Oregon Offensive Scoring Records will Fall due to BRADY HOKE?

LOS vs USC

ALERT: The following quotes by Defensive Coordinator Brady Hoke are NOT accurate. He stated a very polite version of what you will read, and  I dramatized it to make a point. (I am known for drama … but I always back it up as you will see)

Coach Hoke cleared his throat and eyed the 60-70 high school football coaches eagerly sitting in front of him. He took a big breath, and everyone in the room knew something important was about to spill from the new Oregon coordinator’s mouth.

“Whose wise idea was it to pair the Bend-but-don’t-Break-Defense with the Oregon Offense?”

We all looked at each other puzzled …. not knowing what he was driving at.

“That defense works….I know as I’ve coached it, but why would you pair it with an offense that has been in the top five in the nation for scoring in each of the last five years? Oregon is known for rapid scoring, having some of the highest numbers of under-two minute drives in the nation. An offense like that can score a TON, so why pair it with a defense that is designed to be out on the field for long stretches–and keeps this scoring machine off the field?”

Jalen Jelks will flourish in the 4-3 Defense.

John Sperry

Jalen Jelks will flourish in the 4-3 Defense.

The room was quite surprised by this ambush, but the looks on everyone’s faces clearly agreed with Hoke’s logic. That said, where was he going with this? Our answer came soon enough as he began to outline his defensive philosophy and priorities.

“The Oregon defense this year will be attacking and unpredictable; we will force early punts, turnovers, and occasionally when the opponent scores a quick touchdown on the Ducks … who trots back on the field? The OREGON OFFENSE!”

Suddenly, it all made sense; if anyone can make up for an occasional quick TD on the Ducks due to a more aggressively-styled defensive scheme, it would be this offense, especially with the skill players in tow this fall.

Keep in mind that I personally have been a proponent of the “bend-but-don’t-break” defense, as I felt it helped our team have a chance to win without having the SEC-type defenders that a USC might have. We have done analyses of that philosophy helping us win big games on this very site, so it shook me up how easily his logic melted away my bias.

I admit it certainly makes sense that the Oregon offense will score more points if it is on the field more minutes, especially in the first three quarters. But how do you get the defense off the field quicker than previous defenses? The answer comes from the open practice held before the Spring Game that was very lightly attended, which I covered for Ducks fans. It is simple, not profound, but it will work.

The method used by Oregon defensive linemen in the former 3-4 defense was a Two-Gap technique, which required them to stand up the offensive lineman, observe where the play was going while being responsible for the gaps on either side of the offensive lineman, and then pursue the play.

The current method used in Hoke’s new 4-3 defense is a One-Gap technique, where the defensive lineman explode into one single gap to create havoc. It is much easier to implement, as once you get the players knowing which way they need to go, it is full-on attack mode from the snap. That said, it can be very strenuous to execute play after play.

But it was especially exciting for me to witness the defense practice blitzes and change their one-gap assignments as fast as a no-huddle offense! I literally watched them morph into different defenses from play-to-play during this open practice. And I saw first-hand how very hard it was for offensive linemen to adjust and carry out their assignments.

Being unpredictable WORKS.

From Pac-12 Video

Being unpredictable WORKS.

They did not show much of it at the Spring Game, but we do have an example that illustrates this concept. The third arrow from the bottom, Drayton Carlberg has been charging the outside shoulder of the offensive lineman every play, thus making him predictable to block. However, on this play we see a blitz called that has him suddenly charging the inside shoulder before the blocker can adjust. It results in a tackle for loss as you will see in the video below.

This is not rocket science or a massive new innovation in defensive technique; teams have been slanting against the Oregon offense for years. But the key is being unpredictable and multiple. The offensive lineman above was surprised on the above play not by Carlberg’s technique itself, which was not unusual, but because the defensive call at the time was unusual. 

Did you notice that the scoring in the spring game was barely half that it normally is? Note also the number of drives that gained some yardage but eventually stalled? The new defense is working my friends, and it is the combination of an attacking mindset and unpredictability that will put the potent Oregon offense on the field for more minutes than ever (my prediction).

I asked our statistical analyst, Evan Markel, to study other spread offenses to see the typical amount of possession time versus Oregon’s and extrapolate how much Oregon would have the ball with the new defense and how many points our beloved Ducks would score.  His analysis is here, but the bottom line is that he felt an average of over 50 points per game is quite possible.

I will make my predictions about the Oregon season in another article, but you can see how I believe we are going to set scoring records on offense due to philosophical change on defense from the bend-but-don’t-break, to the One-Gap Attacking, Unpredictable 4-3 Defense that we will see this fall. This is going to be great fun to watch!

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

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

Top Photo by John Sperry

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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...

  • goducks58

    From your keyboard to the football gods’ ears…. I’d love to see a top 25 (top 50 even) defense to go along with a top 5 offense. We could blow the doors off the CFP.

    • FishDuck

      Thanks goducks58 as I sincerely believe we will have a top 25 defense this year–in scoring. (the one that counts)

      And this offense is going to go crazy with the weapons and the extra time on the field!

  • Boggs

    Hate to toot my own horn, but I’ve been saying this for years. It NEVER made sense to pair the bend-don’t-break with our offense. The one proven way to beat us was to keep our offense off the field. Given that, why in the world would we run a defense that allows opposing offenses to sustain drives? It never made sense. Glad to see some fresh thinking.

    • I could make a case both ways, as both can work. The BBDB defense DID work until this last year, and whether or not the scheme was the problem is quite debateable.

      It is possible that this new strategy can backfire if teams score quickly on the Ducks in return, and we are not taking in account the impact of key injuries on defense and how it can change the outcome of any defense run.

      But…it make logical sense, and it is worthwhile taking a shot at doing it with someone as experienced as Hoke on the defensive side. So you get your wish and you may be able to say “I told you so” if the results pan out.

      If they do….I will happily declare you “smarter than all of us.”

  • MAITAIDUCK

    Love your stuff Fish, but I really don’t want to trash on your insight but I’ve been wondering for years when they were going to get an aggressive minded Coach on this D. There is more talent on this Defense than ever and they need to be cut loose. I hated Nic’s Defensive schemes and thought when will Oregon realize that their D needs to be close to their O in aggressivness. Oregon needs to be at the top and if this D proves it’s worth then we will probably start getting even higher caliber recruits to come to Oregon and not just 1 5 star D Lineman every other year. Anyways thanks Fish but thank GOD they’ve realized that 115th in Defense wasn’t going to get it done. Also theres that terrible LB play thats been killing Oregon since Kiko left.

    • Maitai, in 2014 our BBDB defense gave up just under 24 points a game, that when paired with the turnovers created–was a highly successful defense. It can work, but not last year for a variety of reasons.

      As I wrote below–I am happy to try it with Hoke, as I believe he can make it work well with our offense. Get a lead, be more aggressive and cause more mistakes…oh yeah. It can work, and it will be fun watching it unfold before us.

      Thanks for writing.

  • Magnifico

    Michigan fan here. Go Blue! I’ve always liked the Ducks, too.

    Just wanted to check in on Brady Hoke. He’s a great defensive coach (head coach…not so much). You guys scored big with that hire. That bend-don’t-break philosophy is great, but it never yielded much in the turnovers department for Michigan. With that said, we had top defensive stats, regardless of the fact that our offense was barely on the field.