Why Use Wacky Formations?
Gimmick. Stupid. Pointless. Childish. I’ve heard all of these comments at one time or another to describe the presence of “odd” or “wacky” formations when they emerge on game film or throughout the course of a game; but are these comments justified? Do wacky formations have a purpose in today’s game? If so, what practical reason(s) exist? This post explores the value of wacky formations and also shares some of the wacky formations that I have employed/tinkered around with during my coaching career.
One of the big reasons that I choose to employ “wacky formations” is because it forces defenses to play assignment football. Beings that I am a high school coach, I believe running wacky formations has a higher success at our level due to the experience level of many of the players we go against. Wacky formations place pressure on defensive players because they have to apply their formational assignment rules to a formation that they’ve never seen/practiced before. In high leverage/pressure situations, the defenders are forced to analyze the situation and get correctly aligned in a short amount of time. Based on experience, I feel like the odds of defenders being successfully aligned in these unfamiliar situations are very low. Thus, we choose to exploit the odds. Many times, defenses will default to their base coverage/look in times of uncertainty. If this is the case, you can develop formations that place their base coverage/look in a numerical/strategic bind that you can exploit until they figure it out. Remember, all it takes is for one person to mess up their assignment and the stage is set for big plays to occur.
When To Use Them
Every week in my opinion. The more you show on film, the more the opponent has to spend time preparing for. We tend to add one new formation every week to our gameplan. We don’t always use the formation, but we have it in place to use should we choose to deploy it. Additionally, we usually only have a small package of plays that we will run out of each formation. These are usually our best plays or our best plays for getting certain players the ball in successful positions. We try to keep it simple so that our players can play fast and we don’t have to spend a lot of practice time installing and repping the new formation. Another great time to use wacky formations are for 2 point conversion plays. Once again, it forces the defense to align properly in a high leverage situation. Finally, wacky formations are good timeout burners. If you want to put pressure on the opposing coach, come out in a wacky formation (or shift to/from a wacky formation) in situations that they’d least expect it (i.e. third and short). Force the coach to burn a timeout or exploit them for their misalignment. Again, I believe the more you can show on film formationally, the better. Make your opponent earn their money’s worth when they scout you and breakdown film.
One word of caution that I would say when it comes to using wacky formations is that there needs to be a purpose for the formation. Otherwise, why use it? Does the formation give you an advantage or does it put your players in a successful position based on how you think the opponent will align to it? These are the questions you must ask yourself before committing precious practice time to installing new, wacky formations.
Our Wacky Formations
I first used this formation in a section semi-final game my first year at Redwood. Our opponent had a strong core of linebackers and defensive lineman; however, we felt their linebackers were not as strong in their pass drops and coverage skills. The purpose of this formation was to exploit these deficiencies and to (hopefully) reduce the number of players in the box for us to run the football. By the end of the game, we were getting 5-man boxes and having great success running our quarterback. Additionally, early on, we had great success with the stick concept towards our stacked receiver side. We also ran bubble and slip screen out of it as well. Lastly, this formation gave us solo coverage backside where we felt we could exploit a matchup with our best wide receiver.
This is a short-yardage/inside the 5 yard line formation we used sporadically throughout the season. The unbalanced line can often times confuse the defense and give us a numbers advantage to unbalanced side. Additionally, some defenders will forget about the X (who is usually a backup TE) as an eligible receiver. 90% of our action our of this formation is our base run game and play action passes off of them.
This is a formation I stole this past off-season from some coaches at clinics and over Twitter. Most coaches I’ve talked to use this formation as a way to run their quarterback or use play-action/quick game passes during short-yardage situations or 2 point conversions. I’ve seen coaches tinker with tight splits in this formation, but I could also see the value of keeping the splits normal as well. I do believe you need to have some dudes in the backfield (and up front) to make this formation effective. However, I am excited to see how this formation is implemented/altered by coaches in the upcoming season.
Written by Brian Wille