A couple of years ago we had an article on our blog that talked about the value of the unbalanced formation. As we get the playoffs started (we are in our first round here in Illinois) I’ve always thought it important to have something your opponents have never seen. Let’s face it, they are going to to get their hands on every piece of film on your team as possible. They want to know EVERYTHING about your team, no surprises. If you have not shown unbalanced all season, now is a great time to install an unbalanced formation. It’s so easy to put in, you don’t need to devote a lot of time to it, and you just might surprise your opponents.

 What Is Unbalanced?

I know you know this but 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.


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.

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.


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.


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!  In fact, just last weekend I was watching Wisconsin and Illinois on TV. Wisconsin came out on one series in the first half and went unbalanced. Illinois shifted over to cover the unbalanced formation but OVER COMPENSATED! Wisconsin came back with a jet sweep to the weakside for a 30 yard touchdown. It works at the college level and will work at the high school level.

Can You Be Unbalanced In The Spread?

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 for the playoffs. In either case, this video, Ithaca’s Unbalanced Spread Offense, would be a great addition to your library and it’s not too late to perhaps use it in the playoffs.



To help football coaches be all they can be we have  resources on all phases of football on the Chiefpigskin website and it’s not too late to refresh your memory by getting on the site. You will find instructional videos in the Store and on the Online Clinic. We have offense, defense, special teams, program development, off season training, philosophies, motivational techniques, film breakdown, the 4 Quarters Show…and MORE!
Register today for your Monthly Membership Pass and get access to these presentations as well as ALL the videos featured on the Online Clinic. You won’t be sorry!

Coach L. Albaugh      DBLITY

Coach Albaugh coached high school football in Illinois for 28 years. During that time he coached at every level and on both sides of the ball. He was the offensive and defensive line coach for four undefeated teams and was a defensive coordinator in his last 11 years, twice reaching the semi finals of the Illinois state playoffs.