yet encountered — the “A” formation that Steve Owen invented and coached with the New York Giants from the late 1930’s to the early 1950’s.


In his 1952 autobiography My Kind of Football, Coach Owen described how the A formation came about:

I had the idea for the A formation from the first time I saw Link Lyman [a tackle for the Chicago Bears in the 1930’s who experimented with varying his splits when he lined up on defense] slide off from the customary tackle position. He showed me what line splits could achieve.

I worked out the formation first in 1935 but did not use it until 1937, against the Redskins in Washington…we finished second in ‘37 and went with the A all the way in ‘38 to win the world title by defeating Green Bay 23-17. But I am not going to claim the A did it all — we had a bunch of mighty good players, who would have been stars in any formation.

My theory behind the A was this: I wanted to spread without losing concentrated attacking power, and yet keep the defense scattered along a wide front so that it could not jam in on us at any point.

To do this I hit on the idea of deploying my line strong to one side, and my backs strong to the other side. So far as I know this was an original formation.

In the A, the line shows four men to the right of center and two to the left. But in the backfield the weight is to the left of center, with the wingback out on the left flank. The formation can be run in the other direction, with line strong to the left and backs heavy to the right. The A exaggerates the effect of a split line, to carry the spread into the backfield.

When first introduced, we did not use the man-in-motion before the snap, but that factor was soon developed for Ward Cuff. From wingback he moved toward the slot between left half [quarterback] and fullback, with the timing to arrive there as the left half spun to make his fakes or hand offs. This reverse alone made Cuff one of the great backs of football.

When we first experimented with the A we had used the standard single wing, and in practice we called my new system A and the single wing B. After noting the possibilities the new formation opened up, we thought it should rightly head the alphabet as A, and we forgot about B and the other twenty-four letters as well.

Coach Owen added that the A formation was also excellent for quick-kicking. (My Kind of Football - Joe King, ed.: David McKay, New York, 1952.)

Steve Owen’s teams were always known for their defense, and were generally composed of two-way players. Both of these facts limited his capacity to explore the outer limits of A formation football, in my opinion. I have taken his concepts and added some modern passing ideas from both the Mouse Davis school of Run and Shoot football, and from the Bunch Attack that has been popularized recently by Andrew Coverdale and Dan Robinson. (Readers of my Wild Bunch, Spread Option Run and Shoot, and Modern TCU Spread playbooks will not be surprised to hear this.)

Having supplanted the single wing as the Giants’ offense in 1937, the A formation outlasted it in the NFL by some two years; the Pittsburgh Steelers abandoned the single wing in 1952, and the Giants dropped both Owen and the A in 1954.

As I have already said, I think Steve Owen is hugely underrated as an offensive innovator. His half spin series from the A formation — taken straight from the pages of the 1956 book that he co-authored with former Giants receiver Ray Pelfrey (The Passing Game: Offensive and Defensive for Coaches and Players: Wm. C. Brown, Dubuque, Iowa, 1956) — is at least the equal of anything I have seen for the Warner Single or Double Wings or Ducth Meyer’s TCU Spread in terms of deception and multiplicity of threats.

This paper was intended to inspire innovation among coaches who are not afraid to borrow from the past as they try to devise football’s future. I hope that in writing this paper, I will have accomplished that.

For the entire paper, please e-mail me at [email protected]

It’s the Spin That Wins!
Ted Seay
seayee at hotmail dot com

There have been some excellent articles posted to Direct Snap on why coaches should consider running the single wing offense, and on how best to do so — but what about the origin of the offense itself? As it turns out, there is at least some controversy about who invented the single wing, but there is no doubt whatsoever about why the two rival claimants did so — to attack off-tackle.

In his 1927 text book Football For Coaches & Players, Glenn Scobey “Pop” Warner devotes an entire chapter to what he calls “Formation A” — or what we know as the unbalanced-line single wing. (Note: Coach Steve Owen later developed an “A” formation with the New York Giants, about which I hope to write in a future Direct Snap article. Just to confuse things, though, Owen called the Warner single wing his “B” formation.)

Warner on the single wing:

[The Single Wing] probably has been copied more by other coaches than has any other formation ever developed, and it has come to be the most generally used. I have used this formation or variations of it ever since pushing and pulling the runner was prohibited in 1906…When the rules were changed to prevent pushing the runner, there was no more reason for the backs being massed….so it became advisable to put one of the backs in a position to flank a tackle, thus, by making the back in a way a part of the line, giving the line an eight-man front.

In other words, the single wing was created for the sole purpose of double-teaming the defender sitting in or near the off-tackle hole. See the diagram for a standard defense in Warner’s day and the off-tackle play as he diagramed it in his book.


