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first_imgTo this day, it’s one of football’s great urban legends.The rumored origins for the unorthodox formation spread the entire country, from a high school in La Center, Wash., to an emerging Big 12 Conference power in Manhattan, Kan., to a then-Division-I-AA school in Villanova, Pa.One of the most popular origin stories traces the legend back to Central New York, where the West Genesee Wildcats rode the unique offense to the 2007 New York Class AA State Championship.The answer, though, goes much further back in history than any of those four locations, though all four now have been inextricably tied to the lore of the wildcat formation.“This thing that they call ‘the wildcat’ is nothing more than what they call a direct snap,” North Beach (Wash.) High School head coach Hugh Wyatt said. “So it’s really not that original.”AdvertisementThis is placeholder textThe history of the wildcat formation goes all the way back to 1907 when Pop Warner — a man whose name is synonymous with football’s beginnings — was the head coach at Carlisle (Pa.) Indian Industrial School. There, Warner employed the single-wing formation to take advantage of Jim Thorpe’s rare athletic ability. The single-wing offense involved a direct snap to either a tailback or fullback, both of whom were lined up several feet behind the center, who would carry the ball himself.The simple formation led Carlisle to incredible success, winning at least 10 games in five of the eight seasons Warner coached during his second stint with the Indians.But despite the encouraging results, by World War II the forward pass had rendered Warner’s single-wing obsolete.Half a century later, the formation re-emerged.On Sept. 21, 2008, the Miami Dolphins broke it out against the New England Patriots. The Dolphins sent out running back Ronnie Brown to take a shotgun snap late in the first quarter.The formation caught the Patriots off guard and Brown took advantage of the extra blocker to dart into the end zone for a 2-yard score, giving Miami a 7-0 lead.New England would never lead as Brown scored three more touchdowns and threw for another on just six wildcat plays. Unprepared and overwhelmed, the Patriots were routed by the Dolphins 38-13.So began the newest iteration of the single-wing formation. The legend of the wildcat was born.“It was exciting because also it was one of the first times they had lost a game at home in a long time and we really dominated the game,” said Steve Bush, Miami’s wide receivers coach in 2008. “And for us, it kind of kickstarted our program that year.”But that’s not the whole story.This second coming of the wildcat can trace some of it roots right back to Camillus, N.Y., right outside of Syracuse, at West Genesee. In 2007, Bush, then the Wildcats’ head coach, implemented a spread-option offense with a mobile quarterback reminiscent of the formation Miami would run a year later.While Bush wasn’t responsible for bringing the wildcat to the NFL — that was the Dolphins’ quarterbacks coach David Lee, who ran a similar offense as the offensive coordinator at Arkansas a year earlier — he did add his input and expertise based on the system he ran at West Genesee.“We kind of expanded on that,” Bush said. “And we were rolling along as an offensive staff, and game planned every week and added a few wrinkles to it.”In the late 1990s, La Center (Wash.) High School, then coached by Hugh Wyatt, implemented a formation that had two running backs line up in a shotgun formation, either able to take a direct snap. It was a system that Wyatt’s offenses ran for more than 50 percent of their plays some years.“It was original for us because it meant that we could adapt some of what we did to single-wing principles,” Wyatt said. “But I’m sure other people have been doing things similar to that.“The main thing that I take credit for, and I could win this in the court of law, was giving it the name — ‘the wildcat’ — that’s all.”In 1997, Wyatt published an article about his new formation using the name “wildcat,” the first known use of that name for the formation. That same year, Wyatt began selling instructional coaching videos to teach this formation. He said sales for his videos are “in the thousands,” including several college coaches, though he wouldn’t divulge any names.Villanova head coach Andy Talley, who has run a similar offense at Villanova since the late 1990s, also takes credit for the name. Talley even said he invented the whole concept.In 1999, Brian Westbrook was a star at Villanova before becoming a two-time All-Pro for the Philadelphia Eagles. To take advantage of his superstar running back, Talley implemented the wildcat formation, taking its name from the school’s mascot.“We used to direct snap the ball to Brian and we called it the wildcat … because we couldn’t think of a much better name for it,” Talley said. “And I’d not seen anybody run that formation prior to us running it in college football.”Though the stories contradict, none tell why the formation returned to the forefront — how the wildcat became the ultimate gadget package and most talked-about adaptation in modern football.That story takes place in Manhattan, Kan., and starts with head coach Bill Snyder.“(Snyder’s) a very innovative guy,” Wyatt said. “And he made maximum use of his players.”By 1998, Snyder was already a well-established head coach at Kansas State. In less than a decade in Manhattan, Snyder had taken a team that Sports Illustrated once called “Futility U” to respectability. By his fifth season, Snyder coached the Wildcats to a bowl game. Two years later, K-State won 10 games.Kansas State entered the 1998 season ranked No. 6 in the nation. The Wildcats were successful, but no one could have imagined how that success was attained.Snyder essentially turned quarterback Michael Bishop into a direct-snap running back en route to 11 wins and what was then the program’s most successful season.Football in the 1990s was dominated by the I-formation and split-back offense. Defenses would stack the box and neutralize the running back. As teams adopted more and more spread principles, KSU searched for a way to run the ball easier with a single running back in the backfield.