Wildcat formation describes a formation for the offense in football in which the ball is snapped not to the quarterback but directly to a player of another position lined up at the quarterback position. (In most systems, this is a running back, but some playbooks have the wide receiver, fullback, or tight end taking the snap.) The Wildcat features an unbalanced offensive line and looks to the defense like a sweep behind zone blocking. A player moves across the formation prior to the snap. However, once this player crosses the position of the running back who will receive the snap, the play develops unlike the sweep.
The Wildcat is a gambit rather than an overall offensive philosophy. It can be a part of many offenses. For example, a spread-option offense might use the Wildcat formation to keep the defense guessing, or a West Coast offense may use the power-I formation to threaten a powerful run attack.
The Wildcat scheme is a derivation of Pop Warner's Single Wing offense dating back to the 1920s. The Wildcat was invented by Billy Ford and Ryan Wilson, and was originally called the "Dual" formation.[ citation needed ] The offensive coaching staff of the Kansas State Wildcats, namely Bill Snyder and Del Miller, made significant contributions to the formation's development throughout the 1990s and 2000s and is often cited as being the formation's namesake. It has been used since the late 1990s at every level of the game, including the CFL, NFL, NCAA, NAIA, and high schools across North America. Coaching staffs have used it with variations and have given their versions a variety of names. The Wildcat was popularized in the first decade of the 2000s by South Carolina Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier to use Syvelle Newton in all offensive positions on the field. It was also used in that decade by Arkansas Razorbacks to use the unique skill-set of their three running backs of Darren McFadden, Felix Jones, and Peyton Hillis. Though its popularity as a regular offensive weapon has waned in recent years as defenses have adapted to it, some teams will still use it occasionally to run a trick play.
One possible precursor to the wildcat formation was named the "wing-T",and is widely credited to being first implemented by Coach Tubby Raymond and Delaware Fightin' Blue Hens football team. Tubby Raymond later wrote a book on the innovative formation. The wildcat's similarity to the wing-T is the focus on series football, where the initial movements of every play look similar. For example, the wing-T makes use of motion across the formation as well in order to draw a reaction from the defense, but runs several different plays from the same look.
Another possible precursorto the wildcat is the offense of Six-Man Football, a form of high school football, played mostly in rural West Texas and Montana, that was developed in 1934. In six-man, the person who receives the snap may not run the ball past the line of scrimmage. To bypass this limitation, teams often snap the ball to a receiver, who then tosses the ball to the potential passer. The passer may then throw the ball to a receiver or run with the ball himself.
The virtue of having a running back take the snap in the wildcat formation is that the rushing play is 11-on-11, although different variations have the running back hand off or throw the football.[ citation needed ] In a standard football formation, when the quarterback stands watching, the offense operates 10-on-11 basis. The motion also presents the defense with an immediate threat to the outside that it must respect no matter what the offense decides to do with the football.
Another advantage of the wildcat formation is it can be run from typical football personnel group, such as a quarterback, a fullback, a running back, a tight end, and two wide receivers without substitution, by using the players outside of their normal roles. The quarterback, by lining up as a wide receiver, is both pass receiving threat and can block a defensive back. The running back, receiving a direct snap, is a running threat on a variety of designed plays, and has the potential to pass the ball. Using an unbalanced offensive line, along with a tight end and a fullback, provides a variations of the line up to provide strength to the formation, as well as receiving options. And using a wide receiver in motion as a potential flanker sweep provides a second running option. Not needing to substitute on offense for a short yardage situation can prevent the defense from substituting into a short-yardage defensive formation, which may provide a mismatch.
The Wall Street Journal credited Hugh Wyatt, a longtime coach in the Pacific Northwest, with naming the offense. Wyatt, coaching the La Center High School Wildcats, published an article in Scholastic Coach and Athletic Director magazine in 1998, where he explained his version of the offense, which relied on two wing backs as the two backfield players directly behind the center, alternating to receive the snap. Other high school football programs across the United States adopted Wyatt's Wildcat offense.
Alabama's David Palmer was one of the first "wildcat" quarterbacks on the national scene running the formation in 1993.
