The Evolution of Coach Taggart’s SMASH-MOUTH Spread Offense
My Friends, to better understand the new offense that Coach Willie Taggart is bringing to Oregon–it helps to have the Grizzled Ol’ Coach, Mike Morris, give us the basics of what to look for in this new and exciting offense that blends power, deception and speed. Read it slowly and digest the pieces as it is a valuable part of what you will see from the emerging new, powerful Oregon Offense. The coaching staff at FishDuck.com has been correct thus far in our projections of what to look for, and this article is an important building block of offensive understanding. Charles Fischer
PART ONE: POWER BLOCKING
As we get ready for the Oregon Spring Game in two weeks, let’s have a look at what we might see from the Oregon offense.
There’ll still be plenty of Inside Zone Reads, with complimentary QB keeps and different backfield actions, as well as quick-release short passes which attempt to get big gains from receivers after the catch, and/or set up complimentary deep passes. But when Coach Taggart switched to the Spread Offense in 2015, he emphasized that the South Florida offense must keep the ability to play the “Smash-Mouth”/Power football he had coached before.
The Inside Zone Read, (the basic running play for almost every college spread offense in the 2000s) kept the original T-formation veer concept of a back running almost straight ahead very quickly, or the QB keeping and running outside, depending on the reaction of a specific, unblocked defensive lineman.
The Inside Zone Read utilized “zone” blocking: the linemen “combo” blocked, with no linemen pulling. [There are several articles on FishDuck.com explaining that technique.]
THE INVERTED VEER/POWER READ:
In 2009, TCU [with QB Andy Dalton] added a new wrinkle to the Spread Offense; the Inverted Veer.
They took the classic off-tackle “Power” blocking scheme and left the defensive contain man [a DE or OLB] unblocked, on the side the play is going to, or play-side.
Remember, if the offense “reads” an unblocked player:  He can’t make a good play no matter how good a defensive player he is since the play will go the opposite of what he decides to do, and  the offense gains an extra blocker who didn’t have to block the “read” defender if the QB makes the right decision.
The running back runs a wide sweep action, “meshing” on the hand-off with the QB, as the QB reads the unblocked defensive contain man; if the unblocked “read” defender came up-field to stop the running back sweep, the QB kept the ball and ran inside, “off-tackle,” behind the pulling guard as you see in the video above. Essentially, this is a Power Play with a huge hole, and an extra blocker.
If the read defender didn’t deepen to stop the running back sweep, the QB would give his RB the ball, easily getting outside the contain man,while running with an extra blocker.
This form of option became known as the “Inverted Veer” [aka “power read”]. “Inverted” because the RB and QB switched roles on where they ran. It became greatly popularized in 2010 when Auburn, with QB Cam Newton, won the National Championship [defeating Oregon in the Championship Game] and Heisman Trophy, with this play being the basis of Auburn’s offense.
Meanwhile, in 2008 and ’09, Coach Taggart was coaching at Stanford helping Toby Gerhart rush for record-breaking yardage, with the conventional T-formation off-tackle power play being the basis of Stanford’s very successful smash-mouth offense.
Then, in 2015, Coach Taggart wanted to switch to a Spread Offense at South Florida, but he still had Gerhart memories. How could he keep the power play and run the spread? All together now: “Run the Inverted Veer.”
Except, like all good things, time had “kinda” caught up with the Inverted Veer. The only supplement to Nick Saban’s current Alabama defensive playbook from 2008 is an “extensive section” on how to defend the Inverted Veer [Saban called it “read sweep, Q power”] By “slow playing,” a fast defensive contain man could stop both options: the QB from the outside in and the RB from the inside out. A similar defensive tactic stopped the similar off-tackle “shovel pass option,” popularized by Urban Meyer.
Taggart still ran the Inverted Veer in his new Spread Offense but only occasionally. Here’s an example (above) from South Florida in 2016. The QB made the right decision, but note how the unblocked defensive end “might” be able to make the tackle on both the RB and the QB.
Taggart knew he needed to improve the Inverted Veer. He substituted in the Jet Sweep [with a very fast player, sprinting in motion] for the stationary running back sweep. It hit a lot faster – harder for the read defender to slow-play both options. The second way to improve the Jet Sweep is when South Florida occasionally added a lead running back to block the contain defender, as you see above.
THE TOSS READ:
In 2016, a new way of running the Inverted Veer was introduced as the Toss Read, as this Toss Read /QB Power combo are different and more effective ways of running the Inverted Veer/QB Power concept. Clemson hurt Ohio State badly with the Toss Read in the 2016 Fiesta Bowl; Alabama also effectively used it against Clemson in the Natty. The offensive line blocks exactly the same power blocking scheme as before, but instead of running in front of the QB for a mesh hand-off, the RB flares to the outside, looking for a pitch, as if on a Double Speed Option.
Coach Eric Boles of FishDuck.com did a nice article about the Toss Read last week.
The quarterback reads the outside unblocked contain defender just as in an Inverted Veer/Jet Sweep-QB Power. If the read defender doesn’t quickly get up-field and to the outside, the QB immediately pitches the ball to his flaring RB who beats the defender to the corner. (Because there is no hand-off, the play hits the defense so much more quickly) It works well unless the defensive contain man immediately covers the running back, who is usually 4-5 yards outside that defender when he catches the pitch. In that case the quarterback can keep and run through a wide gap in the defense.
Two Big Benefits to this Toss Read play:
1. The QB “shouldn’t” get hit by the read defender when he pitches.
2. If the read defender widens outward to cover the RB, (as mentioned above) the QB has a faster, better path for his own off-tackle run.
One final “food for thought”: Pittsburgh wanted to run the Inverted Veer, but they didn’t have a good runner at QB. So they brought their TE/H-back (above) from the off-side, following the pulling guard and if the QB got a “keep” read, instead of running the ball, he shovel-passed back to the trailing TE, who then ran off-tackle. In this example above you see the Tigers stop the QB and the Running Back Options by Pittsburgh, only to be foiled by the trailing H-Back. Crafty.
Clemson’s only loss last year was to Pitt, largely because of that play. I can imagine one of the speedy Duck RBs running that play, very effectively from the H-Back position. (FishDuck note: Is the play above a good way to protect Justin Herbert from too many hits? Hmmmm.)
In our FishDuck.com article next Tuesday, we’ll talk about the several awesome ways the Ducks might run the Counter Trey play in 2017.
Coach Mike Morris (Grizzled Ol’ Coach)
Pleasant Hill, Oregon
Top Photo from Video