Oregon Stuns Opponents With New Inverted Veer Play!

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The Oregon offense under head coach Mark Helfrich continues to progress and add new components to keep its attack fresh. I was pretty surprised to see a new play that seemed to have elements of an Outside Zone Read combined with a Power Play, and the Grizzled Ol’ Coach identified it as the Inverted Veer play! It was made famous by Gus Malzahn of Auburn as Cam Newton was known to make a ton of yardage with it.

Two aspects that make it surprising Oregon would add this play to their repertoire is that the zone “read,” so to speak, is on the play side, or directly in front of the direction of the running play, while Oregon has always preferred to read on the back side of the play. The second surprise is one that retired coach Mike Morris noted: the intent of this play is to run between the tackles and requires a quarterback that is sturdy and can hold up to the pounding over a long season.

Oregon has decided Dakota Prukop is up to the task, although the play was run only twice in the Virginia game in short yardage situations. The GOC suggested that this play “would be good for a strong, tall, powerful quarterback as a runner like Justin Herbert.” I invite Oregon fans to learn about this play and to watch for it as the season progresses.

Hey, FishDuckers – if this is a glimpse of the future, let’s take a look!

The beginning of the play looks like any other...

From Video

The beginning of the play looks like any other …

The Ducks (in yellow above) begin with a twin-back formation in the shotgun. The running back lined up on the play side goes in motion for a bubble flare threat, which will draw defenders away from the play (especially when that player is Royce Freeman). The right guard is going to pull like a Power Play, but instead of running up the “B” gap, or between the guard and tackle on the left side, Doug Brenner is going to track outside the left tackle and head upfield.

The playside Zone Read and mesh begin...

From Video

The playside Zone Read and mesh begin …

Above, you see Brenner begins to pull (green arrow), and you see the mesh with the Jet Back going from right-to-left (yellow arrow). The defender to “read” by Prukop is circled in light blue and is always the farthest line of scrimmage defender on the play side.

The defender was concerned about the Jet Back.

From Video

The defender was concerned about the Jet Back.

The defender being read (light blue dotted line) moved toward the Jet Back, which opened up a lane for Prukop to run (yellow arrow), and he follows the lead block of the pulling guard (green arrow) for a first down!

Oregon ran tons of Zone Read plays during the course of the game such as the Inside Zone Read, and Outside Zone Read – both relying on reading a defender ‘behind’ or on the back side of the play. It was fascinating to see the Ducks’ Zone Read right where they wanted to run the ball and to use it for short yardage to surprise the defense.

The Outside Pincer Blitz is another tactic to stop the Zone Read.

From Video

The Outside Pincer Blitz, an effective tactic to stop the Zone Read.

Oregon ran the play again just before halftime in another short-yardage situation. What messed things up was a tactic the Ducks have seen the last couple of years that I call the “Outside Pincer Blitz,” where defensive ends or blitzing linebackers on both sides of the LOS will blitz at the snap of the ball. The intent is to disrupt the reading process and get a tackle-for-loss (see dotted red arrows above).

The Blitz is on!

From Video

The Blitz is on!

Just as the mesh has begun, we see the Pincer Blitz beginning at full speed (red arrows above). Prukop has a difficult split-second decision to make as to whether to hand off to the running back (Jet Back) or pull the ball and run with a blitzer attacking.

Now what do you do?

From Video

Now what do you do?

The Duck quarterback is in a pickle, as the blitzer is bearing down upon both he and the Jet Back, as they are in the mesh (see above). Because the blitz was carried out immediately at the snap, the blitzer is able to cover both the quarterback and the Jet Back, which makes it hard to know who to give the football to!

The backside Blitzer finishes the play....

From Video

The back side blitzer finishes the play …

Prukop (above) decided to keep the ball and not risk attempting the hand-off, minimizing the chances of a fumble as the blitzer arrived. In these split seconds he was able to make the play side blitzer miss (red arrow above), but the back side blitzer foiled it all by tackling Dakota before the QB could get going. Too bad, as the running lane (dotted yellow line) is wide open in front of Prukop!