The wildcat was popularized on the college level by Bill Snyder, head coach of the Kansas State University Wildcats with Michael Bishop as quarterback in 1997 and 1998 when they made a run at the top of the national rankings.Bishop rushed for 1304 career yards in two seasons, including 748 yards on 177 carries during the '98 season. Snyder's success inspired Urban Meyer at the start of his career. Meyer's subsequent success with quarterback Josh Harris at Bowling Green helped the formation come to the fore.
The wildcat was continued by former Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn, and former Ole Miss Rebels offensive coordinator David Lee when they were offensive coordinators for the Arkansas Razorbacks after seeing the success of Bill Snyder and Urban Meyer. In 2006, Malzahn was the offensive coordinator for the Razorbacks. Malzahn introduced the wildcat into the Arkansas offense. When Malzahn left for Tulsa in 2007, Lee became the offensive coordinator for the Razorbacks. Both Malzahn and Lee ran a variation of the wildcat formation which prominently featured running backs Darren McFadden and Felix Jones. The wildcat formation was called the "wildhog" in honor of the Razorback mascot at the University of Arkansas, and then rebranded as the "Wild Rebel"when Arkansas head coach Houston Nutt went to Ole Miss as head coach (Ole Miss' mascot being the Rebel), and a variation involving a direct snap to a tight end has been called the "Wild Turkey" by the Virginia Tech Hokies.
Other college teams have used the wildcat formation regularly, including the wildcats of Kansas State, Kentucky, and Villanova, as well as the Pitt Panthers. Pitt had great success with the formation having star running back LeSean McCoy or running back LaRod Stephens-Howling take the snap. The Panthers scored numerous times from this formation during those years.Villanova won the 2009 FCS championship with a multiple offense that included the wildcat, with wide receiver Matt Szczur taking the snap. Szczur scored a key touchdown in the Wildcats' semifinal against William & Mary out of the formation, and made a number of big plays out of the wildcat against Montana in the final.
UCF uses a wildcat formation they call the "Wild Knight".It was originally intended to be run by Rob Calabrese, even after he lost the starting job in 2010 to Jeff Godfrey, but he tore his ACL using the play to score a rushing touchdown against Marshall on October 13, 2010. At the time, most agreed that Calabrese was effective at running the Wild Knight formation.
The wildcat formation made an appearance in 1998, when Minnesota Vikings' offensive coordinator Brian Billick began employing formations where QB Randall Cunningham lined up as a wide receiver and third-down specialist David Palmer took the direct snap from the center with the option to pass or run.
In the 1998 NFC Championship, with 7:58 to go in the third quarter, on a second and 5 play, the Atlanta Falcons deployed quarterback Chris Chandler wide left as a receiver while receiver Tim Dwight took a direct snap and ran 20 yards for a first down.
In a December 24, 2006 game between the Carolina Panthers and Atlanta Falcons, the Panthers deployed a formation without a quarterback and snapped the ball directly to running back DeAngelo Williams for much of the game.The Panthers, under head coach John Fox and offensive coordinator Dan Henning, elected to run the ball—mostly in this formation—for the first twelve plays of the opening drive, and ran the ball 52 times, with only 7 passing plays. The coaching staff named the package "Tiger" when running back DeAngelo Williams was on the field and "Wildcat" when backup quarterback Brett Basanez was under center, both after their respective alma maters, the University of Memphis and Northwestern University. Coordinator Henning later developed this concept into the "Wildcat" as the offensive coordinator for the Miami Dolphins.
Relying on the experience of quarterbacks coach David Lee who had run the scheme at Arkansas, the 2008 Miami Dolphins under Henning implemented the wildcat offense beginning in the third game of the 2008 season with great success, instigating a wider trend throughout the NFL.The Dolphins started the wildcat trend in the NFL lining up either running back Ronnie Brown (in most cases) or Ricky Williams to take a shotgun snap with the option of handing off, running, or throwing. Through eleven games, the wildcat averaged over seven yards per play for the Dolphins. "It could be the single wing, it could be the Delaware split buck business that they used to do," Dolphins offensive coordinator Dan Henning said. "It comes from all of that." On September 21, 2008, the Miami Dolphins used the wildcat offense against the New England Patriots on six plays, which produced 5 touchdowns (four rushing and one passing—from Ronnie Brown himself) in a 38–13 upset victory.
