Analysis: Oregon’s New “Gulf Coast Counter” Play

My friends, a play that Oregon seldom ever ran and I lusted for, (in a most football kind of way) was the Counter Play. I love how this is Power-Football, and fits the larger Offensive lineman profile that Coach Taggart and Cristobal are recruiting. Coach Ruskin has been studying the South Florida offense and will have a few analysis treats for us leading up to Spring Football.  Thanks Coach!  Charles Fischer

With Willie Taggart bringing over his “Gulf Coast” offense, there are certain aspects that will be familiar to Oregon fans, such as tempo, Inside and Outside Zone, and WR Screens. Coach Taggart will also be bringing a few changes, and since he comes from the Harbaugh coaching tree, he still has the power run game in his DNA. What that means is he will be combining Oregon’s spread personnel and fast paced tempo with smash mouth and out-number the defense at the point of attack with a run-you-over-offense.

During the South Florida and Florida State game, one play USF ran often with great success and stood out was the Counter Play.  Typically there are two players who line up opposite the play side will be pulling to the play side, (in this case an offensive guard and Tight End or H-Back) and Counter means the rest of the line will block away or “counter” from the direction of the play side.

From Video

For example, if the Counter is called to be run to the left side (play side) as above with what is called a Counter Trey,  the right side guard No. 61 and H-Back (Tight End No. 85) will pull from the right side and flow to block the left side. The responsibility of the rest of the line (Center, Left Guard, Left Tackle) is to down block back to the right. Down blocking or gap blocking is a different technique from the usual zone-blocking scheme Oregon has traditionally run. (FishDuck note: this to me is a welcome addition, as an old offensive lineman–I loved to block down)

This is where the Harbaugh coaching influence comes into play. The down blocks (Yellow arrows above) are more vertical, meaning the linemen are looking more to block and drive their man down field rather than a horizontal movement that zone blocking schemes are dependent on. This is an old school, smash-mouth football principle that will change the culture of the offense and offensive linemen.

With the play side linemen down blocking away from the play, (Yellow arrows above) the opposite side Guard and Tight End/H-Back (Purple lines above) will be pulling to the play side. This gives the offense two advantages, and the first is it changes the number of blockers and gaps the defense has to account for on the play side after the ball is snapped.

From Video

The second (above) is it gives a great angle for the pulling guard to kick out the defensive end, and gives the ball carrier a lead blocker in the Tight End/H-Back going from right to left. This requires the defensive to be disciplined in their run fits and physicality in taking on blockers, thus this is a great addition to an already potent Oregon offense.

This play is one Oregon fans have been on the losing end of, as Ohio State ran this play to exhaustion against Oregon in the 2014 National Championship as this play can use motion to freeze the linebackers.

From Video

This is another form of wearing an opponent out and note the Fly or Jet on the right that pulls the defense horizontally. (Above) The running back completes the play with great vision and takes the ball up the gut for a 27-yard touchdown against Florida State. This shows the versatility and the potency of this play concept in a spread offense.

Notice the great push at the point of attack by the South Florida offensive linemen, and locking up their man 1 ½ yards down field. An added benefit is that when the defenders are on the ground, this makes it hard to tackle someone and it is exhausting when a 300 pound lineman is laying on you play after play!

The next play to study (Below) is referred to as GT Counter. The GT makes it known the Guard and Tackle on the right side and opposite the play side, (The left side) will be pulling to the play side, and Counter means the rest of the line will block away or “counter” from the direction of the play side. (Other coaches use the terminology of “Counter” meaning the motion in the backfield goes the opposite direction of the actual playside.)

From Video

In the screenshot shown above we see that USF adds a jet motion, (Green arrow below) and you’ll notice that two defenders shift for the one man in motion, and this allows for a huge gain on the QB GT Counter. Not only is the play hard to defend on its own, but when it is added to an offense that plays with tempo and motion-it makes it nearly impossible to defend. (FishDuck note: I love it!)

