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by: Lew Johnston
Head Coach, Western Branch High Schoo
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Lew Johnston just completed his 22nd season as head coach for Western Branch High School in Chesapeake, VA. During that time, Johnson's teams compiled a 167-63-3 record with 5 District Championships and one Regional Championship. For the regular seasons 2001-2004, his Western Branch Bruins had a 32 game winning streak. A few years ago, Johnston installed the Shotgun Spread Wing-T package. Since that time, he has spoken at clinics around the country as well as completed a number of videos on this unique offense. He answers your questions about the Shotgun Spread Wing-T.

What were the circumstances that led you to installing the Shotgun Spread Wing-T package? Did you change your existing offense to take advantage of your athletes or did you develop it over time? John Charles, Assistant Coach, Northwest High School (MI). AFM subscriber since 2003.

There were three factors that led us to install the Spread Shotgun Wing-T package. The first was what was happening on the field. In our base Wing-T, we were seeing more and more teams who were familiar with the Wing-T offense and the element of ‘surprise’ was being eliminated. Several other schools saw the success that we were having and they started running it too. It was not a ‘unique’ offense any more. What we saw on the field was more and more players being put in the box to stop the run. It then became increasingly difficult to sustain drives and/or break long runs. We needed a way to get players out of the box.

The second factor was what I call the ‘marketing appeal.’ I saw more and more teams – college and pro – running some form of Shotgun offense. Players, fans, and parents were enamored with the diversity and excitement that the shotgun offenses were creating. Quite frankly, it appealed to our players.It kept the skilled athletes in our high school who may have chosen not to play football because we were just going to ‘grind it out.’ I decided that we could market a new concept that would get our students excited. It worked! We had a 6-5 All-State volleyball player decide to forego his senior year of volleyball to come out for football and play wide receiver. He led the district in receptions.

Finally, and perhaps most significant of all, personnel strengths give you an opportunity to focus on another phase of the Delaware Wing-T system. It is so flexible that you can take a quarterback who is a classic drop back passer and incorporate the Shotgun package into your offense. We had a freshman quarterback who was 6-2 and 230 and had a cannon for an arm. We knew we had a weapon – a classic drop back passer who was smart and threw the ball well. With four years to work with him, I decided we needed to do something to take advantage of his skills. Thus, the Spread Shotgun Wing-T was born.

We didn’t change anything per se except to spread the field with the tight end and wingback moving out wide and the quarterback backing up until he bumped into the fullback. The fullback was then told to step over behind the guard. The quarterback would take one more step back. We still run the Wing-T running plays with the same rules. We also run our ‘quick fire’ passing game from the Shotgun with the same blocking rules and patterns. We also have the same play action passes with everything staying the same. The only ‘new’ concept was a cup protection blocking scheme and patterns that were built around drop back passing. We consider our Spread Shotgun package to be an extension of our base Wing-T package. This way, our players don’t feel like anything new is being added.

Among the various defenses you’ve faced with this offense, particularly the 4-3 and 3-4, which defense gives you the most trouble and what are the keys to making your offense work? Bob Griffiths, Assistant Coach, East HS (AL). AFM subscriber since 2001.

The odd front (3-4 or 5-2) gives us a little more trouble because we really don’t see many odd fronts in our district. Therefore, preparation is a little more difficult. The odd front also forces our cup protection rules to be interpreted differently. When the center is covered and the guards aren’t, it makes identifying the Mike linebacker different. Plus, we normally block ‘big on big’ with our linemen and only the tackles are covered. Now the potential for all five defensive linemen to come poses blocking problems on passes. It also forces our tackle to single block the defensive tackle when we run HB Power to the flexed end side. With no tight end available to double team with our tackle, the tackle takes on the defensive tackle alone.

When you are game planning and preparing for an even or odd front and are unsure of which look you will see, how many audible options do you give your quarterback at the line of scrimmage? Kurt Bryan, Head Coach, Piedmont High School (CA). AFM subscriber since 1997.

Our audibles will depend on how much confidence I have in our quarterback. That is, how well does he know our offense? How well does he know how to attack a certain defense? That will determine how much leeway I give him in changing a play signaled from me on the sideline.

As a general rule, our audibles are a two play call with a “check with me” at the line. For instance, we want to run a fullback trap. But we don’t know which side the defensive tackles will give us a 3 technique or alignment that is on the outside shoulder of our guard. So I will signal in: “124/126 Trap... check with me.” The quarterback repeats that word for word in the huddle.We then get to the line in 100 formation and the quarterback checks the free safety’s alignment (on EVERY play!). He then looks at the defensive line. He sees that they have shifted their defense toward our TE flank (to the right). The quarterback then starts our cadence: “Red (for our ‘hot’ number) 24; Red 24. HIT! Ready Set GO!”

By calling the hot color (Red) the team now knows to listen for the number because that will be the play we are running. We will do the same thing with two different pass patterns when we want to throw the ball. Suppose we are not sure what coverage they will be in. We will then signal in a hitch and a fade. The quarterback checks the alignment of the free safety and the corners, then makes the same audible call at the line to tell the receivers which pattern to run.


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