Isn’t an Oregon Quarterback SWEEP Risky?

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Imagine my surprise to find ANOTHER new play in the USC game, the Quarterback Sweep! Last week we enjoyed the revelation of “Sucker Plays”.  As I reviewed it, I began to think about the other plays that the Oregon QB serves as the ball carrier and began to wonder about at what point is it too risky to be putting a tremendous player in such an exposed position for injury? It becomes an interesting question when we look at the scenarios surrounding the plays that the Oregon QB carries the ball and why. Your thoughts?

QB Sweep Read (P&P)

The first QB Sweep (Above) was run out of the Sweep Read blocking as you see the linemen pulling to the left. This is actually the opposite of how we usually run the Sweep Read, as we want the Running Back to be going left and the QB going right. Perhaps in this game Oregon knew USC would key on Kenjon, (good call) and it would open up running opportunities for Marcus Mariota.

QB Sweep Read 2

One block was defeated and our QB was upended for a five-yard gain. Being out there in open field makes me nervous with seeing how defenders go after the Oregon QB who has blossomed into one of the nation’s best. Am I over-reacting?

QB Scramble

Duck quarterbacks have a reputation of being mobile and able to evade many of the blitzes that come at them. Above we see Mariota evade the pass rush and scramble for a first down. Pretty routine, but is it different than a sweep?

QB Draw

One of the surprises of this game (Above) and the Fiesta Bowl was Marcus going back to pass and then taking off in a QB Draw play. Both times we made a great chunk of yardage and at the end of both examples the Oregon QB did well to “Duck” and slide into the tackle.

Mid-Line Zone Read

The focus on Barner was extreme as not only did Oregon run Zone Read pull the ball on occasion, but also the Ducks actually ran a Mid-Line Zone Read where the Defensive Tackle is Zone Read or optioned, and Marcus pulled the ball and ran for over fifty yards. (Above) Again these are routine plays where the QB is the ball carrier in the Oregon offense. Why would the QB Sweep make me uncomfortable?

MM getting hit

It is the picture above that illustrates the concern with the Zone Read play as this is an instant before two Trojan defenders bash their helmets into Mariota’s to stuff a QB keeper on the Inside Zone Read. The hit was so hard that Marcus was clearly woozy the next play as he fumbled the snap and the Ducks lost the ball to USC.

OZR QB Sweep 1

The next QB Sweep example features different blocking as this time we see (Above) Outside Zone Read blocking to the left as again Oregon is reversing the positions of the RB and QB. Usually it is the RB going to the left, but the Ducks must have felt again that they could pull the defense over to cover Barner and open up space for Marcus Mariota to run.

OZR QB Sweep 2

As Mariota approaches the sideline (Above) we see some extraordinary blocks sealing defenders to the inside such as Colt Lyerla’s block that he continued for two seconds after this screenshot to drive the Trojan out of the play completely. Truly an amazing block that sprung Mariota down the sideline.

OZR QB Sweep 3

The Oregon QB has turned the corner and is jetting upfield for a big gain due to the superb blocks of the linemen and WRs on the defensive backs. Yet compared to some of the other plays from this game that we have seen, is my concern about this play being a little too risky justified?

I credit the Oregon Coaching staff for bringing this additional element into the Oregon Game plan as it helped to thwart the fixation of the Trojan defense on our RBs, which in a paradox, actually helped open the offense up that much more in this game to set new records of offense and scoring EVER on a USC defense by an opponents Running Backs.

Everyone knows that a QB slides when scrambling on a pass play. Mariota has shown superb judgment in getting down in most Zone Read plays, but when he takes the ball and charges the sideline with linemen in front as we observed above? The mental approach of the defense can change to one of REALLY trying to hurt this valued QB of the Oregon Nick Cody hugs MMOffense. Is the approach different from one play to the next? Is the Quarterback Sweep at Oregon too risky? I contend that the answer is YES, even though it can help our game plan at times. Like Nick Cody, all Oregon fans want to hug and protect one of the most talented quarterbacks to step in Autzen Stadium. (And the Coliseum!)

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

Charles Fischer (FishDuck)
Oregon Football Analyst for
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...

  • SOD

    Fish, everytime I read your blog I come away more knowledgeable and hoping for football season to get here right away. You and your staff do a GREAT job! Thank you from an old Duck!

  • Ted

    First of all you are calling it a sweep, and it’s isn’t. It’s a read option keeper, or a called keeper. A sweep means the offensive line is also pulling to protect & block for the ball carrier…hence sweep (all working in tandem going the same way sweeping). Secondly, A read option (as you and most know) is meant to read the defense and either give or keep depending on how the defense reacts. If he the QB keeps, it means he saw something that should give him a wide open lane to run and where he should be one on one with a defender, which minimizes the chance of injury. So IMO it’s not putting the QB in any added jeopardy.
    Oregon’s entire offense is predicated on getting ball carriers in a one on one situation with a defender, which most of us know favors the ball carrier because he is usually moving forward and the defender is reading and reacting. most injuries come from gang tackles, and in the piles. Not many come from one on one in the open field.

    • You know not

      You know not what you speak of, most injuries happen all over the field. In reality, most injuries happen when someone falls on your legs from behind, example: O-line. The majority of other injuries happen in one on one, or two on one collisions. Have you ever played?

      • Ted

        I know a lot of what I speak…I played and coached. Did You?
        you use an O line example…most of O line action is in the trenches (piles) within 2-3 yds of either side of the line of scrimmage.
        and nice statement…”most injuries happen all over the field”…well duh. did you finish grade school?

    • FishStaff

      Coaches are going to disagree on definitions, since in the first example we are running a “Sweep Read” blocking scheme, hence it is a Sweep since we are running away from the unblocked defenders. Why do I not call it a Sweep Read? Because in our traditional use of the play we had the RB follow the pulling linemen.

      This to me looks like a a purposeful QB Sweep. IHMO.

  • Ken

    Fish, thanks for the post! Good information and great read. I will contend, however, the naming of the play call. Let me first and foremost state that I understand coaches will use different verbiage. However, I must put my two cents in that it would not be a QB sweep. There is a play that Oregon runs that our team calls “Invert”. Invert is very similar to an Inside Zone Read. With an IZ call, you leave the DE on the backside of the play free and have an extra OL on the playside to climb to the second level. However on Invert, the blocking scheme is the opposite- you option the PLAYSIDE DE. 99% of the time the play ends with the QB pulling the ball (seeing as how the running back will be running directly into an unblocked DE) and running inside, somewhere between the playside A and B gaps. Again this is a designed inside run with the ability to now read either DE

    We are in the process of installing an Outside Invert this year which is exactly what this play you are referring to would be. The OL goes through their Outside Zone steps to the left (leaving the rightside DE free) while the RB and QB read that playside DE. Again the RB will be running directly towards the unblocked DE. Upon his read, the QB pulls the ball and runs an OZ run to the left.

    I am by no means trying to prove you wrong, just putting my two cents in the mix.

    I can’t thank you enough for all of the great info that you post up and I love reading through it! Thanks again and keep up the hard work!