My friends, in the last week I had disconcerting conversations with two other FishDuck.com writers Dr. Mark Weinrott, and Dr. Steven Smith, (who both wrote articles in the last week) about the stagnant Oregon offense under Coach Willie Taggart. I sadly came to a conclusion that unless Coach Taggart changes and looks at opening his offense up some more–much of the dynamic scoring that Oregon is known for will be lost. My assumption was that this decision to change and the subsequent transformation would occur in the off-season, if at all.
Little did I know that it was happening this week.
My original concern was the lack of running to the outside; how basic plays in the original Oregon Spread Offense such as the Outside Zone Read, and the Sweep Read were not being used and hence the true horizontal nature of stretching the defense in the Spread Offense was not being utilized. Last week we began to see hints of these plays being used a bit, but this week was a massive integration of plays from the Chip Kelly/Mark Helfrich playbook, yet the power components of the Taggart offense remain.
The combination was potent, and remarkable in how with the absence of a passing game, (47 yards from starter Braxton Burmeister) the rushing attack could explode for over 340 yards. Pulling these plays out of the prior playbook caught the Utah defense off-guard and the element of surprising the opponent from the prior staff was integrated as well.
Many here may not like reference to Mark Helfrich on the offensive side of things, as Chip Kelly originated the system that was so powerful at Oregon. Yet while Kelly’s offensive stalled from lack of innovation in the NFL … Helfrich’s continued to be improved and adjusted at Oregon. The prior system works, and by adding the additional aspects of the Taggart offense, (that we’ll get into with other articles) this Oregon rushing attack could be formidable merging the two philosophies into one offense, the Taggart-Hybrid Oregon Spread Offense.
I was stunned by what I saw and my good friend Gageac, nearly saw a FishDuck meltdown in the infamous “ManCave” as my game study progressed. As surprised as I was, the biggest thrill was seeing such a major adjustment by utilizing the institutional knowledge at Oregon and accenting the talents of the players recruited to that playbook. It was just a joyous event for such an Oregon Football Dork as myself.
Oregon got a big play from the classic Outside Zone Read (above) and you can see the quick “bucket step” that the offensive linemen do in beginning this play to get the jump at the contact points they want on the defenders.
You’ll note above that the defender Braxton Burmeister was reading was charging the Royce Freeman, thus the correct read was to pull the ball. Whether it was a mistake or the instructions of the coaches to hand off regardless–it turned out for the best!
Note the Mario Cristobal effect above as the offensive linemen have lower pad level than the defenders and are shooting their hips upward to drive the defenders back. Like the Oregon offense of old … all it takes is one mistake by a tackler or making a defender miss as Freeman does by tapping the brakes and cutting inside, and thus the explosion play occurs. Fun to see again!
Imagine my surprise to see a fascinating variation off the Outside Zone Read appear and go for a touchdown! Above we see the Outside Zone Read blocking forming to the right, and the quarterback is “reading” the right defensive end for Utah. (No. 6 in red circle) Yet the running back Tony Brooks-James is not running the direction of the OZR blocking, but the other direction! (yellow dotted line and arrow)
Burmeister can pull the ball and follow the blocking to the right or hand off to TBY scooting past. Since the defender for the Utes is “sitting” and not penetrating/attacking the running back–Braxton hands off.
What you see above is a Naked Sweep, where there is no blocking other than the wide receivers, or you may call it a Running Back Bootleg. Oregon ran this play in 2012 against USC and again in 2014 against, wait-for-it, Utah. FishDuck.com covered this play extensively and it is a wonderful variation to pop when a defense is hunkering down to stop the OZR. Like the OZR, with one mistake by a defender, or in this case with a good juke by TBY–it is an explosive play as well. (Just like the old-days!)
The re-introduction of the Outside Zone Read and the Naked Sweep will really mess with the Husky coaching staff this week, and that is a good thing.
My friends–I do not have space to give the credit to the defense that is so deserved as there were so many great plays and technique being practiced. I do look forward to getting into some of the Jim Leavitt blitzes later, and tactical defenses on third down. When I see freshmen Deommodore Lenior, Nick Pickett, Brady Breeze, Thomas Graham, Jordon Scott, and even Austin Faoliu in the game at the same time? I marvel at how this defense has so much upside, while already being so fun to watch.
In Oregon’s new running attack, Coach Taggart has combined the best of the horizontal plays from the prior staff that attacks the perimeter, while using his own playbook for the inside muscle plays with power aspects. It is the best of both worlds, and later when you add the skilled passing of Justin Herbert?
Fifty points a game will be back!
“Oh how we love to learn about our Beloved Ducks!”
Charles Fischer (FishDuck)
Top Photo Credit: Eugene Johnson
Reminder: Do check for Wednesday morning as I publish one of my most consequential articles ever on the site. It will inform and amuse Oregon fans, while turning Washington fans into a rage from the facts and observations. I have worked on this article, “Why Husky Fans are the WORST EVER” for three months and am pleased with the results. You will not want to miss this early Wednesday morning….