Adding Unbalanced Formations to Your Offense


One of least utilized tools in the Offensive Coordinator’s toolbox has to be the use of the unbalanced offensive formations.

What I mean by unbalanced formations is either covering up an eligible receiver by other receivers to create an overload, or switching an offensive lineman and a receiver such as a TE to create dilemma between defending the passing or running strength.

Many option offenses often use different types of unbalanced formations, but not many Zone or Gap teams utilize these looks. The purpose of this article will be to present unbalanced formation concepts to these types of offenses to use against defenses when a schematic advantage might be needed versus a superior opponent.

Unbalanced Formations in Football – The Twins Over Look

One of the most common ways of unbalancing a formation is the Twins Over look. The drawing shows Twins Over out of an I Formation, but you can offset the fullback or go to Split Backs.
unbalanced formation twins over
Many Split Back Veer teams utilize this formation to get a good angle on the overhang LB or rolled down safety. Besides creating great angles for the offense, it also creates unique new angles for a defense that are not often practiced.

Another nifty trick I’ve personally utilized out of this formation is to use the Y at his normal position, and then sneak him in to the traditional LT spot for one play as a surprise. Then, I use run action away from the Y to get the defense flowing, and hit the Y streaking down the sideline.

Unbalanced Formations in Football – The Trey Over Look

The next formation is a great example of putting the defense in conflict between choosing to cover the passing strength versus the running strength.
unbalanced formation trey over
Against this unbalanced formation, the defense has a problem deciding between playing the 3 WR side and adjusting the front to the running side of the formation.

If the defense decides to play the passing strength as many TCU 4-2-5 style defenses do today, then there becomes an extra gap for the defense to account for toward the unbalanced side of the line.

To account for the extra gap, the SS must now be able to roll down and fill this gap. If that is the case, then the defense now becomes weaker to the passing strength where the offense has 3 WRs vs. 2 DBs and 2 LBs.

In theory, a play action to the strong side, should force the safety to cheat up to honor the run and allow the speedier WRs/TE to play 3 on 2 against the Corner and FS to the passing strength.

Similarly to the Trey formation above, the Doubles formation with an added unbalanced look can be quite difficult to defend as well.

Unbalanced Formations in Football – The Doubles Over Look

unbalanced formation doubles over
This adjustment allows the offense to get the same effects as the Twins Over look above, yet still have to viable receivers to the weak side.

Unbalanced Formations in Football – The Trips Over Look

The next formation worth looking at is the Trips Over look.
unbalanced formation trips over
This look creates a problem as the overload side and the passing strength are on the same side. The three OL side coupled with the 3 WRs forcing some type of adjustment by the LBs creates an extra gap for the offense to exploit in the running game.

Unbalanced Formations in Football – The “Aggie” Look

The last within reason formation (You’ll see what I mean in a second) is a formation I’ve seen utilized by the Utah State Aggies. As you can see, the offense has a three receiver look to the weak side and a three man line to the strong side.
unbalanced formation utah state aggie
As I mentioned earlier, this forces the defense to tip their hand in what they are trying to cover. Motion by either the Wing or H/FB to the unbalanced side can also cause trouble as well.

Unbalanced Formations in Football – The Wild/Exotic Look

As the section heading suggests, these are some of the wilder unbalanced formations I have seen throughout my time watching film. Please note, the diagrammed defense to these looks is my best guess as to what a defense might use to defend them.
unbalanced quad formation
The next wild unbalanced formation is one I have actually seen used in a game situation by a team I was a part of. As you can see in the diagram below, we moved the LT over to play TE, kept the TE outside of him, and then used the X WR as the backside Tackle.
unbalanced formation i formation
Lastly, we offset the FB and TB over the strong side Guard. We pretty much ran all of our normal under center I Formation plays while having great success running to the C gap bubble. Stanford has also used a formation similar to this known as the “Hulk” formation. In their variation, the FB and TB are aligned as normal behind the QB, and the Z is in a Wing alignment by the Y.
unbalanced formation double tight
The last unbalanced formation I’ll discuss here is the “Barge” formation used by Wisconsin a few years back in the Big Ten Championship game against Nebraska. As you can see in the diagram below, all of the extra TEs or Tackles forces the defense to be gap sound and commit everyone to stopping the run.

Hopefully, everybody reading this article can find a way to either use some of these formations in their offense, or use some of these as a spring board to create your own unbalanced formations. If you have any questions or would like to suggest a couple of your favorite unbalanced formations please feel free to contact me on twitter @jobyturner or via email at jobyturner at