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It was 1978 and I was in my first real football coaching job. I was an assistant freshman football coach but I got to be on the sideline of the varsity team on Friday nights to be available for odds and ends duties like repairing equipment during the game, help watch a certain player , etc. Whatever the head coach needed, I was ready to help. But I got a chance to just watch and learn also. We had a veteran head coach who had been around a long time…since the 1950’s. One of the weapons in his arsenal was what he called the “B’ series. B for Unbalanced. He liked using this on his first offensive series of the second half. The way he figured, the Defensive Coordinator had just spent the halftime going over adjustments with the defense. So, he changed it up by going to an unbalanced look in the first offensive series. It would really catch teams off balance and made it tough for a defense coming out for the second half. I remember the first time I saw him do this. We hadn’t scored in the first half nor even come close. In our first series we came out in the B formation and took the ball right down the field. They called timeout and made adjustments (good move by them) but the damage had been done and we took it in and scored. I learned a great lesson in that game and discovered that showing an Unbalanced look can be a great change up.

What Is Unbalanced?

Simply put, an unbalanced formation is one that usually moves one of the offensive linemen over to the other side of the line. For example, instead of having three linemen on each side of the Center, you change to two on one side and FOUR on the other. Hence the name Unbalanced. First, let’s look at a balanced formation shown below. There are three players on the line of scrimmage to the left of the center (though the X receiver is split out wide) and three players on the line of scrimmage to the right of the center. Balanced.

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Now we have moved to Unbalanced in the diagram below. Notice that the Left Tackle has moved to the right side of the line next to the Right Tackle. Four on one side and two on the other. Count ’em.

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Why Does This Matter?

If the defense does not pick this up right away, they will be badly outnumbered on the unbalanced side. This gives the offense a decided advantage on every play run to that side. Defenses have a tendency to line up according to where the offensive Center is. The Center is usually in the middle of the offense. That’s what they’re used to seeing so that’s how they set the defense. In the heat of battle so close to their opponent the defense just doesn’t always see what the offense has done and believe it or not neither do the defensive coaches. I know you’re thinking, “How can they not see it?” I’m telling you, many times they just don’t realize it. If the offense does this occasionally and then moves back to balanced, it can keep the defense out of position often. The diagram below shows a defense out of position. They are outnumbered on the strong side and have more defenders than they need on the weak side.

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What Must The Defense Do?

When the defense recognizes what is going on they must shift at least their defensive front over, one man, to match the offense. The way I would do it is to tell my defense to treat the Right Guard as the center. For example, if my nose guard is supposed to line up on the Center, he now has to move over and line up on the Right Guard instead. The rest of the defense lines up accordingly. If they don’t – LOOK OUT – they are in trouble. Below shows what the defense SHOULD be doing.

The entire D Front has moved over one man.

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Obviously, there are many types of unbalanced formations and every one causes the defense to deviate from their normal adjustment and plan. This forces the defense to spend valuable practice time adjusting to formations that the offense may or may not use.

Finally, after getting beat up on the strong side with an unbalanced formation, the defense sometimes will over compensate and actually over adjust and put too many defenders to the strong side leaving themselves with too few defenders on the weak side. When this happens, the offense comes back and hits them on the weak side with a few plays until the defense adjusts to that!


Can You Be Unbalanced In The Spread?

Terry Hessbrook

Terry Hessbrook

You sure can! In fact, Ithaca High School in Michigan runs Unbalanced out of the Spread virtually all the time. It’s their base offense and boy, do they do it well! They’ve won 5 state titles since 2010 and had another undefeated regular season in 2016. Oh, by the way, somewhere in between all that they also had a 69 game winning streak. There is none other to learn about running unbalanced out of the spread offense than Ithaca head coach, Terry Hessbrook. Maybe you’re looking to go unbalanced all the time or maybe you’re a spread guy who would just like to add this as a package in your regular spread. In either case, this video, Ithaca’s Unbalanced Spread Offense, would be a great addition to your library.


We here at Chiefpigskin believe that all offenses and variations of those are good if learned inside and out and then taught to your players inside and out. This video will give you that opportunity.

As always, feel free to contact us here at Chiefpigskin any time to talk football. That’s what we do.

Coach L. Albaugh – DBLITY