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YOU SHOULD KNOW: HERMAN HICKMAN shows how to get more pleasure out of football by understanding the intricate pass patterns of single-wing football
November 12, 1956
Most passing attacks, whether they be run from a single wing or some version of the T, are built on one of—or a combination of—three basic techniques. They attempt to beat the defensive players by:
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November 12, 1956

You Should Know: Herman Hickman Shows How To Get More Pleasure Out Of Football By Understanding The Intricate Pass Patterns Of Single-wing Football

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Most passing attacks, whether they be run from a single wing or some version of the T, are built on one of—or a combination of—three basic techniques. They attempt to beat the defensive players by:

This is best accomplished by setting the ends and/or backs as wide flankers. This alignment isolates the defender who must play wide as a precaution and thus practically forces the defense into a man-for-man arrangement. The receiver then hopes to get clear of his opposing defender with some kind of stunt.

In this maneuver a particular zone is "flooded" by at least three and sometimes four receivers. One may go to the flat, one may hook in in front of the defending halfback and another go behind him, while still a fourth might block, delay and slip into an open spot vacated by the secondary. The passer looks over the field without any intent to conceal the fact that it is a pass, picks out the "open" man and throws to him.


The latest trend in football is to design pass plays that look exactly like the team's strongest running plays. This type of pass serves two purposes. First it locks a fast pursuing defense and also it prevents any concentrated rushing.

An excellent example of a running-play pass will be on exhibit this weekend when Michigan shows Illinois its buck-lateral pass from the single-wing formation with the wingback deep.

The pass variation on the play stems from Michigan's famous buck-lateral series, so named because the ball is snapped to the fullback, who drives into the line. He may fake giving it to the quarterback and "keep" on a trap play. He may give to the quarterback who can run off tackle to the strong side; feed to the right halfback on a reverse play; hand off to the left end on an end-around run or an end-around pass; throw a quick jump pass; or flip back to the left halfback for either an end run to the strong side or the buck-lateral pass, as illustrated by the football manikins below. These are just a few of the deceptive maneuvers of this series, which is also used by Michigan State and Princeton. The running plays alone are challenge enough to any defensive scheme, but with the pass as an added fillip it seems almost unfair—especially when the team is lucky enough to have two such fine pass-catching ends as Ron Kramer and Tom Maentz, shown on this week's cover.

The Tennessee single-wing passing attack, one of whose plays is shown in the other manikin illustration, is probably less versatile, but it too relies heavily on running-play passes. The accent here is on timing, faking and perfection of movement—all built around the tailback, who is the heart and soul of the Tennessee single-wing system. The same is true of the other major proponents of this style of attack—UCLA, Oregon State and Wyoming. Phil Dickens, the Wyoming coach, gives his boy, Jim Crawford, much of the credit for the undefeated status of the Cowpokes this season.

Tennessee, of course, like all other teams today, has every type of pass, as will be abundantly clear to those who watch the Vols in their crucial do-or-die test with Georgia Tech this Saturday in Atlanta. However, they have probably had more success with the running pass to the strong side than any other team in the country over a period of 25 years. Incidentally, they refer to it as "run or pass," and if the defensive end is blocked and the secondary is hanging back for the expected pass the run is always preferred. But until 1946 the defense knew it was going to be the power play off-tackle and nothing else whenever the tailback received the snap from center and started toward the weak side. Backers-up filled the hole, and halfbacks met the play on the line of scrimmage. In that year General Bob Neyland, then the Tennessee coach, added the pass, as illustrated by the manikins. This season under the tutelage of Bowden Wyatt it has been most effective, particularly with little Tailback Johnny Majors handling the ball.

No doubt the T and split-T are here to stay, but don't sell the old-fashioned single wing short. Be the line balanced or unbalanced, it has a multitude of fascinating new wrinkles, particularly in its pass patterns.