The jet motion holds the defensive end, who is unblocked, and makes the middle linebacker (No. 6 and red arrow) shuffle over to another gap. This allows for an easy seal block for the left offensive tackle #75 to make on him since he slides over with the motion.


From Video

Right guard No.61 (yellow arrow above) has great technique and makes a great kick out block on the play side defensive end. The defender tries to work inside the kick out block , but the guard seals him inside. The right tackle No. 78 (red arrow above) lead blocks for the QB, blocking the first wrong-color jersey he sees on the play side. The left offensive tackle No. 75, (green arrow above) is closing in on his seal block.

The result above, is a perfect running lane, where the offense has walled off the defense creating a huge seam. This example and the next one below illustrate how effective a “Quarterback Counter” can be because it is difficult for a linebacker to be responsible for the QB when all the backfield action starts the other direction.

The next play after (above) was the same exact play call from the offense with the same result. The defense this time does not move with the motion, like the previous play. But due to execution and design the play has the same result. This type of attitude and execution will give Oregon more control of the game on offense and is an example of exciting addition a new staff brings to a program.

Overall, the counter is a great play, one that physically beats up the defense through pulling linemen, double teams, and angle blocking. USF rushed for 290 yards against FSU and 116 of those yards came from seven counter plays. That is 16.5 yards a carry, so I would look for this play to be a key addition in the 2017 season.

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

Ruskin Fiegenbaum
Coaching Consultant for
Beaverton, Oregon

Top Photo from Video

Print Friendly
Coach Ruskin Fiegenbaum

Coach Ruskin Fiegenbaum

Ruskin has been following the Ducks since the '94 Rose Bowl. He graduated from the University of Oregon in 2007 and has been coaching football in the Portland-Metro area since 2008.

13 Responses

  1. MarcTheDuck says:

    Ruskin, Excellent and thank you! Just one sorta complaint: Let’s call it something more like West Coast Counter Play. We’re big enough now to not have to adopt somebody else’s identity. Semi-tongue in cheek…. but not really. ;)

  2. John McDonald says:

    I enjoyed reading your analysis very much, Ruskin. Keep them coming. Thank-you

  3. Platypus says:

    I kind of like the term ‘Gulf Coast’ offense just because it’s something not from or used inside the Pac 12. I guess if you wanted something different, how about…Flash Flood, Smash and Dash or keeping with the NW the Three Sisters offense…HA

  4. Eric says:

    If I may add something that I noticed about the QB counter play, while watching most of USF’s offensive footage from 2016. It seems like the unblocked DE is in fact being read. On plays where he crashes toward the QB, the ball is handed off on the sweep and the jet blows right past the DE. This too usually ends up with big yards.

    • I think you are correct, as Grizzled Ol’ Coach brought that up this morning. But that is the off-side to the Counter, like a Zone Read we use on the Inside or Outside Zone Read.

      I love that concept of leaving a defender unblocked, as it shifts the blocking responsibilities over one man to the Counter side, thus we have hat-on-hat blocking on the side of the Counter.

      We will dig deeper into the reads as it affects the Counter, the Jet Sweep, and a QB Bootleg. And don’t forget Play-Action passes!

      Fun stuff to learn…

  5. Eric says:

    If anyone is interested, I can get the All 11 offensive footage for most of USF’s 2016 games.

  6. Roo Mal says:

    As a fan of great offenses that run the ball well I can’t believe the Chip Kelly offense is just GONE; in 2013 we had the Eagles; the Ducks and Malzahn’s Auburn as a different flavor of No huddle Smashmouth Spread. Art Briles Veer and Shoot also related. 2017; damn. I’m really hoping Taggart gives me reasons to keep coming back here. I just love clever Run Game; Counter Runs and Zone Options, So many fun Oregon games I downloaded from YouTube; Football needs more Run game innovation, beating Zone coverage isn’t as compelling to me; as blowing up Run fits….and probably not as fun for you to diagram either FishDuck!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *