Oregon’s Innovative “Cross-Buck” and “Tiny TE” Passing Strategies


There are TWO promises I can count on from Oregon games these days. The first is Chip Kelly throwing one or two new strategies/plays into a game which makes our study of the evolving Oregon offense so satisfying.  The second promise is that one of the Consultants I turn to for help will come up with astute observations every time.  This time it was Josh Schlichter again who noted the ‘Tiny TE” strategy before I did, while the other components of Chip’s Game Plan will be covered in upcoming reports from the Grizzled Ole’ Coach, while Coach Goodbody in Colorado will offer some defensive expertise.  The analysis team at FishDuck.com is growing and we hope our input continues to help Oregon fans enjoy these wonderful beloved Ducks of ours!

We line up in the Triple Option formation above with the “Beast in the Backfield,” Colt Lyerla, lined up on the left side.  As you recall from prior reports we use him extensively for many purposes in this formation, even as a Running Back.

We have a “Cross-Buck” action taking place (above) as Barner is going left, and Lyerla is going right to smash #7 for Cal with his usual devastating block.  For many coaches a “Buck” is a Tight End in the shotgun, or lined up as a H-Back. What about when we run the TE one direction and the RB another?  It makes sense to call it the “Cross-Buck” action, as it gives our RBs more gaps to run to.  It is the same as having a Fullback in the backfield as discussed before.

Kenjon (above) steps over the remains of the collision between Colt and the Bear Outside Linebacker and moves into the secondary!  The Cross-Buck has been around at Oregon from as early as two years ago, but we’ve never had an explosion athlete like Lyerla lowering the boom like this.  It is a good strategy for his skills and our needs in our running game.

We are near the goal line (above) when we line up and begin again the “Cross-Buck” action with Colt going right and Kenjon going left.

The Cal defender (above, #7 again) is bracing for another blasting block by Colt, when instead you see the white blur next to him racing past.  Lyerla is taking off on a pass pattern and the OLB knows he can’t possibly catch up after being caught flat-footed and is having an “Oh Crap” moment!  It is another example of how it is so hard to prepare for all the aspects of the Chip Kelly Offense.

Too late for Cal, as the defenders above cannot recover to stop the pass or make the tackle as Colt cruises into the end zone from a pass play variation of the “Cross-Buck” action in the backfield.  If you don’t come up to take on the block as a defender…then Colt will create a lane for the RB with your carcass.  Yet what if you come up hard to defeat the block and Lyerla runs past you?  You are in trouble, either way.  We love it!

Now what in the world is this?  We see Josh Huff lined up at TE above?  What is a little guy doing playing Tight End?  (Huff is taller than me but little by TE standards)  You see Colt over to the left of the formation as an H-Back, with a WR Stack formation at the top of the screen.  Huff went out for a flare pass from that spot, and I assumed that it was to take advantage of a LB covering him to create a match-up in our favor?

Now we have flopped the formation with Lyerla as H-Back (above), the WR Stack (below), and the offensive linemen doing the kick-step classic Outside Zone Read blocking to the left. The Grizzled Ole’ Coach explained to me that when we don’t substitute players in, then neither can the defense — and what are they to do when the WR is flanked outside on one play and comes inside then next as a TE?  The defense cannot adjust to our change!  Who is that Tiny TE taking off?

We see (above) that we did a play action to the left with the OZR action, and Mariota is bootlegging to the right.  Lyerla has gone into a short pattern from his H-Back position.  Is that who Marcus is going to throw to?

The Tiny TE was Will Murphy (above), who is hauling in the pass from MM in this grainy screenshot.  What was amazing is the great throw on the run by Mariota that just led our WR perfectly to keep it from the defenders and make a long third down play!  Nice catch from our senior from Albany!  He may be small for the TE position, but he has been big with blocks downfield, and now with catching the ball.  He pulled in an acrobatic Touchdown later in the game.

I know it is getting routine to most of you, but I still marvel at the tweaks and the adjustments introduced in each game that make it impossible for the opposing team to prepare for.  Every week when I study the changes and I say to myself,  “I didn’t see that one coming!”  It’s evident that our conference foes feel the same way!

“Oh how we love to learn about our beloved Ducks!”

