The Wildcat - How Malzahn & Auburn Ripped Off Georgia

"Pop" Warner was the Innovator of the "Wildcat"

Visit a Georgia and Auburn game and you'll notice a lot of similarities between the schools - the fight song rhythm, the chants between sides of the stands, and their pre-game "Mascot Walk." Today, I just want to tell you about how Auburn is even stealing Georgia's ancient offensive formations.

While today the offensive formation known as the "Wildcat" or "Wild-InsertYourMascotHere" has gotten plenty of publicity, what is rarely known is how long ago the concepts date back. In fact, the "Wildcat" formation is just another variation of the single-wing - which was made popular by Georgia's Glenn "Pop" Warner (told you Auburn steals everything from Georgia).

Auburn's Gus Malzahn reinvigorated the football world by implementing the "Wildhog" formation while he was the OC at Arkansas. Today, the use of the QB and RB's in an option series is widely used in both the pros and in college football. The basic idea of the "Wildcat" formation is to be able to use the QB as an extra ball carrier; therefore, you have another blocker. Having a QB with versatility or a RB who is able to run the option, allows the offense to gain an advantage that they lose if the QB is under center and just acts as a middle-man to the ball carrier. 

As I have said many times on here, calling offensive plays is a numbers game. Any way you can get the numbers to your side, you do it - whether it is through conventional or unconventional means. Before the days of spread, spread option, and wildcat, there was the single-wing. I've always said, football philosophy is cyclical but concepts never change. In every new/old way of football, the goal is to get your playmakers the ball with an advantage and that is what the wildcat is meant to do.

Malzahn runs a couple of variations of the "Wildcat" but I just wanted to show you a 3-play series that we might just see against Auburn. In this series, the RB (or QB should Auburn feel like he can effectively carry the ball) lines up in the backfield, two guys are out wide, Y is tight, and FB is in a wing. The series is the jet series. The first play is the jet sweep, the second is the jet-read, and third is the play-action.

Wildcat - Jet Read

The Jet-Sweep and Jet-Read are both the same play. Set-up the exact same way with the slot going in motion across the RB's face. The RB reads the ILB to the motion side. Should the ILB sit and not go with the motion, the RB gives on a jet sweep. The reason behind this is that the slot is going full motion and the OLB is not able to match 1-on-1 with the slot. 

However, if the ILB bumps with the motion and cuts off the numbers to the outside, the RB will fake the hand-off and take the ball between the tackles. The natural motion of the play gives zone running lanes for the back to proceed through the hole. The play-side guard should help with the nose and get to the next level to cut the backside ILB off. The goal of these two plays is to hit one or the other a multiple of times to get the defense cheating to one and then - boom - hit the other.

Wildcat - Play-Action

This is just a simple play-action twist on the jet-read. The slot goes in motion, the RB fakes, and then rolls to the weak side. The strong side receivers run a basic short, intermediate, deep flood route. The two deep routes hold safeties and the CB while the RB then just reads the OLB and hits the route he doesn't jump.

The big misconception about Malzahn's attack is that it is a pass-first attack. In fact, it is completely the opposite. Malzahn uses a very powerful run game that takes advantage of the defenses weak numbers. Tomorrow we'll look at more of the power running game of Auburn.