Reflections from a Wing T guru Part 1

By Bobby Peters | Posted 9/20/2018

As time goes on and more people are converting to spread systems, there are fewer and fewer Wing T “OG’s”. Marmion Academy (Aurora, Illinois) Head Coach Dan Thorpe has been running a version of the original Tubby Raymond Wing T offense for over 30 years. He was gracious enough to take the time to answer a few questions to provide this two-part article. You can contact him at

This article will focus on the successes and failures within the structure of the offense. Part 2 will discuss incorporation with modern trends, play action concepts, and how the drop back passing game fits into the traditional Wing T offense. Any quotes are directly from Dan.

Throughout his career, the core concepts found in the original Wing T have not wavered. Buck Sweep, Trap, and the Belly series have been cornerstones for Thorpe’s offense for three decades. They attack the defense inside and outside. The images below show these concepts from a traditional Wing T formation (In the order of Sweep, Trap, Belly). Notice how, with the same formation, the offense has the ability to attack the defense in many different locations.

wing t


wing t


wing t

Deviations from the classical version of the Wing T:

Thorpe has not deviated from these main principles of the Wing T offense. Over time, he has added a few run concepts to protect the core runs and give the defense something else to prepare for. He noticed the need for a few “straight at the defense plays” to compliment all the misdirection already in the offense.

RELATED CONTENT: Kyle Shanahan's All Curl concept

The diagram below shows the concept that he added. The play fits into the Wing T “series football” mentality. The QB will either hand the ball off to the first back, the second back, or keep the ball around the end. The play resembles a wishbone “follow” scheme. The ball carrier is predetermined, but I am sure it can be used in an option scheme as well.

wing t

What has made the offense so successful over the years?

Here are a few of the overarching reasons for the success of the Wing T over the years for Thorpe:

“The most successful aspect of the Wing T in my offense is the total package and the ability from year to year to feature/use whatever talent we have that year. First and foremost, it is a program offense. Players learn it as freshmen and then, depending on the talent, different aspects are featured/used each year.”

One of the specific aspects is the ability to mix and match parts on the offensive line. As Thorpe explains, the Wing T uses angles and leverage which makes an offensive lineman’s job a little easier.

“Additionally, this offense allows us to be successful with small linemen as we do not have to drive block their man, but they can down block and wall off and we use the angle blocks. This offense does not require great size in the line.”

What has been a weakness of the offense over the years?

Even with success of the base concepts, Thorpe expressed difficulty with mastering the counters off the base concepts:

“The biggest struggle I have had with this offense is taking advantage of the counter game.  Either we can’t get tackles to pull correctly, or we don’t work on it enough, but I have not taken advantage of the misdirection game which is a very key component of this offense. It is probably on me for not working on the misdirection game enough and take advantage of counter, crisscross and sally.”

The diagram below shows one of these counter schemes, the crisscross. The play starts with the quarterback handing the ball off to the left half (LH). The left half will then execute an underneath hand off to the right half (RH). The action of handing the ball to the left half gets the defense flowing away from the eventual attack point for the offense.

wing t

Part 2 will discuss incorporation with modern trends, play action concepts, and how the drop back passing game fits into the traditional Wing T offense.