Incorporate Trick Plays into Your Offense (Part 2) – Basic Trick Plays

/, Offense/Incorporate Trick Plays into Your Offense (Part 2) – Basic Trick Plays

In Part 1, we looked at the philosophy of Trick Plays. This included when to call them, what they are used for, and also some of the thoughts people might have about them.

In this article, we will dive into some of the more basic trick plays in football and we will go through the responsibilities of each player. All of the information offered here is simply a blueprint of certain plays. Use as much or as little of the individual responsibilities to make them work for you and your team.


This is probably the most common “trick” play and one of the first tricks run at the youth football level. Many coaches consider the reverse to simply be a part of their offense and not a trick at all. There are many different ways to run a reverse, but the goals are the same: take advantage of a defense that is pursuing fast to the ball, or to keep the defense honest to the backside of a play.

There is no right answer on how to block the reverses. Some coaches will have the blockers fully sell the fake and block to the side the initial action is going to. Other coaches will have a guard pull to the side of the reverse to provide some protection and lead blocking capabilities for the player carrying the ball. It is my belief that the higher the level you coach, the more you want to sell the fake fully. In youth football and Freshman football, it may be most beneficial to have the guard pull to help out with any needed blocks to the eventual playside. Once you reach the varsity level, I would rather take our chances that the fake will be good enough to influence the other defenders. Many defenses are very good about reading pulling guards and tackles that the extra blocker might cause more problems.

Hand-off Reverse

One of the most versatile trick plays, it can be run from many formations, under center, shotgun, pistol, and endless personnel packages. On this type of reverse, the QB will hand or toss the ball to the RB that will then hand it, or toss it to a player coming from the outside of the formation back to the opposite side of the field. This type of reverse includes a Toss Reverse, Jet Reverse and Outside Zone Reverse. Even the Wing-T staple commonly called Counter Criss Cross is a form of this type of reverse.

A variation on this type of reverse has the QB faking the initial hand-off to the first player and then handing it or tossing it to another player going in the opposite direction. Mike Holmgren and Brett Favre with the Packers ran this play a lot in Green Bay.

Toss Reverse

On this play, the QB will pitch the ball to the RB, and the RB will start on his regular path to the outside. On the snap, an outside receiver will immediately get depth and start across the field in the opposite direction. His path will take him close to the RB and the RB will hand or toss the ball to him going the opposite direction. We prefer to have the QB lead block if he is athletic enough.


Fake Dive Reverse

On this play, the QB will get depth and fake a handoff to the RB. On the snap, an outside receiver will immediately get depth and start across the field towards the QB. The QB will get the ball to the receiver and will boot away from the reverse action.


Jet Reverse

This is a great play if you run a lot of Jet Sweep, for us, we ran it out of the Shotgun Spread Offense. The QB will execute Jet Sweep with a receiver. A receiver on the opposite side will start across the formation in the opposite direction and the ball carrier will hand or toss the ball to him. Again, we like our QB to lead block if he is athletic enough. In order to stop Jet Sweep consistently, a defense must rotate defenders and accelerate to the side of the sweep so that they do not get out leveraged. A properly timed Jet Reverse can result in a huge gain.


Counter Criss Cross

I am admittedly not an expert on the Wing-T offense other than trying to stop it against some great teams in the past. With that caveat, this is the Wing-T version of a reverse and it is actually a Counter. The Buck Sweep is one of the staples of the Wing-T Offense and Counter Criss Cross is something that teams run to keep the opposing defenses honest. The QB will toss the ball to the RB like on Buck Sweep and the RB will hand the ball to the opposite wing that will follow two counter blocks to the backside. The biggest difference with this reverse and the others above is that this is designed to hit Off-Tackle and not as wide as possible to use speed to get to the edge.


Option Reverse

A different form of reverse, this is run by teams that run different forms of option. The design of the play makes it look exactly like the option that the offense runs regularly, whether that is Veer Option, Speed Option or even Wishbone Option. After the fake dive, the QB and pitch man continue their normal path, only when the QB pitches the ball, it is “intercepted” by a receiver going the other direction that cuts in front of the pitch man.

