In American and Canadian football, a single-wing formation, created by Glenn Pop Warner, was a precursor to the modern spread or shotgun formation. The term usually connotes formations in which the snap is tossed rather than handed—formations with one wingback, the single wing was superior to the T formation in its ability to get an extra eligible receiver down field. Traditionally, the single-wing was a formation that featured a core of four backs including a tailback, a fullback, a quarterback. Linemen were set unbalanced, or simply put, there were two linemen on one side and four on the side of the center. This was done by moving the off-side guard or tackle to the strong side, the single-wing was one of the first formations attempting to trick the defense instead of over-powering it. Pop Warner referred to his new scheme as the Carlisle formation because he formulated most of the offense while coaching the Carlisle Indians. The term single-wing came into use after spectators noticed that the formation gave the appearance of a wing-shape. In 1907, Warner coached at Carlisle, a school for Native Americans, the first was the discovery of Jim Thorpes raw athletic ability. The second was the use of a passing game that relied on the spiraled ball. Finally, faking backs who started one way, but abruptly headed the opposite way, because Jim Thorpe had so much raw talent, Coach Warner more than likely designed much of his single-wing offense around this gifted athlete. Thorpe, the triple threat, was a good runner, passer. For much of the history of the formation, players were expected to play on both sides of the ball. Consequently, offensive players often turned around to play a corresponding location on defense, the offensive backs played defensive backs, just as the offensive linemen played defensive linemen. Unlike teams of today, single-wing teams had few specialists who only played on certain downs, college football playbooks prior to the 1950s were dominated with permutations of the traditional single-wing envisioned by Warner. Two-time All-American Jack Crains handwritten playbook clearly denotes how the University of Texas ran their version of the single-wing circa 1939-1940, University of Texas Coach Dana X. Bible ran a line, which means that there were the same numbers of linemen on each side of the center. Also, the ends were slightly split, slightly splitting offensive ends, called flexing, was in widespread use by Notre Dames Box variation of the single-wing. Knute Rocknes Notre Dame Box offense employed a balanced line, which had 3 linemen on each side of the center, another Rockne innovation was a shifting backfield that attempted to confuse the defense by moving backs to alternate positions right before the snap
Glenn Scobey "Pop" Warner at the University of Pittsburgh in 1917.
The single-wing melon-shaped ball measures from 28 to 22 inches in circumference, while the modern ball measures approximately 21 inches.
Double Wing Formation
Typical Single Wing set. Note the unbalanced line. "C" will snap the ball, even though he is not strictly in the center. This diagram uses the modern terms. In the original single wing, the primary ball handler was called the "tailback" and "quarterback" was used as a blocking back.