As the popularity of the wildcat spread during the 2008 NFL season, several teams began instituting it as a part of their playbook.
Defending plays from the wildcat requires linemen and linebackers to know and execute their own assignments without over-pursuing what may turn into a fake or a reverse. The formation's initial success in 2008 can be attributed in part to surprise—defenses had not practiced their countermeasures against such an unusual offensive strategy.Since then, most teams are well prepared to stop the wildcat; an example came in November 2008 when the Patriots traveled to Miami nine weeks after the Dolphins win in Foxborough; Bill Belichick's defense limited the wildcat to just 27 yards and forced the Dolphins to try a conventional passing attack; the game lead changed six times but the Patriots wore out the Dolphins with a 48–28 win.
Though defenses now understand how to stop the wildcat, it does not mean the formation is no longer useful. A defense's practice time is finite. Opponents who prepare to stop the wildcat have less time available to prepare for other offensive approaches. Many teams admit to spending an inordinate amount of time having to prepare for this scheme.The Philly Special, an iconic play during Super Bowl LII, was run out of the wildcat.
Other teams that use the wildcat formation in the NFL have used different names for their versions. At one time, the Carolina Panthers called their version the 'Mountaineer formation', named after the Appalachian State Mountaineers, the alma mater of their wildcat quarterback Armanti Edwards, who played quarterback for the Mountaineers. The Denver Broncos use 'Wild Horses', developed in 2009.The New York Jets referred to their version as the Tigercat formation in reference to Brad Smith having attended the University of Missouri when Smith played for New York from 2009 to 2010. The 2011 Minnesota Vikings referred to their formation as the "Blazer package" which employed former UAB Blazers quarterback Joe Webb.
Until the 2009 season, a technicality in the league rules made the wildcat offense illegal; essentially, the rule stated that a designated quarterback must be in position to take all snaps. This has since been changed.
The quarterback, colloquially known as the "signal caller", is a position in gridiron football. Quarterbacks are members of the offensive platoon and mostly line up directly behind the offensive line. In modern American football, the quarterback is usually considered the leader of the offense, and is often responsible for calling the play in the huddle. The quarterback also touches the ball on almost every offensive play, and is almost always the offensive player that throws forward passes. When the QB is tackled behind the line of scrimmage, it is called a sack.
The shotgun formation is a formation used by the offensive team in gridiron football mainly for passing plays, although some teams use it as their base formation. Instead of the quarterback receiving the snap from center at the line of scrimmage, in the shotgun he stands farther back, often five to seven yards off the line. Sometimes the quarterback will have a back on one or both sides before the snap, while other times he will be the lone player in the backfield with everyone spread out as receivers.
A running back (RB) is a member of the offensive backfield in gridiron football. The primary roles of a running back are to receive handoffs from the quarterback to rush the ball, to line up as a receiver to catch the ball, and block. There are usually one or two running backs on the field for a given play, depending on the offensive formation. A running back may be a halfback, a wingback or a fullback. A running back will sometimes be called a "feature back" if he is the team's starting running back.
In American and Canadian football, a single-wing formation was a precursor to the modern spread or shotgun formation. The term usually connotes formations in which the snap is tossed rather than handed—formations with one wingback and a handed snap are commonly called "wing T" or "winged T".
The hurry-up offense is an American football offensive style, which has two different but related forms in which the offensive team avoids delays between plays. The hurry-up, no-huddle offense (HUNH) refers to avoiding or shortening the huddle to limit or disrupt defensive strategies and flexibility. The two-minute drill is a clock-management strategy that may limit huddles but also emphasizes plays that stop the game clock. While the two-minute drill refers to parts of the game with little time remaining on the game clock, the no-huddle may be used in some form at any time. The no-huddle offense was pioneered by the Cincinnati Bengals and reached its most famous and complete usage by the Buffalo Bills, nicknamed the "K-Gun", during the 1990s under head coach Marv Levy and offensive coordinator Ted Marchibroda.
