Ultimate Guide to American Football Double Wing Formation: Origins, Plays, and Youth Success

Ashley Hopkinson

Football Double Wing Formation

In the intricate world of American football, the double wing formation stands out for its unique strategy and execution. Unlike the flashy passing offenses that dominate highlight reels, the double wing relies on intelligent, consistent playcalling to methodically advance the ball.

This formation minimizes the emphasis on individual heroics, instead focusing on maintaining ball control and executing a relatively small number of plays with precision.

The double wing isn’t a come-from-behind offense; it’s a grind-it-out approach that demands patience and discipline. Playcallers must avoid risky, “heroic” calls that could jeopardize their team’s position.

Instead, they need to focus on keeping the ball rolling, making smart, incremental gains. Understanding the nuances of this formation can be the difference between a well-oiled offensive machine and a sputtering, ineffective unit.

Origins of the Double Wing Formation

The double wing formation has deep roots in American football strategy. It’s a system known for its effective utilization of running plays and tight formations.

Historical Development

The double wing formation evolved over several decades, beginning in the early 20th century. It gained popularity in high school and college programs due to its simplicity and effectiveness.

Initially, teams used it to maximize the impact of versatile players capable of running and blocking. The formation’s flexibility allowed for various strategic adaptations, making it a staple for many teams seeking a balanced offensive attack.

Key Contributors

Several coaches played pivotal roles in the formation’s development and popularity. Key figures include Pop Warner, who is often credited with early adaptations that integrated the double wing into competitive play.

His innovations in the 1920s and 1930s set the groundwork for contemporary applications. Another significant contributor, Don Markham, modernized the technique in the late 20th century, leading his teams to numerous victories using this formation.

His success demonstrated the enduring relevance of the double wing in football strategy.

Characteristics of the Double Impact Wing Formation

The double wing formation emphasizes power running and tight spacing, offering a blend of offensive versatility and precise execution.

Offensive Strategy

Coaches use the double wing to dominate time of possession and control the tempo. This formation creates multiple run options, often confounding defenses. It requires disciplined blocking schemes where each player has a specific role.

The balanced attack can switch between inside and outside runs, keeping defenses guessing. Quick-hitting plays, traps, and misdirection runs are staples, allowing the offense to exploit gaps and weaknesses.

Formation Layout

The layout of the double wing formation features a tight end, two wingbacks, and a fullback close to the line of scrimmage. The quarterback stands under center, ensuring quick handoffs.

The offensive line is compact, increasing blocking efficiency and minimizing gaps for defensive penetration. Wingbacks positioned just outside the tackle add versatility, ready to lead block or carry the ball on sweeps or pitches.

This tight, cohesive structure hinders defensive reads and facilitates effective trapping and power-running plays.

Advantages of the Double Wing Formation

The Double Wing formation is favored by youth football coaches and professionals because it enhances the run game and offers versatile play-calling options that can adapt to different defensive strategies.

Strength in Run Game

The Double Wing formation excels in the run game by maximizing blocking and minimizing defensive penetration. Running backs and offensive linemen work in sync to create numerous running lanes, resulting in consistent yard gains and sustained offensive momentum.

  • Power Running: This formation focuses on power running, using tight formations to launch concentrated, powerful runs that challenge defensive lines.
  • Multiple Run Options: Coaches utilize the double wing’s structure to exploit various run options, including traps and sweeps, confusing defenders and creating unpredictability.
  • Ball Control: Continuous and effective runs dominate time of possession, allowing teams to control game tempo and wear down opposing defenses.

Versatility in Play Calling

The Double Wing formation offers unmatched versatility in play-calling, allowing coaches to adapt strategies based on in-game scenarios. This flexibility is particularly effective for youth football, where quick adaptation often leads to success.

  • Formation Flexibility: The Double Wing can seamlessly transition into modern Spread formations (22 or 21 sets), retaining core play elements while introducing new dynamics.
  • Play Variety: Coaches can call a wide range of plays from this formation, including passes, reverses, and screens, leveraging the deception and compact alignment.
  • Adaptability: This adaptable formation counters various defensive setups, ensuring that teams can respond to different defensive pressures and schemes effectively.

These inherent advantages make the Double Wing formation a compelling choice for teams seeking a balanced, control-oriented offensive strategy.

The formation’s design not only strengthens the run game but also expands play-calling flexibility, giving teams a tactical edge on the field.

Challenges of the Double Wing Formation

The double wing formation, while powerful, presents unique challenges for teams.

Defensive Counterstrategies

Defenses have developed strategies to counter the double wing formation by targeting gaps and using blitzes to disrupt play development. Linebackers and defensive ends focus on backfield movements, requiring precise execution from the offense.

Aggressive front-seven alignments and extra defenders near the line of scrimmage are used to stop the power runs essential to the double wing.

Adaptability in Modern Football

Modern football’s pace and varied playstyles require adaptability, which challenges the double wing formation. Its reliance on running plays can lead to predictability against versatile defenses. Teams need to use misdirection and play-action passes to stay unpredictable.