Of course, this is Warner’s version of the birth of the single wing — and written 21 years after the fact. A rival contender in the Midwest would also lay claim to the title of Father of the single wing, and not without a good case. He was, however, the single most hated coach in college football (at least until the age of John Jenkins at the University of Houston in the late 1980’s), despite — or partially because of — an unprecedented eleven straight undefeated seasons as head coach. At North Dakota Agricultural College in 1906-07, and at the University of Washington from 1908-16, Gil Dobie never lost a game. Just to drive the point home, he then led Cornell to another three straight undefeated seasons — 1921-23 — at a time when the Ivy League still played real football. (In fact, Dobie’s 1921 and 1922 teams were national champions.)

Beyond having a generally miserable disposition, Dobie specifically resented Warner’s claim to be the sole inventor of the single wing offense. He also claimed to have tinkered with his offense in 1906 following the massive rule changes mandated by President Teddy Roosevelt, and to have come up with the idea of a tightly-flanked back just outside the offensive end, for the exact same purpose that Warner had in mind — attacking the off-tackle hole. As Edwin Pope wrote in his 1955 classic Football’s Greatest Coaches:

Dobie was at once the finest precisionist and the toughest coach in history. Through the first quarter of the twentieth century, power football was god, and Dobie was its prophet. He took pleasure in two things: correct execution of the off-tackle play, and his family.

“In that order,” one is tempted to add.

I tend to believe that both Warner and Dobie are correct; that the single wing was a case of parallel evolution, just as decades later a number of coaches, including Lou Little at Columbia and Davey Nelson at Iowa, would experiment with flanking a T-formation halfback to create what we now know as the Wing-T.

Oddly enough, the earliest material I can find that includes coaching contributions from both Warner and Dobie — an October 1916 article in The American Boy magazine called “Great Football Plays by Great Football Coaches” — features a punt formation play sequence by Warner — and a T formation quarterback sweep from Dobie! The mystery continues…

It’s the Spin That Wins!
Ted Seay
seayee at hotmail dot com

8 Reasons

July 2nd, 2004

8 Reasons Why The Single Wing is Superior to Other Youth League and High School Offensive Systems

1. It is Radical. Odds are good that no one else in the league runs anything remotely like it. That makes it hard to prepare for. On top of that, how much luck do you think the opposing team will have simulating it in practice with their scout team? Since nearly all the books on this offense are out of print, it’s a major challenge to get information on how to defend it.

2. It is Tested. Coaches have been developing, refining and polishing the single wing offense for nearly a century. How many offenses can you say that about? You can run more effective and complimentary series out of one or two formations with the single wing than perhaps any other offense. Considering the fact that so few teams run the single wing, the number that have recently won high school state championships (or have placed in the top four with it is nothing short of amazing. Plus, there have been many single wing youth teams winning championships and breaking scoring records in recent years.

3. It is Powerful. In the single wing, players are not wasted just taking the snap and handing off. Everyone is either a blocker or carries out a meaningful fake. What play could possibly be more powerful than the single wing tailback wedge, a 9-man wedge with the fullback as a lead blocker? How about a weak side power play with 5 lead blockers? And in the single wing, the power sweep is really the POWER sweep.

4. It Promotes Toughness and a Team First Attitude. Since there are no prima donna positions like quarterback and wide receiver, there are no excuses for any player’s failure to make the block he is assigned to make. Physical and mental toughness is demanded of everyone. You are not forced to have the quarterback be the field general. The natural leaders on the team can assume the leadership roles regardless of their position.

5. It is Deceptive. The single wing coaches of yester-year invented the hidden ball trick. The ball handler (which could be any of the backs) does not need to stick the ball into the belly of a runner that he is faking to. On most single wing fakes he has his back turned to the defense and the other back(s) carry out the fakes. Single wing misdirection plays are legendary, and with wrong-way blocking schemes you can make it nearly impossible for the defenders to read keys. Plus, you have the unique element of snap deception, where the defense’s attention is drawn to player(s) who never even touch the ball on the play. On top of that, the play action passing is especially deceptive because you will naturally use players at 3 (maybe even 4) positions as passers.

6. It Can Bring Exceptional Striking Power Anywhere Along the Defensive Front. The tailback half spin and shallow motion series can bring tremendous power to the weak side in a hurry. The tailback half spin is essentially a jet sweep, fullback delay, waggle combination with a snap deception quick fullback wedge to go with it. The single wing power series can attack the strong side directly both outside and off-tackle and the wedge plays up the middle can be almost unstoppable.

7. It Forces Radical Adjustments. Since in the normal single wing formation there are seven players on the offensive strong side, the defense cannot line up in their base set. If they do, they will be overpowered. Even if they shift everyone over by one man, they are still numerically inferior on the strong side. The degree to which you force adjustments creates situations where the defense will eventually make an adjustment that is unsound, leaving them wide open for a direct attack at their weakest point.

8. It is fun! What is more fun than having your backs running untouched through the secondary because the defenders cannot find the ball? What gives a team more confidence than knowing that they will not be stopped in a short yardage situation? What kid does not get a huge level satisfaction out of daring to be different, being part of a unique team, carrying on one of football’s greatest legacies and dominating on the field in the process?

Eric Strutz
Head Coach
Stateline Comets
Richmond, IL