The trap play is my favorite running play ever as you can probably guess from the title. At the middle school and high school levels it is amazingly effective. It is designed to be a short yardage play, but you would be amazed at how often the trap can bust through for big gains.

It is so effective because it looks like power going the opposite direction so it gets the linebackers out of position. If you run a lot of power and you don’t also have a trap in your playbook than you are making a huge mistake.

I’m going to go over the blocking assignments for trap against a 4 and 3 man front so you can get an understanding of how to run it, and I’ll also show it from under center and from shotgun. The trap is an extremely versatile play and can be run out of a ton of formations.

First, let’s look at it under center against a 4-3 defense.

Trap against 43

The general idea is, you’re faking power the opposite direction of the trap, and you are leaving a defender on the play side unblocked to trick him into going up field. The unblocked player is who you are “trapping”. The trap is that there is actually a pulling guard coming to take him out.


  • Play side Tackle and Tight End: The tackle and tight end are responsible for the closest play side line backer and the next player on the line outside of the player you’re trapping. In this alignment, they are going to combo block to the linebacker. Really, all the tackle needs to do is give a good punch on the end to allow the tight end to get underneath him.
  • Play side Guard: The play side guard is going to leave the first defender head up or outside of him unblocked and go block the play side linebacker. In this formation, it is that 3 technique defensive tackle who he is going to leave unblocked, and he is going straight for the middle line backer.
  • Center: The center will always have to block back unless he has a nose, because the back side guard is pulling.
  • Back side Guard: The back side guard is going to pull straight down the heel line of the offensive line (about half a yard behind the line of scrimmage) and kick out the unblocked player.
  • Back side Tackle: The back side tackle doesn’t even have to worry about the defensive end over there because the running back will take care of him. He can go straight to the back side linebacker.
  • Running Back: The running back is going to fake power to the back back side or any other off tackle run play you use a lot, and he’s going to go straight at the back side defensive end.
  • Full Back: The full back is the one getting the ball, on the snap of the ball he is going to take a 45 degree angle right towards the quarterback to take the hand off. Once he takes the hand off he is going to go straight up the field right off of the pulling guards butt. The hole will usually be in the 2 gap against a 4 man front, but it could hit a little wider against other fronts (as you’ll see here shortly).
  • Quarterback: The quarterback is going to open up at a 45 degree angle just like he would for an off tackle hand off to the running back, but instead he is going to hold the ball out with his underneath hand in the full backs path. So his footwork is the exact same as it would be on power, but instead of reaching the ball out back to the running back he is going to slip it underneath to the full back. After the hand off to the full back he should continue and carryout the fake hand off to the running back.

Okay, so no matter what front it is against, the assignments will still be the same. It will just look a little bit different in action. Here’s what it will look like against a 3-4 defense.

Trap against 34

You can see that the first defender head up or outside of the guard is the 5 technique so that will be the player you leave unblocked. Since he’s all the way out in a 5 that will cause the play to hit a hole wider. Also, since the tackle can get to the inside linebacker on the play side, that allows the play side guard to go all the way to the back side inside linebacker.

Now, just to show you the versatility of the play, here it is out of shotgun.

Trap out of Shotgun

To make it work out of shotgun, I just have the running back take a path behind the quarterback almost like it’s a sweep to the opposite direction. The quarterback can pivot all the way around towards the full back like he’s getting ready to hand it off to the running back coming behind him, and then just slip it underneath to the full back.


What I think makes the trap play so great is that it is deceptive while still being simple. At the lower levels it is real easy to teach how to run, but pretty difficult to teach how to defend. And at the higher levels, if you are running a lot of power, off tackle, or outside runs it is a great change of pace play. Those linebackers get so used to taking off downhill to plug C gap, and then the ball comes out of nowhere straight up A gap. With the running game, you don’t have to make it too complicated, just get a combination of plays that feed off of each other. A good mix of power, trap, counter, iso, and sweep plays can be pretty deadly when ran correctly.