clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Frost Focus: Just Wingin’ It - The Double Wing Formation

It is back to the future as our film study this week focuses on some vintage Husker football

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 28 Ohio State at Nebraska Photo by Steve Nurenberg/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Welcome back to another edition of Frost Focus. I’ll spare you the preamble this week, as there isn’t much to discuss about the game other than the fact that Nebraska just isn’t quite there yet in contending with a team the caliber of Ohio State. Contending with the Ohio State’s of the college football world will require recruiting and developing excellent athletes that fit our scheme.

Against the Buckeyes, head coach Scott Frost busted out some vintage Tom Osborne circa-1997 Nebraska plays to take advantage of a modern defense’s inability to correctly align and fit against what are becoming increasingly novel formations and plays. Although it was a pretty basic display of vintage Cornhusker offensive football, the array of traps, sweeps, options, and formations created confusion for tOSU and forced Buckeye head coach Ryan Day to call a timeout to regroup and refocus his defensive unit.

Out of the 8 plays on Nebraska’s third drive of the game, beginning at 4:37, 5 of those playcalls were straight outta 1997. Those 5 plays were: Double Wing 36 Trap, Open Left 36 Trap, Pro Right 41 Pitch, Pro Left 38 Option, and Pro Right 34 Trap. If you’re interested in becoming a certified #FootballGuy, you can study and learn Osborne’s 1997 playbook here:

The play I want to focus on this week is the first play of that third drive, Double Wing 36 Trap. The Double Wing formation was used on a regular basis by Osborne in 1997, incorporating a spread element that allowed the Husker offense to run much of its base offense out of a formation and personnel grouping that defenses had trouble aligning to and defending. Although it resembles the Flexbone, the Double Wing differs semantically from the Flexbone, and historically Nebraska never ran the true Triple Option from Double Wing, or the I-Formation for that matter.

After the NIU game, we discussed how 12 personnel creates extra gaps for a defense to account for and defend on a presnap basis. Conversely, the Double Wing formation out of 10 personnel creates gaps postsnap, making the defense’s job much more difficult and demanding a strict adherence to playing disciplined assignment football.

The Double Wing formation is a balanced formation with no true formation strength that provides the offense with a two-way go towards either side of the formation. Based on defensive alignment, this allows the quarterback to read the leverage of the defense at the line of scrimmage and check the play direction to the side that allows the offense to outflank and out-leverage the defense.

In response to Nebraska aligning in Double Wing, Ohio State adjusts by lining up in an 8 man front, with the strong safety aligned tight to the defensive end to fight full-flow against a potential option play. Against shotgun Diamond formations, you will typically see the the defensive backs in soft press or off-man, but the Buckeyes are aligned in press man, with a single high MOFC (Middle of Field Closed) safety in Cover 1.

Nebraska runs the tried & true Inside Trap out of Double Wing, with a little bit of eye candy for the linebackers with the motion from Wan’Dale Robinson. This takes the MIKE away from the aiming point of the play. Although 36 Trap is designed to trap the defensive tackle, when there is a shade nose aligned to the playside of the trap’s point of attack, the trapped defender is the next playside down defender, which is the defensive end. This adjustment was also present in the classic Osborne offense, as Milt Tenopir wrote about this adjustment in his book The Assembly Line.

Although you might think it is downright absurd to be writing about a play that netted a whopping two yards, I think that we will see an expanded series of plays out of Double Wing as the year goes on. Back in the day (Jocko Willink voice for those who are familiar), the Double Wing package included a designed QB keep, 36/34 QB Keep, off of Inside Trap action, as well as an option play off of Inside Trap, 19/11 Wall Option. Below is a video of Nebraska running Double Wing 11 Wall Option to Shevin Wiggins against Tennessee in the 1998 Orange Bowl.

Moving forward it will be interesting to see what elements of the classic Nebraska offense Frost melds into our current one, as there are elements from back in the day that lend themselves to our modern spread-to-run philosophy.