Friday, January 11, 2013

The Evolution of the Delaware Wing-T Belly Series

Any Wing-Ter worth his salt loves the Fullback Belly play.  Along with the Buck Sweep the Fullback Belly is what many Wing-T coaches have hung their hat on for many years.  The Fullback Belly or the 83/87 XB (Cross-block) in the Delaware Wing-T terminology has made many fullbacks one thousand yard rushers over its history.

In this article, I  am going to take a look at the history and evolution of the Fullback Belly play.  According to legendary Georgia Tech Coach Bobby Dodd's book titled, Bobby Dodd on Football, published in 1954, the "T" Formation was "re-introduced" to football in the 1950s.  Football teams across the nation, "began to use the 'T' formation with great success."  The "T" formation placed three running backs behind the quarterback in a straight line across the formation.  The first series of plays that Coach Dodd talks about is the 90 Series.  According to the book,

the 90-series of plays is a quick hitting series that is designed for straight blocking and that is effective against almost any defense.  Very good deception can be obtained by incorporating the "belly fake" into the off-tackle and end-run plays.

The "belly-fake" is the ride of the ball by the quarterback in the running back's belly while at the last moment pulling the ball away from the runner and either keeping the ball himself or lateraling to an adjacent runner.

According to the book, the 90 series consisted of three plays in the series, 92, 96, 98-Belly.  It is easy to see the origins of the early Wing-T Belly play come out of the foundation of the "T" formation.

Bobby Dodd's Belly/90 Series
The early Wing-T was a hybrid of the old Single Wing formation and "T" formation.  In the summer of 1950, University of Maine coaches Dave Nelson, Mike Lude, and Harold Westerman hashed out the new offense.  The following year a young assistant coach by the name of Harold "Tubby" Raymond was added to the staff. The Wing-T was later perfected at the Univeristy of Delaware by Nelson and Raymond and University of Iowa by Forest Evashevski.

The late 1950s brought a new series to the "Winged-T" offenses' of  Delaware and Iowa.  According to "The Modern Winged T Playbook," written by Nelson and Evashevski in 1961, the forty series was introduced, "to allow a blocker to reach the backers who were in position protected from the lineman assigned to block them in the lead post and trap plays."  The 40 series (later re-assigned to the 80 series) or Belly Series has been a staple of the Wing-T ever since.  The original Belly Series encompassed of a six plays, 49/41 Belly, which we would today would closely resemble 89/81 Belly Option, 49/41, which as a blocking scheme very similar to the Belly Sweep play being run today, and 44/46 Counter, which is similar to Carneige Mellon University's Joker Play. Another play was 47/43 Cross Block, which many today would refer to as the traditional Wing-T Belly play. The final plays in the series were 47/43 Power and 47/43 Power to Halfback.  The playbook also identifies additional blocking adjustments such as the Wham and Double Power.

(Author's Note:  All diagrams are drawn up exactly like they are illustrated in "The Modern Winged T Playbook.")

149 Belly
144 Counter
147 Cross Block
147 Power
147 Power to Left Halfback
The series also included two play action passes in the series, the 43/47 Cross Block Pass with extended Motion and 43/47 Wham Pass.

Lt 943 XB Pass (Extended Motion)
Run or Pass for QB
Split 147 Wham Pass

Very little changed from the Belly Series throughout the 1960s.  In the 1970s, the 51/59 Belly Option, 51/59 Keep Pass were added.  Later on, with the development of the split six defense the 82/88 Down and 81/89 Down Option were added to the Offense along with a few wrinkles such as 83/87 QB @6/4.

(Diagrams of each will be added in the future, BSchaumloffel)

The Belly Series remained for the most part unchanged throughout the 80s and into the 90s.  In the mid to late 90s, Delaware began to incorporate 21/29 Speed Sweep (Jet Sweep) into their offense.  The Speed Sweep put the halfback in flat motion across the formation with the quarterback handing off to the motion man running full speed to the flank.  This played added an additional component to the offense.  During the same time Delaware started to experiment with zone blocking the 83/87 Belly.  Delaware could now run the Belly play without the need for the HB to lead up on the linebacker at the point of attack.  This became a very effective play when married with the Speed Sweep fake where the Belly could now be run to and away from motion. The Zone Belly has been used quite effectively on the collegiate level, while some high school teams find success with the Zone Belly most continue to use the traditional Cross Block as the staple blocking scheme of the Belly.

When Coach Raymond retired from coaching in 2002 after 30+ years and 300 victories, the 2001 season marked the end of University of Delaware's use of the Wing-T.  The end of the Wing-T in Delaware was far from the  end of the offense.  In fact, this article would be incomplete if it failed to mention the numerous other coaches and universities that have influenced and contributed to this great offense and Belly series over the years.  Legendary coach Eddie Robinson from Grambling University dominated the SWAC for many years to becoming one of the winningest college coaches of all time using the Wing-T.  Herschel Moore long time coach of Cumberland University continues to this day to be one of the most influential Wing-T coaches in the Nation.  In fact much of the new "Hybrid Wing-T" concepts can be traced directly to Coach Moore.  Universities such as Carneige-Mellon in Pittsburg and former Coach Chuck Kluasing have become sources of ideas and innovative thinking that have added growth to the offense. There are still many great Wing-T coaches left teaching and sharing ideas and information.  The Wing-T and Wing-T Belly series will continue to grow and develop for years to come.

Coming soon the Wing-T Belly Series for the 21 Century!


  1. You've done some great research, Bryan! Fascinating to see how the series came to be and has evolved.

    Seeing the ways that plays have changed over the years, it makes me think about how I can make some adjustments to the "new" way of doing things. What's old is new again...

  2. My High School (Boonsboro High School in MD) still runs the Delaware Wing-T under Coach Clayton Anders. Last year they had an undefeated season and Coach was voted as the Coach of the Year. When run correctly by the right personnel, this offense is unstoppable.

  3. My High School (Boonsboro High School in MD) still runs the Delaware Wing-T under Coach Clayton Anders. Last year they had an undefeated season and Coach was voted as the Coach of the Year. When run correctly by the right personnel, this offense is unstoppable.