Strategy forms a major part of American football. Both teams plan many aspects of their plays (offense) and response to plays (defense), such as what formations they take, who they put on the field, and the roles and instructions each player are given. Throughout a game, each team adapts to the other's apparent strengths and weaknesses, trying various approaches to outmaneuver or overpower their opponent in order to win the game.
An option offense is an American football offensive system in which a key player has several "options" of how each play will proceed based upon the actions of the defense. Traditionally, option-based offenses rely on running plays, though most mix in forward passes from an option formation as a change of pace.
The 46 defense is an American football defensive formation, an eight men in the box defense, with six players along the line of scrimmage. There are two players at linebacker depth playing linebacker technique, and then three defensive backs. The 46 defense was originally developed and popularized with the Chicago Bears by their defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan, who later became head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles and Arizona Cardinals.
A sweep is an outside running play in American football where a running back takes a pitch or handoff from the quarterback and starts running parallel to the line of scrimmage, allowing for the offensive linemen and fullback to get in front of him to block defenders before he turns upfield. The play is run farther outside than an off tackle play. Variants of the sweep involve the quarterback or a wide receiver running with the ball, rather than a running back. When a wide receiver runs with the ball, it is known as a jet sweep.
The halfback option play is an unorthodox play in American and Canadian football. It resembles a normal running play, but the running back has the option to throw a pass to another eligible receiver before crossing the line of scrimmage.
A trick play, also known as a gadget play, gimmick play or trickeration, is a play in gridiron football that uses deception and unorthodox tactics to fool the opposing team. A trick play is often risky, offering the potential for a large gain or a touchdown if it is successful, but with the chance of a significant loss of yards or a turnover if not. Trick plays are rarely used not only because of the riskiness, but also to maintain the element of surprise for when they are used.
A halfback (HB) is an offensive position in American football, whose duties involve lining up in the offensive backfield and carrying the ball on most rushing plays, i.e. a running back. When the principal ball carrier lines up deep in the backfield, and especially when that player is placed behind another player, as in the I formation, that player is instead referred to as a tailback.
The spread offense is an offensive scheme in gridiron football that typically places the quarterback in the shotgun formation, and "spreads" the defense horizontally using three-, four-, and even five-receiver sets. Used at every level of the game including professional, college, and high school programs across the US and Canada, spread offenses often employ a no-huddle approach. Some implementations of the spread also feature wide splits between the offensive linemen.
The New England Patriots generally run a modified Erhardt-Perkins offensive system and a Fairbanks-Bullough 3–4 defensive system, though they have also used a 4–3 defense and increased their use of the nickel defense.
The A-11 offense is an offensive scheme that has been used in some levels of amateur American football. In this offense, a loophole in the rules governing kicking formations is used to disguise which offensive players would be eligible to receive a pass for any given play. It was designed by Kurt Bryan and Steve Humphries of Piedmont High School in California.
The following terms are used in American football, both conventional and indoor. Some of these terms are also in use in Canadian football; for a list of terms unique to that code, see Glossary of Canadian football.
Damian Williams is a former American football wide receiver. He played in the National Football League from 2010 through 2014 for the Tennessee Titans, Miami Dolphins, and St. Louis Rams. Previously, he played college football at the University of Arkansas, and then at the University of Southern California.
In American football, a smashmouth offense is an offensive system that relies on a strong running game, where most of the plays run by the offense are handoffs to the fullback or tailback. It is a more traditional style of offense that often results in a higher time of possession by running the ball heavily. So-called "smash-mouth football" is often run out of the I-formation or wishbone formation, with tight ends and receivers used as blockers. Though the offense is run-oriented, pass opportunities can develop as defenses play close to the line. Play-action can be very effective for a run-oriented team.
The run and shoot offense is an offensive system for American football which emphasizes receiver motion and on-the-fly adjustments of receivers' routes in response to different defenses. It was conceived by former high school coach Glenn "Tiger" Ellison and refined and popularized by former Portland State offensive coordinator Mouse Davis.