My breakdown of USC’s offense through Chow, Kiffin, Sarkisian, etc

My weekly bit is now up at Dr Saturday. Check it out there. And, after the jump, is a video clip I made of some quick game concepts USC used under Chow that got cut from the main article for space reasons.

In the video below, check out a packaged slant/shoot and double slants look. (QB read: Against a single middle safety defense, look for the slant/shoot because the read is the flat defender; against two-deep safeties, look for the double slants, because the read is the #2 inside defender, as both slants come inside the corner.)


The second set in the clips is the spacing concept.


  • jimbo

    Good stuff. Love the breakdown for the three step stuff.

  • James

    Great post, Chris.

    USC, under Chow, only had a handful of concepts in the offense (7-10) which seems small from a collegiate standpoint, but it really allowed them to make direct changes with personnel and adjustments throughout the game. Some coaches over-package the offense to the point where they can’t really make adjustments quickly. They become stuck in the macro-conceptual stage of offense where they lose sight of the little changes that can be the difference between success and failure. Chow never hesitated to add simple tags to the end of a play based on what he was seeing. I’m much more familiar with the Chow style that USC ran, but it appeared to me (I could be wrong) that the Kiffin/Sarkisian era wanted to get the play “right” from the offset.

  • Brad

    Very good article Chris,

    I had always wondered what the story was out at USC. It was clear to me that they had stopped running the BYU offense since before Carson Palmer’s last year.

    You can’t really argue with the results, I guess they figured if you have the horses just throw it to them quick and let them make something happen, don’t screw around scanning the field looking for the open guy.

  • Jon E.

    It never ceases to rub me the the wrong way when I see:

    1) That Chow is somehow a reason for Pete’s 6-6 first season


    2) That Chow’s offense is a spit-backs air raid offense.

    Looking at 1996-1999 BYU film, you’ll see a mirror of pro offense. BYU had some talent to run it, so Chow had a wide playbook with any concept you can think of. And he ran predominantly zone running plays. BYU also had sophisticated area and man pass protection schemes. The ONLY thing missing from USC’s 2005 offense and Chow’s BYU offense was the gap running concept. What Chow initially brought to USC was the NC State model- dumbed down for an offense in a new system.

    To say that USC went to zone in 2004-2005 is just wrong. They made a living on Power. But that’s not Chow- that’s the great Tim Davis. Credit is due to one of the best OL coaches college ball has ever seen.

    Kiffin changed the offense to the Gruden/Michigan zone model in both running and passingg and USC suffered offensively. Sark opened it up slightly more, but made most of his changes to the passing game, where he went back to more fundamental West Coast reads that Chow had.

    I think time has shown that the Chow era at USC, including the time his QB, Steve Sarkisian was calling plays stands as the most prolific in recent memory.

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  • chow was great sarkisian was great but kiffin was decent if not ok. then again he might have done better with a good defense instead of this easy, soft secondary.

  • Very interesting … I love looking at simple breakdowns and this definitely makes some sense. It’s always interesting trying to compare earlier play books as well and seeing how they can change. I know offenses continue to change, yet it’s still interesting to see some of the comparisons that coaches continue to use from play books of even a decade ago. Your Thoughts?

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