“Why can’t the remaining back be the fullback, and let Michael Bishop be like the tailback?” former K-State offensive coordinator Ron Hudson said. “And that’s how it evolved where now we started running the same plays out of one back with Michael out as the tailback with the remaining back as the lead blocker.”The formation’s evolution into the modern read option actually came about by accident. During a practice, Bishop botched a handoff to the running back and carried the ball himself.Though they call players like Bishop quarterbacks now, that’s not a name Wyatt likes to use for these read-option signal callers.“It does bother me that they refer to these guys as quarterbacks because really they’re not,” Wyatt said. “They’re single-wing tailbacks.”Though the wildcat seems to have faded away since that 2008 season when it took the NFL by storm, shades of it are still visible throughout college football and even in the NFL.Quarterbacks Johnny Manziel, Collin Klein and Braxton Miller, and NFL stars Michael Vick and Tim Tebow all help keep the legend alive. Most call it the read or spread option now, but it all traces back to one of football’s earliest formations.“There were so many of these accomplished quarterbacks who could run and pass that it just seemed to me that we were getting ready to see a revival of the single-wing,” Wyatt said. “That’s what we’re seeing.” Comments Published on November 27, 2012 at 1:56 am Contact David: [email protected] | @DBWilson2 Facebook Twitter Google+last_img read more


first_imgARLINGTON, Texas >> Josh Ravin has appeared in five games in his brief major league career, pitching to 22 batters out of the Dodgers’ bullpen. Somehow he has been the pitcher of record in three of those games.As much as anything, that speaks to the entertainment value of the 2015 Dodgers. They like to keep it interesting, waiting until the late innings to reveal whether or not fans should have left early to beat traffic.For eight innings Tuesday, the Dodgers failed to entertain. A 23-year-old pitcher for the Texas Rangers, Chi Chi Gonzalez, had hitters flailing at 87-mph fastballs until the final inning. Then Howie Kendrick drew a walk and Justin Turner, using one of teammate Joc Pederson’s bats, hit a home run to tie the game 2-2.Ravin took over in the bottom of the ninth inning and threw three pitches to Robinson Chirinos. Chirinos crushed the third one through the thick Texas air, 401 feet over the left-center field fence for a home run. Game over, Rangers win 3-2, safe to go home.“I definitely thought we had it,” Dodgers catcher Yasmani Grandal said. “As soon as JT hit that home run I thought, ‘here we go’.”The Dodgers scored three runs in the two games in Texas — not nearly enough to win and certainly not enough to beat Gonzalez. The rookie right-hander was making his fourth start and had allowed only one run to that point in his career.To the Dodgers, he was a bit of a mystery. Gonzalez allowed four hits, walked one batter and struck out two over the first eight innings. When the Rangers’ infield deployed a shift, the Dodgers seemed to find it.“The whole game he was just pounding in,in,in,in,” Turner said of Gonzalez. In the ninth inning, “(Adrian Gonzalez) had a good at-bat. Howie (Kendrick) had a good at bat. He was near 100 pitches and probably a little tired.” Turner’s home run gave the Dodgers hope.It didn’t last long.Chirinos’ home run came on a 1-1 count. Catcher A.J. Ellis called for a fastball outside. “If you go back and look, it was probably right over the plate,” Ravin said.Dodgers starter Brett Anderson deserved a better fate. The left-hander pitched eight innings for the first time since May 2011. That was partly out of necessity. Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said the bullpen was short-handed, but he wouldn’t say which pitchers were unavailable. The Rangers tagged Anderson for only two runs — on a bases-loaded walk in the first inning and an infield single with a runner on third base. Prince Fielder nearly cost the Rangers a run trying to score from second base on a hit to left field in the first inning. But he tripped rounding third base (to his teammates’ amusement) and scrambled safely back to the base. If Fielder hadn’t fallen down, Grandal said, “he was definitely out.”Instead, the bases were loaded. Anderson walked the next batter, Joey Gallo, to force in a run.That simple twist of fate might have meant the difference between a win and a loss. Had Fielder been thrown out at the plate, Turner’s ninth-inning home run might have given the Dodgers a 2-1 lead.Instead, it served as a reminder of the Dodgers’ offensive struggles. All three of their runs in the series were driven in by home runs, a habit that’s been alternately powerful and costly.The Rangers’ attack Tuesday featured a bunt hit, a hit-and-run, and a 90-foot RBI grounder from their 275-pound designated hitter — the kind of small-ball tools that have killed the Dodgers often this year.Mattingly said the team’s game plan won’t change.“If you don’t get guys on (base) you don’t give yourself a chance to win,” he said.The Rangers visit Dodger Stadium on Wednesday and Thursday. The Dodgers will need aces Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke to win both games in order to split the unusual four-game series.Kershaw and Greinke might well be out of the game by the time each is decided. Still, Grandal remained optimistic that the Dodgers can forge a split. The Dodgers are 25-10 in their home park and have typically hit better at home than on the road.“(The Rangers) have got to hit the ball way harder than that to hit at the field in L.A.,” he said.center_img Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Errorlast_img read more

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