USC'S RED RIGHT 22 Z HOOK
When Hue Jackson looks at a clean chalkboard, he sees the same tiling a painter sees when he gazes at a blank canvas: possibilities. That's what makes Jackson, USC's offensive coordinator, the perfect person to teach the West Coast offense to Trojans sophomore quarterback Carson Palmer. "In our offense the quarterback has to make reads and anticipate things that aren't visually there," says Jackson. "I've coached both Jake Plummer [now with the Arizona Cardinals] and Pat Barnes [now with the Oakland Raiders], and Carson is the best player at running this offense that I've ever been around."
The core play of USC's West Coast offense—and the most difficult to stop when the quarterback makes the proper reads—is called 22 Z Hook. Last season the Trojans completed 18 of 23 passes for 250 yards when they ran this play. USC burned Cal with it for a 61-yard gain on Oct. 10. Four weeks later the play was good for a 54-yard strike against Stanford. As difficult as the 22 Z Hook is to defend, it's equally difficult to execute; it's based not only on the timing between the quarterback and the wide receivers, but also on the entire offense's reacting to what the defense has called. But if the offense does its job, there's very little that can be done to stop the play.
"The primary receiver must get good depth, the strongside back needs to stretch the underneath coverage, and the tight end must move to the far tackle box then slide back," says Jackson. "The quarterback makes his reads in a progression, starting with the wide receiver, then the back, then the tight end. The success of the play is really on the quarterback's shoulders. He has to make the right read and the right throw."
NEBRASKA'S 34 TRAP
It is one of the simplest plays in college football: a quick handoff to the fullback straight into the belly of the defense. It's so rudimentary that a kindergartner could diagram it in finger paint. Yet this little play, more commonly known as the fullback trap, has been one of Nebraska's most powerful weapons for the last 37 years. Consider these numbers: Over the past three seasons the Cornhuskers have run the 34 Trap 142 times for 709 yards (5-0 average) and seven touchdowns.
"The reason the play has been so good for us is that teams often leave a void in the middle when they're trying to shut down our option," says Cornhuskers running backs coach Dave Gillespie. "It's almost like they forget about the fullback."
But it's not so much that the defense suffers amnesia as that it is lulled to sleep. Nearly every time Nebraska runs the option, the quarterback fakes a handoff to the fullback. Once the Cornhuskers' assistant coaches in the press box notice that the opposing defensive linemen are just trying to bull their way into the backfield instead of standing their ground and clogging the middle, and that the linebackers are overlooking the fake by keying on the quarterback and tailback, they will recommend running the trap.
The play conjures up good memories for Nebraska coach Frank Solicit. In 1962, when Solich was a reserve fullback for the Cornhuskers, the late Bob Devaney installed the 34 Trap in the playbook. Ever since, it has broken open more tight games than even Solich can count, the most memorable being the 1995 Orange Bowl against Miami. In the final 7:38 of that game, Nebraska scored two touchdowns on fullback trap runs of 15 and 14 yards by Cory Schlesinger to give Tom Osborne a 24-17 win and his first national title. The lumbering runs weren't things of beauty, but that night Solich, then the Cornhuskers' running backs coach, swears he saw perfection.
FLORIDA'S X QUICK