The Oregon Ducks don’t exactly have Johnny Football orchestrating the symphony this year yet their offense has been absolutely manhandling every single opposition set in its path. Most impressively, Oregon has been doing this without Chip Kelly at the helm as he left for the Philadelphia Eagles of the NFL. Instead, the Ducks promoted offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich to be head coach and former Nebraska QB Scott Frost has transitioned from serving as the wide receivers coach to coaching the QBs and serving as offensive coordinator.
In 5 games, Oregon is averaging 59 points. They have become more balanced with 236 runs (for 1,679 yards and 24 TD) while throwing the ball 150 times (for 1,473 yards and 15 TD).
Despite the gaudy statistics, their offense continues to rely upon the smart reads from QB Marc Mariota along with the speed of RBs Byron Marshall, De’Anthony Thomas, Thomas Tyner, and Ayele Forde.
The heartbeat of their offensive system continues to be their zone read running game, one that has been equally productive and prolific for the Philadelphia Eagles largely due to the nature of its up tempo speed. Chip Kelly has stated that the offense really isn’t designed to fool the defense as they lay their hand on the table and run the play anyway, demanding that the defense have the ability to stop what they know is coming directly at them. Oregon, along with its packaged concepts weaved into their plays, basically run: Inside Zone, Outside Zone, and Zone Read along with some variations depending on the front and defensive layout.
Let us start taking a deeper look at how the Oregon defense has been taking advantage of the mistakes offered up by the defenses they have played thus far this season. Credit to XOSSports on Youtube for the clips I was able to screencapture.
Our 1st play: Oregon faces 3rd & Goal against Colorado with 10:18 left in the 1st Quarter. Oregon will line up in a 3×1 formation with 2 WRs flanked on the right side along with the TE on the right side of the line of the scrimmage. The QB immediately reads the charging LB on a basic zone read play. The TE does a great job sealing his LB towards the inside mass of bodies allowing a wide open outside lane should the QB keep it, which is exactly what happens.
Our 2nd Play: Oregon faces 1st & 10 against Colorado with 2:06 left in the 1st Quarter. Oregon lines up in a 4×1 Shotgun formation with a 2×2 look. This is a playaction pass based off their staple Inside Zone run. The outside receiver on the far right runs a straight streak (he will eventually get the pass thrown his way) upon beating the jam in Man Coverage. The interior slot receiver runs a simple bubble screen. The slot on the left side of the quarterback runs a dig in route and the outside receiver runs a deep post. Mariota recognizes he has 1 on 1 coverage on the outside as the deep interior DB is spying the slot receiver running the bubble screen the whole way.
Our 3rd Play: Oregon faces a 4th & Goal against Colorado with 6:08 left in the 2nd Quarter. Oregon runs the exact same zone read as their first touchdown but does so out of a 2×1 formation with 7 blockers (including a TE off the line of scrimmage) leading the way. The quarterback reads the crashing defender, who gets chipped briefly by the offset tight end. Much like the first touchdown of the game, Mariota recognizes the wide open end zone he now has available to him and gets a very easy touchdown.
Our 4th Play: Oregon faces a 1st & Goal against Tennessee with 15:00 left in the 2nd Quarter. Oregon will add a wrinkle here for college defenses by running a triple option out of a 2×2 formation with the 2 RBs tightly flanking the quarterback. The quarterback will read the defense on a normal Inside Zone run. If the defense bites towards the running back, the quarterback runs outside and has the option to pitch or keep based on the secondary key. In this case, Mariota keeps it and breaks the tackle allowing for the touchdown run. The DE who bites does a good job recovering to chase Mariota but cannot tackle him to the ground while the DB on the outside does a good job staying with the pitch man.
Our 5th Play: Oregon faces a 4th Down & 6 against Tennessee with 4:28 left in the 2nd Quarter. Oregon runs a play very similar to what they did the next week against Colorado off playaction. Oregon throws out of a 3×1 set where the far outside receiver runs a streak. The closest interior slot receiver runs a little bubble screen. The middle receiver runs a crossing route over the middle of the field while the tight end also crosses from the left side of the formation underneath that receiver’s route. The CB bites on the bubble screen while the S who was supposed to help provide over the top bites on the crossing route allowing for an easy wide open pass and catch for a touchdown.
As long as QB Marc Mariota continues to make the correct decisions thrusted upon him by Mark Helfrich and Scott Frost, this offense will continue to pile up the yardage and more importantly, the touchdowns needed to make a potential run at the National Championship. The up tempo nature helps force defenses on their heels and the unpredictability of their playaction designed around their common Inside and Outside Zone plays will usually give them the upper hand over any opponent they face.
Credit IBTimes.com for feature image