Wishbone Option Reverse


Veer Option Reverse


Speed Option Reverse

Reverse Pass

Reverse Pass

While I wouldn’t consider this one of the basic trick plays, it fits most neatly while talking about the different types of reverses. On these plays, a reverse, as described above, is executed normally, but the player that gets the reverse, will then look to throw the ball to a receiver downfield. The misdirection of the reverse, combined with the hurried reaction of the defense to tackle the ball carrier going the opposite direction, can cause receivers to get “lost” behind the defense for wide open plays.


Toss Pass / Jet Pass

When I last played Youth Football, the Toss (Sweep) was one of the most common plays that was run. The idea was that you would get the ball into the hands of your best player and let him use his speed to beat the defense to the edge. Talking with coaches now, I understand that this basic premise and play are much the same as before. Popular out of the Wing-T, Double Wing and Flexbone offenses, the Rocket Toss is also a very effective play. Due to the speed of the motion and the width of the pitch, the defense has to adjust incredibly quickly in order to stop from being outflanked. The same is true with the Jet or Fly Sweep as well. This immediate reaction and necessary rotation from the defense is the perfect opportunity to take advantage with a Toss Pass.

Toss Pass


Jet Pass


Rocket Toss Pass


Hook & Laterals

Some of the most famous trick plays in the NFL and College have been some form of Hook & Lateral plays. The name Hook & Lateral refers to the most basic form of the play, a 12 yard Buttonhook followed by a lateral to another player. Sometimes erroneously called a Hook & Ladder, the play itself can and has taken on on many forms throughout the years.

87 Circle Curl Lateral

This is the most true to form Hook & Lateral. The outside receiver to either, or both sides, runs a 12 yard Curl (Hook). The QB delivers the ball to the receiver on time. Meanwhile, a second player, in this example the RB lined up as a slot receiver, brings himself to a spot behind the receiver angling towards the outside of the field. The first receiver laterals to the other player and he runs down the sideline for a TD. This is actually a play called 87 Circle Curl Lateral and it was run in a famous 1981 AFC Playoff Game between the Miami Dolphins and San Diego Chargers. Here is an article that talks about this great game


Hitch & Lateral

Most similar to the Curl & Lateral, this play gets the ball out quickly to a receiver running a 6-yard hitch. The RB in the backfield immediately releases to the side of the throw and the receiver pitches him the ball running down the sideline. The advantage over the Curl & Lateral is that the OL has to protect the QB for a much shorter time.


Screen & Lateral

With the popularity of quick screens to wide receivers, it was only a matter of time before a smart offensive coordinator used some trickery to combine a quick screen and a lateral. In the 2005 Fiesta Bowl, Urban Meyer and his Utah Utes executed a Screen & Lateral to perfection during their rout of Pittsburgh. To the single WR side, the receiver pushes upfield and retraces his steps back to the LOS and he comes towards the inside of the formation. The QB will take a regular drop from the gun and get the ball out quickly to the WR. The RB, lined up to the single receiver side in the backfield, runs a swing path that takes him close to the WR. The WR secures the catch and pitches to the RB that follows the OL that released to the outside like on their normal screens. In all honesty, it looks like the only player that is fooled by the play is the CB that is man-to-man on the WR, but, when executed correctly, it works like a regular play.


Dig & Lateral

Possibly the most famous use of a Hook & Lateral, Boise State ran a play that they called Circus on 4th Down when trailing the Oklahoma Sooners in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl. On this play, the Broncos lined up with three receivers to the left and one to the right. On the snap, the receiver on the right ran a 12-yard Dig (In) route. The QB threw him the ball while the receiver from the other side came across the field underneath him. The first receiver secured the catch and pitched to the receiver coming across the field for the game tying TD.


Flea Flickers

These plays are all designed as the maximum play-action pass. The ball is either handed off, or pitched to a RB who then will toss the ball backwards to the QB who will look to throw the ball downfield. These plays are the ultimate risk-reward plays. If they are executed and they fool the defense, they will often result in huge gains and usually touchdowns. If the defense is not fooled, they can result in turnovers and injuries (as Joe Theisman found out courtesy of Lawrence Taylor).

Flea Flicker


In Part 3 of this series, we will discuss some of the more off-the wall trick play ideas.

Football Trick Play Videos

By | 2017-11-27T11:01:57-06:00 November 2nd, 2013|Categories: Featured, Offense|Tags: , , , , , , , |0 Comments

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