Byron Marshall Loves Oregon’s New Slot-Sweep Read

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How fun is it to see a new variation of a foundation play of the Oregon offense! The Sweep Read is one of those plays of the Oregon offense that has been unchanged since FishDuck.com introduced the play to football fans more than three years ago. Now we are beginning to see new wrinkles that Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich is adding to the offense to emphasize the strengths of the team and the individual players and none could be more happy about the change than running back Bryon Marshall. Due to his total package of running and receiving skills — he has already capitalized on this new variation in the recent game against Wyoming. Let’s see how …

Typical OZR or Sweep Read formation

From Video

Typical OZR or Sweep Read formation

Above is a typical backfield formation that Oregon uses to attack a defense from left to right. Defenses know that with the running back to the left of the QB, the Ducks usually like to run the Inside Zone Read, Outside Zone Read, or Sweep Read to the right side. The red arrow shows the desired path of the RB for an Outside Zone Read – watch the videos and learn the building blocks of the Oregon offense!

The Wyoming defense above reacts immediately to the Outside Zone Read, beats blocks and pursue hard to the perimeter. They know from the formation where it is going and like so many other teams we face, are prepared.

The Cowboys like so many opponents knew it well.

From Video

The Cowboys — like so many opponents — knew it well.

We have had quite a few plays like the GIF above this season already, and Coaches Frost and Helfrich are looking to counter it.

Note the beginning position of Marshall.

From Video

Note the beginning position of Marshall.

Above we see Byron Marshall in the tight slot position and Marcus Mariota has just motioned a hand signal downward to Marshall. Byron has demonstrated his extraordinary ability to run routes and catch passes, thus defenses have to be backed up and ready to cover him.

He is moving backward to being in the backfield!

From Video

He is moving backward to being in the backfield!

Byron surprised me by backing up into the usual Outside Zone Read or Sweep Read positioning for an instant. He then turned his shoulders and ran in front of Mariota.

It's a Sweep Read!

From Video

It’s a Sweep Read!

I know this play!  It is a Sweep Read, but coming from the Slot position to begin! As Mariota and Marshall do the mesh we note how Marcus is looking at the defender and is “reading” him.  Since he is “sitting” then the correct decision is to hand off as he is about to do. Note how Oregon has the center (Hroniss Grasu) a guard, (Hamani Stevens) and a running back who was in the “trips” formation (Royce Freeman) pulling to lead the blocking. Inside we see tremendous blocks down by Jake Fisher and Pharaoh Brown (red arrows).

Great blocking!

From Video

Great blocking!

Marshall is breaking a tackle while getting good blocks from Brown (No. 85) Stevens, (green arrow) Darren Carrington, (yellow arrow) and Freeman (red arrow), and he’s off for a big gain!

The "Slot Sweep Read."

From Video

The “Slot Sweep Read.”

There is quite a bit for the defense to cover, but Byron found a superb cut-back lane and made more yardage due to breaking a tackle (above).

Pass Route or Sweep Read?

From Video

Pass Route or Sweep Read?

Oregon has “trips” at the top of the screen and defenders have to be very conscious of the weaving pass routes that can come from that formation, add to that the difficulty of Marshall in the slot again — will the Ducks pass or run?

Blocking DOWN

From Video

Blocking DOWN

An important concept for fans to understand is blocking down. This means the offensive linemen are not blocking the defender in front of them, but instead the defender to the inside. Note how there is no defender in front of or “over” Oregon’s center Grasu (green arrow), this is when the Ducks like to run the Sweep Read most. The player to Hroniss’s right is Jake Pisarcik who will be pulling, along with Grasu. To the right of Pisarcik is Haniteli Lousi at tackle, who will not block the man in front of him, but he will block down into No. 61 of the Wyoming defense. Brown (upper red lines) is going to enjoy crunching the defensive end to his left.

A great start and a correct Zone Read.

From Video

A great start and a correct Zone Read.

What an awesome screenshot! Mariota is Zone Reading the unblocked defender above who is clearly ‘sitting” and thus handing off is the correct decision by Marcus. The blocks down by Lousi (red arrow) and Brown (green arrow) are devastating and cave in the right side of the Cowboy defense.

Grasu, Freeman, and Nelson,...oh my!

From Video

Grasu, Freeman and Nelson help spring Marshall.

Images like the one above make this old offensive lineman giddy with glee. Grasu is blasting No. 18 of the Wyoming defense, while we see a lane opened by two freshmen for Marshall! At the top is Freeman, who shows us that he is not a prima donna, but uses his amazing athletic gifts to help the team with more than just running.

At the other end of the double green arrow is Charles Nelson! His blocking is persistent as he has vowed to not let his man blow up the play. For the first time in a long time — I might have a “Man-Crush” on someone other than an offensive lineman. Whether he is catching punts, breaking the wedge and making the tackle on kickoffs, or now creating huge blocks … he is as tough as we’ve heard. That kind of blocking makes you wonder if he isn’t the Keanon Lowe heir apparent? You gotta love this freshman!

Brilliant tactics with superb blocking creates an Oregon Touchdown!

From Video

Brilliant tactics with superb blocking creates an Oregon touchdown!

So how about that, we have a new “Slot Sweep Read” play! One aspect of this new play that excites me is how Coach Helfrich is using the Chip Kelly game-planning that surprises opponents, and in this case he’s adding to the playbook to create an advantage in the game. We will cover this more in depth later, but it is a tremendous development for Oregon fans.

Oh how we love to learn about our beloved Ducks!

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

(FishDuck Note: This site has coined a new football term being used among fans and coaches!  Three years ago I sat in the FishDuck ManCave with the Grizzled Ol’ Coach (Mike Morris) and we were debating what to call this new play. “You agree that it is a sweep, and that we are reading a defender on the backside or mid-level; so we have the Inside Zone Read, the Outside Zone Read, and you think we should call this the Sweep Read?” The cagey coach snorted, “it’s your site…call it what YOU want.”  I persisted with him,”you agree it is a Read play, and a Sweep….so Sweep Read it IS!”

That was the first time that term was introduced, and since that time it is now mentioned on sites that advise high school coaches, sites that report college football, and sites that study NFL football.  It is part of football lexicon now, and it began in that August day in 2011, with not knowing what to call this new play.)

   The Outstanding Top Photo by Craig Strobeck   

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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...

  • bstaheli

    Great article! It’s great to break down an offense people call “gimmicky” and see that it’s pure fundamentals with smart wrinkles and adjustments. This is the smartest article I’ve read in a long time. I look forward to your future pieces.

    • FishDuck

      Thank you bstaheli,

      To see a ton more….go up to the top of the site and click on “Directory” and scroll down to the Tutorials and below that to “Fish Reports.” I have been VERY lucky to have a number of coaches do analysis articles for us who know much more than me, and they have really contributed to the knowledge of football fans everywhere.

  • Autzen Magic

    Charles: I really enjoy these articles; please keep them coming!

    I hate to nitpick, but I am pretty sure that the right tackle blocking down on the sweep read is Crosby and not Lousi (who I understood was in a boot for the Wyoming game after getting injured in practice prior to the Michigan State game).

    Thanks and Go Ducks!