Charles Fischer  (FishDuck)
Oregon Football Analyst for FishDuck.com
Eugene, Oregon

Top Photo from Video


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Charles Fischer

Charles Fischer

Charles Fischer has been an intense fan of the Ducks for thirty years and has written reports on football boards for over a dozen years. Known as “FishDuck” on those boards, he is acknowledged for providing intense detail in his scrimmage reports and in his Xs and Os play analyses. He and his wife Lois, a daughter, Christine, and their dog (Abbie) reside in Eugene, Oregon, where he has been a financial advisor for 30 years serving clients in seven different states. He does not profess to be a coach or analyst, but simply a “hack” that enjoys sharing what he has learned and invites others to correct or add to this body of Oregon Football! See More...

  • kixxs1199

    Hope Chip has some answers to throw Stanford off and make up for our banged up D-line.

  • voicejg

    FishDuck, you are appreciated. You enhance our enjoyment of Duck football! Thank you. Just wish PAC-12 Network were available in Waldport. (It is–but only on DISH) Don’t tell me it has to be Directv;s fault (or Charter’s). Some of us with a UO education know that Duck AD/PAC-12 could apply pressure on network to work it out; i.e. I don’t necessarily buy the propaganda that it’s always the fans’ providers that are to be blamed/pressured. I know UO AD wants fans’ support. How about giving some support to us? – Jeff Geiger

    • fishduck

      Sorry Jeff,….It is a mess–as I know the AD does NOT want fans shut out.

    • bassett

      I here ya Jeff. I live in Lincoln City and same story here. At the time I emailed the PAC-12 even DISH wasn’t an option. There reply was that I should drop my cable carrier and go with one that carries the network. I proceeded to tell them that I live in an area where Dish, DirectTv, and Charter are the only option. I find it hard to believe that it is all the cable carriers fault with coming to an agreement when there was nobody even in my area to carry it. Sorry for the off topic Fishduck, but it is upsetting. I always enjoy your way of explaining the naunces of the offense we don’t always see.

  • Chris

    Fantastic post – thanks, Charles!

  • Kleptolia

    I like the tiny te formation. I know this is easy to say after the fact, but I have been thinking since last year that Oregon needs to have a counter to the typical spread. If expansion is a strategy, contraction must also be an option.
    The neat thing here is that the Ducks like to spread the defense out and run. Why not contract the defense and pass? Putting a receiver at the te position allows the mesh to pull in the linebackers, while the te/receiver attacks the green that has been created on the edges. Imagine a couple of flare routes, followed by a double move route out of this formation. If the safety bites on the play action, the sidelines are owned by the receiver coming from the te spot. It’s a good strategy for some power running and some frightening play action passes. I think that this type of dual nature to the Duck’s offense is what sets Chip Kelley apart from the rest of the college football pack. I am sad that I couldn’t see the Cal game live. I love it when new formations are presented.
    One question: was this formation used in the first half, or the second half?

    • fishduck

      Those are great comments and ones to make us ponder his next moves. They ran the Tiny TE formation in both halves and the pass to Murphy was early in the game in fact.

  • Vince

    How about if (with more of a 21 or 11 personnel) you trot both the Y (Lyerla) and the Z (Addison?) to the right, then as the defense has their corner line up wide, you have the Z go tight and the Y go split. That way, before the defense can adjust, you have a 6-5, 238 pound tight end on a small corner and a quick little 5-10 receiver on a slow, lumbering linebacker. You could open a lot of holes in the defense with that.

  • kleptolia

    One more comment from me on this:
    Does anybody else think it would be neat if Chip lined up the offense in a traditional wishbone backfield, with Lyerla and DAT lined up on either side of Mariota (or Bennet, for that matter), and Barner at tailback, and the wideouts lined up tight where the TEs would normally be?
    The Tiny TE formation discussed in this article is nearly the same thing, but not quite.
    I feel like the formation that I am thinking of would be useful in short yardage situations and against cover zero defenses like Cal used. I don’t know, though. I’m just thinking out loud.

  • Kicker

    I really appreciate the insight you bring to the game. You present a fresh, intelligent view of how the Ducks play the game. It is so nice to read comments by someone who truly understands football. I recently retired after coaching high school football for the past 35 years and reading your reports reminds me of being in a coaching staff meeting, breaking down game film and preparing for the next opponent. Keep up the great work!