The formation’s tight spacing may also restrict offensive flexibility compared to spread-out formations. Coaches must innovate and adapt to defensive adjustments to keep the double wing effective.

The double wing formation emphasizes disciplined, consistent playmaking to advance the ball effectively. Combining core running plays and strategic passing options helps maintain this stability and keep defenses guessing.

Core Running Plays

Core running plays in football, especially in the double wing formation, capitalize on the offensive line’s skills to create holes for the ball carrier, enhancing the team’s offensive capability. Here is an overview of a few crucial running plays:

  • Power Sweep: The power sweep remains a staple. The offensive line creates a wall to lead the way for the ball carrier, who follows the pulling guards around the edge.
  • Trap Play: Utilizing misdirection, the trap play involves luring defenders inside before a quick handoff to a running back cutting through a suddenly open gap.
  • Counter Play: The counter play misleads the defense, starting with movement in one direction before handing off to a back running the opposite way.
  • Sprint Sweep: As seen in Sprint 38 Reach, this play mimics a speed sweep from other formations but fits within the double wing setup. The play is executed with precision, utilizing a motioning wingback to gain an outside edge.

Passing Routes

In football, passing routes are specific paths receivers follow to receive a pass from the quarterback, aiming to exploit defensive weaknesses or enhance offensive strategy. These routes can be used in various offensive formations, such as the double wing.

  • Drag Route: Tight ends frequently run drag routes across the middle. The quarterback targets them after a structured progression, looking for openings in the defensive coverage.
  • Flag Route: Wingbacks often run deep flag routes. The move begins with a fake inside step before breaking towards the sideline, aiming to stretch and exploit the defensive secondary.
  • Deep In Route: Known as “Z,” this receiver runs a deep in route, providing an intermediate target. The quarterback needs precise timing to hit the receiver cutting into open space.
  • Swing Route: Fullbacks execute swing routes, moving parallel to the line of scrimmage before turning upfield. This route serves as a safety valve for the quarterback, offering a quick release option under pressure.

Each play in the double wing formation leverages strategic positioning and disciplined execution. Blending these running and passing tactics allows teams to sustain drives and adapt to evolving defensive schemes.

Double Wing Formation in Youth Football

The double wing formation in youth football emphasizes power running and disciplined execution. This section expands on teaching fundamentals and examines successful case studies.

Teaching Fundamentals

Coaches start by instructing players on the fundamentals of blocking, stance, and ball handling. Blocking should be aggressive and accurate to open up running opportunities.

Players need to master their stance for balance and quick movement. Ball handling drills focus on minimizing fumbles and enhancing ball security.

Key drills include:

  • Blocking Drills: Teach linemen to engage defenders quickly.
  • Stance Drills: Ensure players maintain low, balanced positions.
  • Ball Handling Drills: Focus on secure handoffs and carrying techniques.

Case Studies of Success

Numerous youth teams have thrived using the double wing formation. A notable example is the 2015 Dallas Junior Patriots, who used this formation to dominate leagues with an undefeated season.

They employed a mix of traditional double wing plays and modern variations, confusing defenses with their diverse playbook.

Another success story is the 2018 Chicago Wildcats. They adapted the double wing to include misdirection plays and play-action passes, which led them to a regional championship. These adaptations show the double wing’s versatility and effectiveness when executed correctly.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a double wing formation in football?

The double wing formation lines up a center, two guards, two tackles, two tight ends, and two wingbacks. It is designed for power running and tight formations, making it a robust offensive scheme.

Who initially popularized the double wing formation?

The double wing formation was popularized by strategic minds like Pop Warner and Don Markham. Don Markham is particularly noted for using the double wing-T formation in 1972 at LA Baptist High School.

How is the double wing formation used in youth football?

In youth football, the double wing formation emphasizes power running and fundamentals like blocking, proper stances, and ball handling. It helps in teaching young players core football skills effectively.

Are there successful case studies of youth teams using the double wing formation?

Yes, the 2015 Dallas Junior Patriots and the 2018 Chicago Wildcats are notable examples. These teams demonstrated the formation’s effectiveness, combining traditional power running with modern misdirection plays and play-action passes.


The double wing formation remains a formidable strategy in American football, blending historical roots with modern adaptations. Its focus on power running and disciplined execution makes it an effective choice for teams at all levels.

Youth teams, in particular, benefit from its ability to teach fundamental skills while achieving on-field success. Whether used by seasoned strategists or young athletes, the double wing continues to prove its versatility and effectiveness.

As teams evolve, the formation’s adaptability ensures it will remain a staple in playbooks for years to come. Coaches often praise the double wing for its ability to control the clock and manage the game tempo.

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Ashley Hopkinson

Ashley Hopkinson is an esteemed American Football coach at South Gloucestershire and Stroud College. With a passion for the game and a dedication to mentoring young athletes, Ashley has played a pivotal role in developing the college's football program. His expertise and motivational skills have not only enhanced players' performances on the field but also fostered a strong team spirit and work ethic. Under his guidance, the team has achieved significant success, reflecting his commitment to excellence and sportsmanship. LinkedIn

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