Learning from Oregon’s Civil War Passing Attack
We have a TON of good subjects to study from the Civil War game, and this week we have some special insight from the receivers coach of Villanova University, Brian Flinn. He is helping us look at some pass plays Oregon ran, and this gives us an opportunity to learn a little about the defensive coverages we’ll see from Oregon opponents as well. We have a unique treat in a final example of a touchdown play — from the perspective of how Josh Huff gains separation, gets open, and scores! This is a fun week for learning more about Oregon football, and that also includes yours truly.
We had a big play from Josh Huff, but what defense were the Beavers in to allow it? At the beginning of the play above we see the corners of Oregon State defending our widest receivers, with two deep safeties. Is this a Cover 2 where the corners have short zone coverage and the safeties pick up deep coverage on their side?
The Beavers (above) have morphed at the snap into rushing just three while dropping eight into pass coverage. Look how at the 38-40 yard line you have FIVE OSU defenders in their zones, and since Huff was going deeper — he was let go to the deep safety. Note how Josh is doing a deeper Post-Curl, (yellow dotted line) and just in front of the safety. Below and out of view is Addison doing a streak to clear that side’s safety away, while we have the TE and RB in the flats (open) with Hawkins dragging across the middle. Huff is actually the fourth option in the progression!
Huff made the catch, dodged some tacklers (above) and went 38 yards on the reception. Oregon State WAS in the Cover 2, while dropping eight into pass defense. What was the pass play from the Ducks? This was a “Cross” pattern that Coach Flinn wrote about on this site last summer and he noted that this pass play was Michael Vick’s first touchdown pass at Philadelphia, as the Eagles run it as extensively as Oregon does. It’s a good one for us as fans to keep an eye out for!
As I was looking at the screenshot above — I could not help but wonder if the Beaver defense is a “Soft” Cover 2. We have the two deep safeties to pick up the longer routes as in Cover 2, but the corners are off the line of scrimmage quite a bit. This huge gap between the Beaver corners and the Duck receivers is the opposite of “Press” coverage, where they are right up at the LOS facing each other. Is Oregon State expecting a longer pass play, hence the extra cushion given to our wide receivers?
We see (above) how each of the Oregon receivers did some kind of “stop” or curl route where they went a predetermined distance down field and stopped/curled and turned around. On this play we see the ball in the air to Addison at the bottom, with the defenders of EACH Oregon receiver coming up hard! Coach Flinn explained how the Beaver secondary was not operating a Cover 2, but instead a QUARTERS coverage where the field is divided into four sections and the defensive back is responsible for receivers in his quarter section whether short or deep.
The “Quarters” defense is effective especially on first down for Oregon’s opponents, as it is easy for defensive backs to start near the LOS for run support. In this case, we see Oregon checking out the OSU defense with this play to note their coverage. while Addison gets a nice 13-yard gain for the Ducks.
(Coach Flinn writes for us the following description of the play) Oregon creates the match-up of Huff being covered by the OSU safety with the Duck personnel and formation on this play. The 2 WR-2 TE-1 RB personnel grouping makes it likely that Oregon State will counter with a Cover 4 pass coverage. Using the Cover 4 essentially locks up the Beaver corner and safety into man coverage down the field on the two WRs of Oregon lined up at the top of the field. (Hawkins at top, and then Huff)
An underrated part of playing the WR position is body control, which for a receiver is the ability to maintain great body position (above) while moving at high speed. Josh Huff is a great player (in both the running and passing game) due in large part to his ability to maintain good body position throughout the course of a play. Whether running a route or blocking on the edge, Huff rarely gets himself off balance or out of control. He understands and plays with leverage at a very high level.
Huff’s route on this play above is an example of both his body control and understanding of route running. He wins the route at the beginning with an explosive vertical stem (path) off the LOS (yellow dotted lines). The speed of Josh’s departure threatens and backs up the Beaver safety (No. 25 and out of the picture) and turns his hips away from where Huff is going — the post/middle of the field. The OSU safety responsible for the other middle quarter of coverage has realized that he got caught on play-action and needs to move deep to help. (Dotted orange arrow)
The top end of Josh’s route demonstrates his precision as a route runner. As he nears the top of his Post route (above), Huff leans his head and shoulders slightly outside to move the OSU safety (25), even further away from the middle of the field. At the same time, he maintains good body position/balance with his lower body and slams his outside foot in the ground (at the depth required by the play) to define his route. The other safety cannot recover from run support fast enough to cover his quarter deep, hence a touchdown by Josh Huff!
The TD was a result of a good play call, and a great throw and catch. However it is also the product of Josh Huff’s doing his job before the ball is thrown with great precision, speed, and attention to detail.
My thanks to Coach Flinn for his expertise with these Oregon passing plays, and his write-up of the last play above. He is one of several coaches who will be helping Duck fans continue to learn more about the Oregon offense and defense through the long off-season. It’s going to be fun studying with these coaches and enjoying the flavor of field-level insight!
“Oh how we love to learn about our beloved Ducks!”
Charles Fischer (FishDuck)
Oregon Football Analyst EugeneDailyNews/FishDuck.com