Using the 3-4 Defense to Shut Down the Wing – T Offense


The wing – t offense has been giving defenses headaches for eons of time, but now is the time to shut it down!

I played offensive line in high school and college, and the offense we ran at my high school was the wing – t offense. I believe that you must understand the wing – t offense from an offensive point of view before you start to develop your defensive plan of how to stop it.

The wing – t offense is built on very simple blocking rules and confusing backfield motions, bootlegs and hand fakes. The KEY to stopping the wing – t is training your players to have FANATICAL eyes that read their keys and do THEIR JOB! Wing – t teams’ feast off of defenses that are undisciplined, but struggle against teams that keep the scheme simple and the defensive players read their keys and do their job on every snap.

This article will focus on shutting down 3 of the base plays of a wing – t offense: buck sweep, trap, and bootleg pass. The defensive scheme we will be using is the 3-4 man coverage concept with some simple adjustments that can be used versus a wing – t offense. I will detail the reads and keys for each position and explain how it all fits together, so we can stop the wing – t offense.

3-4 Defensive Line vs the Wing – T Offense

The defensive line are spill players whose primary objective is to squeeze all down blocks and play flat down the line of scrimmage. We will pinch the defensive line and slant them strong against the wing – t, and all three defensive linemen (both ends and the nose) have the same reads and keys.

If they get a base / reach block, they will knock the blocker back and fight pressure with pressure to constrict the running lane. They are not responsible for force in any of our calls so they can get reached, but they CANNOT get knocked back.

If the blocker in-front of them down blocks to their adjacent defensive linemen, they will look to wrong arm a kick out block or tackle the fullback versus midline or veer. If they get a pull to them as they reduce to a 3 technique, they will trail the puller while staying on the LOS. If they get a pull away from them as they reduce down to a 3 technique, they will get flat and follow the puller.

Versus a pass set they will work their pass rush move, which is what all defensive linemen love to do! These reactions must be repp’d HUNDREDS of times at practice so the defensive line can play without thinking. They must be able to react to the blocking scheme in a split second if you want to have success against the wing – t.

Inside Linebackers vs the Wing – T Offense

We do not assign the inside linebackers a gap to fill, we tell them to read the guard to the full back and attack the play with the appropriate technique.

If they see a drive block, they shock and lock the linemen, locate the football, and then they use a rip move to disengage.

If they get a down block, they scrape to the next available gap unless the B/C gap opens up. If they see a reach block, they will scrape to the next open gap. If they see a pull, they scrape in the direction of the pull and locate the ball carrier and fill inside out.

They can take the run-thru if it opens up. If they see a down block and an isolation block by the fullback, they spill the football to the safeties / outside linebackers who are folding. They are in combo coverage on the fullback, so they will read their guard to the fullback. This puts them in great position on the bootleg because the guard pulls to the same side as the fullback releases.

Outside Linebackers vs the Wing – T Offense

The outside linebackers are usually force players who are always contain rushers versus a pass. The only way they are not a force player is if there is a TE / wing to the same side. They will split the TE / wing and at the snap of the football they will get up field between the TE and the Wing to disrupt the buck sweep. This also allows the safety and the corner to get an immediate run / pass read so they can fit the run or cover their man versus a pass.

Secondary vs the Wing – T Offense

The corner to the open side is in off – man coverage on the #1 receiver in our base call. We can put him in press coverage by simply making a “press” call, but that is a down and distance adjustment.

The safety to the open side is man on the tailback, but if he goes in motion to the strong side he will banjo the TE and wing with the other safety because they corner will handle the motion man. The safety and corner to the closed side “Banjo” (in and out coverage) the TE / wing. This ensures that we can match the bootleg and not have a corner running with a drag by the wing. Their eyes must be disciplined and they CANNOT be wrong with their eyes or it can be a quick 6 points!

Defending Buck Sweep with the 3-4 Defense

The first play we will focus on is the buck sweep. This is the staple play of the wing – t offense and you must shut it down before you move on to other plays. Some teams run power more than buck sweep, but we play them the same way because they are both “gap scheme” plays. Below is an example of how the buck sweep is blocked versus the 3-4:

Buck Sweep vs the 3-4 Defense

The inside linebackers read their guard to the fullback so they are in a great position to take a run thru or scrape over the top and spill the play. The nose guard and the weak-side defensive end will get in the hip of the pulling guard and get flat to chase down the ball carrier.

The weak – side OLB will be a boot, counter, reverse (BCR) player who is looking to drill the quarterback if it is bootleg. The strong – side linebacker is getting penetration in the E gap.

The strong –side corner is setting the edge and the safety is flying down the alley to make a play on the tailback. None of this is new or original, but it is proven to work against the wing – t. Defending the wing – t offense is all about eye discipline and trusting your teammates regardless of what scheme you employ.

The key to stopping this play is having simple rules that your players know inside and out! Below is a diagram showing how we will defend the buck sweep:

3-4 Defense vs Buck Sweep

Defending Buck Trap with the 3-4 Defense

The second play we will focus on is buck trap. This is the other staple play of the wing – t offense and you must rep it TO DEATH to stop it effectively. Below is an example of how the buck sweep is blocked versus the 3-4:

buck trap vs the 3-4 defense

This play is negated by our basic rules, if we execute them to PERFECTION! The first thing that has to happen is the end that is getting trapped must wrong arm the guard and spill the trap. The mike linebacker must scrape over the top of the down block and the will linebacker must hold the cut-back. He has the freedom to take the run – thru if it opens up and that is a great opportunity for a TFL. We would defend the trap just like we would defend the buck – sweep as far as coverage and reads by the players. Below is an example of how we would defend the trap:

defending buck trap with the 3-4 defense

Defending Buck Bootleg with the 3-4 Defense

The third and final play we will STOP is the bootleg pass. This play is the staple passing play of the wing – t offense and it is easily stopped by the 3 – 4 defense if your players are disciplined with their eyes and have repp’d their assignments HUNDREDS of times during the week. Below is an example of the bootleg pass that wing – t teams employ:

buck bootleg

We will play man coverage to this look with a double edge pressure. The weak-side OLB comes off of the edge and sees the guard pulling at him so he sets the edge and keeps the quarterback in the pocket. The strong-side OLB is checking his BCR then he is a contain rusher who aims at the up field shoulder of the quarterback. We will “Banjo” the TE / wing and the safety will take the first in and the corner will take the first out. Below is an example of this concept:

defending buck bootleg with the 3-4 defense

Stopping the wing – t offense is all about eye discipline and each player doing his job. I equate the wing – t with option football, so when I coach my players we talk about how each person fits against the different plays. We have our entire defense watch film together so they can see how all of the pieces fit together. It is important that you praise your players for doing their job and being unselfish. We praise the defensive lineman who spills the trap more than the guy who makes the tackle because he is the one who made it possible for the linebacker to make the play. If you players play with great eye discipline, fly to the football and trust one another, you will have a good night against the wing – t.

Thank you for reading this article and please feel free to send questions and comments to or shoot a tweet to @zachdavis24. May the LORD bless you as you prepare for this football season!