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Will Western Carolina's Pistol Formation Affect Georgia Tech?

Western Carolina is adding a new twist to their offense this year, the Pistol. The formation has grown in popularity recently thanks to the success of the head coach Gene Ault and the Nevada Wolfpack.

First, what is the pistol offense? It's a modified shotgun formation where the quarterback stands about four yards behind the center, rather than seven. The running back then lines up about 3 more yards directly behind the quarterback. When the RB gets the ball, he is running at full speed and able to hit the holes on the offensive line.

Here's a graph courtesy of Chris Brown of SmartFootball via Dr. Saturday


Nevada, by contrast, puts their quarterback only four yards back while the running back aligns directly behind him, between seven to ten yards deep depending on the play. But "offenses" are not the same as formations; a good offense involves a sensible grouping of plays and formations into a coherent whole. And while the pistol may have been conceived as simply a unique formation, the system Ault and Co. have developed has earned the name "pistol offense" by bringing a unique perspective to both the pistol and the spread.

What lots of videos and breakdowns discuss is that the success of the pistol comes down to the success of the blocking schemes for a running game. When asked about what Western Carolina brought on Saturday in an AJC interview, Paul Johnson noted "...with the quarterback [Western Carolina has], I think they'd be a little more geared towards passing the football." He expects our defense to adjust appropriately as necessary.

Tech has prepared for the pistol formation by watching tape and playing the scout team. Worse case, we may see some confusion very early in the first quarter but no doubt the Yellow Jackets will settle down and take over Thursday night.

Western Carolina is coached by Dennis Wagner who is his fourth season. In 2010, they averaged 287 yards per game in total offense.