In keeping with our new analysis philosophy at FishDuck.com, we show the negative (such as the above play) along with the positive, in order to learn from it and see what went wrong and how Oregon can execute the play correctly.

Did Oregon do anything wrong? In the above example, I would argue “no” and instead, give credit to the Virginia defensive coordinator for being gutsy by calling a blitz in a big third-down scenario. Sometimes the defense does something exceptional to win the battle without the offense making a mistake.

Did Prukop make the right decision? Do you think the running back, or Jet Back could have scored if given the ball? Sound off on your thoughts and reasons – contribute to the analysis for the benefit of us all. And do look for this play over the upcoming season …

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

Charles Fischer  (FishDuck)
College 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...

  • N1tr0

    I think that last play could have worked. Both players (QB and RB) need to see the blitz, then know that the Jet Back needs to pick up the block on the play side so that Prukop could go in. Also, we had man-to-man coverage on the line that could have stopped the blitz in the first place but not every guy picked up someone (see #78 Cameron Hunt and #68 Shane Lemieux). Lemieux lets a guy go on the line in order to block a LB in the End Zone and doesn’t even finish….just lets the guy go. And Hunt comes across to pick up an attacking LB but it’s too late by then. If everyone would have just hit a guy at the line and made a whole, I think Prukop could have at least gotten the 1st down if not a TD since only one player would be engaged.

    • Well….I think we will just see this differently and that’s OK. Lemieux is doing the classic Zone Blocking technique of seeing that Hanson had the NT handed, thus Shane could skip the double-team and flow to the LB…which is his blocking assignment.

      As for Hunt..he let the guy go after engaging for a while, because he knew the play was a goner. Everybody did their jobs, but sometimes defense loads another guy in there to mess it up.

      Again…it is the backside blitzer who made the tackle and that is hard to recognize and confirm for the QB while viewing the LOS before play snap. I will be critical when a play should have been executed better, but this, to me, is one time to salute the other team for a great defensive call.

      We’ll disagree, but I do enjoy the discussion and would welcome your remarks in the future.

      • N1tr0

        Actually my gripe was with Shane. :) He just bumps his guy and had no idea if the play was over or not. His guy came back to the ball carrier to help the stop. Anyway, it wasn’t a bad call and yeah, the defense did a good job of defending.

  • Platypus

    Hind sight is always the best but Prukop failed to recognize the blitz and should have audible a different play like a quick slant across the middle against one on one coverage after OLB’s vacated the area. I think that situation also would work for the ‘Swinging Gate’ formation.

    • Well….defenders line up like they are going to blitz all the time and then back out. It is common to have the blitzer on the playside come hard, but the backside blitzer is harder to recognize. Your suggestion could work, but boy it is hard to know for certain before calling an audible out of it.

  • themilman

    I think in this case Royce has a slightly better chance than Prukop, he could have used his strength/speed on the perimeter to perhaps get the corner. The only other option, though it would take some serious split-decision magic would have been if Prukop went right, instead of forward, as the defender was crashing down.

    • Matt B.

      Spot on. Not a mistake, just a tough call to make, which is easier on Tuesday with with a pause button. But my eyes tell me both blitzing ends committed to the Jetback. When he pulled the ball, Prukop could have salvaged the play by breaking to the right flat. The left DE could not have redirected his momentum to keep up with Prukop how was starting cold.

    • If the blitzer from behind was not there–your scenario is possible, but it was tough regardless.

      Thanks for your thoughts.

  • N1tr0

    Another option would have been to have each guy on the line pick up their man and create a gap, and leave the two LBs unblocked. Fake the hand-off to Freeman and have him hit the hole only to engage one or both LBs. Prukop would be right on his heels for the easy score. :)

  • Jon Sousa

    “the intent of this play is to run between the tackles and requires a quarterback that is sturdy and can hold up to the pounding over a long season.”
    The first thing that came to my mind when I read this was that our coaches must trust in Herbert as a capable back up if they are putting Prukop in harm´s way more. On the other hand, if they trust him, why didn´t they play him even the last two minutes of the last game?

    • Good question–we all want to see Herbert get some game experience!