Spread Principles: Part 5: The Trap

Next in GoBlueWolverine's series on the Rich Rodriguez offense, Josh Turel breaks down the 20/21 Trap series. This play dates back to when players weren't even wearing helmets but still today it is still an effective play.

For those that missed previous parts of the series, click the following links:
Spread Principles - Part 1: Formations
Spread Principles - Part 2: More Formations
Spread Principles - Part 3: The Zone Play
Spread Principles - Part 4: The Zone Read Play

Adding to the time honored effectiveness of the trap is its ability to fit in extremely well with the zone blocking scheme. It is an excellent compliment to the toss or wide sweep play. If the defense is flowing hard to the zone play, the trap can punish the over committed defenders and stretch a horizontal gap right down the midline of the defense.

Here is what a basic Rich Rodriguez trap play looks like.

The actual trap is going to be executed by the backside guard. We determine backside and front-side by the formation strength. If the formation strength call is to the right, then the left guard is backside and vice versa. The backside guard trap rule is to kick out the first man head up or outside the guard. In college football, you rarely see a player in a 2-technique or head up look so your most likely going to be kicking out a 3-technique tackle (outside shade on play-side guard) or a defensive end in a 5-technique (head up or slightly outside on the play-side tackle). The scenario above is our ideal situation as far as defensive fronts. We want to run this play at the 3-technique tackle, and in college football most 4-3 teams have their tackles in a 1-technique or 3-technique on each side. The trap play is an outstanding compliment to the zone play because generally, the wide zone play is tougher to run against a 3-technique tackle and the trap is harder to run against a 1-technique tackle. I mention this because defenses will want to line their 3-technique tackle away from the running back to help slow down a zone running team like Rodriguez’s. The fact that this is our “ideal situation” does not mean it is rare. I would expect to see this as a common alignment against a Rodriguez spread.

Let’s review the rules for the rest of the offensive line. Referring back to our “ideal situation” with the guard leaving to trap to the right, the center must account for his man. The center will execute a down block on the 1-technique tackle. The backside tackle is checking for the guard leaving as well. The linebacker will leave his defensive end alone and track up-field to the backside linebacker. Personally, I think in any offense that runs the trap, the backside tackle’s block is the most important. He is the only player on the front that does not have an ideal blocking leverage on his man. However, if that player has decent athleticism and takes a good angle to the play, he stands a good chance. The offense is also hoping the boot by the quarterback holds him even for a split second; that’s all we are looking for to help out our tackle. The quarterback will be responsible for the backside defensive end, and given how quick this play hits inside, it will be difficult for him to make the play. If the defensive end insists on crashing down hard inside, then we will run the zone read play to him and the quarterback can really make him pay for crashing down. The steps for the quarterback and running back are almost identical to the zone play/zone read, so the defensive end won’t really know the difference that this is a trap play.

The play-side guard is going to “influence pull” and kick out the end. Here is where this play really compliments the zone play. Once the defensive tackle reads the play-side guard stepping out wide, he is going to step out with and start thinking that the play is going to be something outside like a toss, sweep or stretch. If the defensive tackle reacts this way, we are creating a nice horizontal seam in the defense with the centers down block on the 1-technique tackle and the guard trapping a defensive tackle (who in theory will widen because of the play-side guards influence pull). The play-side tackle will down block to the linebacker and the back has the option of cutting the ball behind his block if he is able to get a good seal on the second level.

Below are some adjustments the offense would make for different fronts. As I said earlier, we want to run this play at the 3 technique but we can’t simply do that every time. To avoid tendencies, we will occasionally run it to the 1-technique side. The play changes with the center trapping the defensive end (remember the rule about first man head up or outside the play-side guard). The play-side guard down blocks the 1-technique tackle and the play-side guard still blocks down to the strong-side linebacker. On the backside, the guard and tackle will scoop block to the play-side and cut off the 3-technique defensive tackle and weak-side linebacker. Against a 3-3-5 type defense, we are going to post block the nose guard with the center and guard and have one of them break off for the linebacker. The backside guard traps the 5-technique end because of his blocking rule. The play-side tackle again climbs to the second level and seals the linebacker. If the quarterback reads seven men in the box, we will check out of the play and possibly to a speed option to the 1-technique side.

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