The Fish Report: Competition Day II

Why would anyone want to play football anywhere but Oregon when you see another August day with 75 degrees, a breeze, and no humidity?  Get outta here!  You don’t get this and endure long winter months either…it is so temperate, and so lush and green unlike the fried brown states of SoCal, Arizona and Texas.  It doesn’t get any better than today for football practice….


Punting at times looked impressive with some 50-55 yard boomers,…and then he hit some low, line-drive 40 yarders.  Rice didn’t shank any, but he needs more consistency.  Alejandro Maldonado has been no threat at all to his job, and the walk-on of years past (Tim Taylor) would have challenged better.  It was entertaining to hear Coach “Oz” growl about guys standing around more than he’d like.  “If you want to stand around and be a 6-6 team….go to Corvallis.”  Now I think he meant Seattle, as the Beavers have been pretty good recently, but the point was made.  We are not like any of them, and are held to a higher standard.  On another Special Teams play we saw Keanon Lowe field one of Rice’s boomers and then turn upfield to get blasted by Michael Clay trailing the play.  Welcome to Oregon!  It brought a bunch of hoots from our sideline!


Noone was injured…(that I’m going to report)…and we continued to practice a formation that I love with several plays out of it….that I’m not telling you about.


I’ve been watching videos online of many of our games in years past to get a better feel for the entire gamut of plays that our Kelly Spread Offense contains.  A play that we ran a lot in ’07, and some in ’08 is the triple option where we line with the backfield in the Inside Zone Read formation, (which we do a million times) with an H-back or flanker in motion.  Pretty routine as you see that often.  It turns into an Inside Zone Read one direction…which means that the defense is seeing the backfield lineup in advance and HAS to shift that direction to prevent a big gain up the middle, but then the QB pulls the ball and heads outside the other direction doing a double option with the flanker/H-back being the pitch man.  If the defense shifts over to counter the Inside Zone Read….this is the perfect counter to their counter as we then go outside the other direction!  There should be a shortage of defenders, hence I predict….SUCCESS.  If they don’t shift over…then the Inside Zone Read should be blocked well for success as well.  Chip is a step ahead of any Defensive Coordinators…….


In previous reports I explained the differences between the Inside Zone Read and Outside Zone Read, and how to identify them primarily on backfield formation and by watching the blocking.  It’s not foolproof as already Gageac and I detected an anomaly to that rule, but it is consistent the vast majority of the time.  These two formations are the basis for tons of play-action pass series and other play variations that spring offshoots from these two foundation plays of the Chip Kelly Spread Offense.  The internet was buzzing about how Coach Kelly began Zone Reading the Defensive Tackle of the defender occupying the “3”Technique position.  Then others began to chime in about how it really began back in the ’08 Holiday Bowl.  Today I watched Dennis Dixon in the 2007 USC game Zone Read a Defensive Tackle for an easy eight yard Touchdown.  The writers/sportscasters/sound bite professionals really have no clue.  Go back to my reports, take the time to learn, and you will know more than the talking heads on ESPN most of the time.  (unless it’s Coach Bellotti teaching us)  In the USC game last year….Herbie diagrammed how the DE was Zone Read, and Carson York caved his guy in.  Actually it was the DT being Zone Read, and it was WEEMS who made the key block.  These guys should be ashamed; if I had spent the hours in the prior week preparing for a game as they do…I would know more!


Darron Thomas does the Outside Zone Read and hands off to LaMichael James who is headed to the corner.  Eddie Pleasant is parallel to the LOS and is trying to put on the burners to meet him at the corner.  These are two VERY fast warriors butting heads, and my interest was up a notch to see how this played out.  Suddenly, James stopped on a dime and did the infamous “cut-up” that Coach Kelly has spoken of in his coaching clinics.  It is not a cut-back, but a cut-up where you stop-plant-and-liftoff into an open gap before the sideline.  You heard the collective “oohhh” from the crowd surrounding me, and LaMike cut-up for ten yards before backside pursuit made the tag.  (remember…it’s not a scrimmage)


Make the defense conscious of the inside….and then go outside.  Make them paranoid about the breaking outside contain…and you use the double-option Inside Shovel pass.  This play goes back four years at Oregon and is a staple of Urban Meyer’s attack at Utah, and Florida currently, as Chip blows the dust off plays when the current personnel match up well with it.  I’m assuming that the vision of both QBs allows this play to return and put pressure on the defense on the outer edges of its inside gap control, and outside contain simultaneous.  A very nasty strategy that creates mistakes regardless of the preparation!  Whoa baby!


Gentlemen….I need your help.  The events of this last summer has illustrated a need that passionate Oregon fans who want to learn more as I did…do not have available Oregon sites to learn from.  A site, Trojan Football Analysis, is an example of how they analyze their team, and study the teams they play.  (Like a Cal equivalent…it is free and available for all to learn)  I found it shameful to learn more about the basic plays of the Oregon Offense…from opponent’s boards!  I intend to create something to fill that void…either a website or a page on a current website that is accessible to all.  If you are a website, a media station of some type, or a magazine and are looking to do this…we should talk.  Most sites are not interested, but I see this as the next evolutionary phase of a sports website.


In particular I need help with the technology.  I wish to have my explanations with VIDEO in slow motion with arrows, circles and indicators (to my voice) to help the reader learn the fine points faster than we’re currently getting…which isn’t much.  We will learn about blitzes, blocking assignments, receiver tips, etc, thus more than just Xs and Os.  As you’ve seen with my writing…it will be simple for all to understand, and it will be a ton of information offered.  (Like my writing has shown)  Everything is to be cleared by coaches as I did with the New Defense Announcement.  Put my research together with good techno work….and Oregon fans will enjoy their beloved Ducks that much more.  Will you work for free as I have?  Jump in, help your fellow ducks, and contact me!


I glance over from the sideline to see Baseball Coach George Horton with his wife Francie, and I introduce myself and tell him how much I enjoyed attending so many Baseball games last spring.  When I refer to the amazing success in only the second year, he responds with, “well, we’re really going to be good this year.”  I thought we were good this last year!  When he said it….I saw a perfect blend of confidence without being arrogant.  He was sincere and clearly had high expectations without being afraid of not meeting his high bar set.  When I expressed regret at the four pitchers he signed who went pro….he said “not to worry.  The scholarships worked out right on the nose as he signed some highly talented players who turned down nearly 3/4ths of a million dollars to play for Coach Horton and Oregon!  He felt it all worked out well, and that we were loaded for success this coming year.  Wow!  He spoke with a quiet confidence, but a friendly charm as he also exuded the aura of a man in command.  He knows what he knows….and he’s has the confidence in himself and his coaching to express it.  After we finish, I return to the sideline….look at Chip, and begin to count our blessings at Oregon for the leaders that we have!


I’ve been trying to figure a description of Josh Huff for people to picture as I admire the thick legs of this newbie WR.  Then those legs reminded me of LB legs….so think of BoLo legs with a WR upper build at six feet tall.  He looks ready-made to play now, and he hauled in a long beauty from Thomas that I doubted he could catch.  He had to delay his leap, contort backward,  and pull in the ball away from the DB…but the battle left him defenseless from the wicked impact on the ground.  He got up slow…and went to the sideline to catch his breath and let the smarting of the whack on his side ease up.  He pulled in another dandy from Bennett in the 3-on-2s that barely cleared the DB, but required him to lay out in front.  He did, and got the catch and a reaction from the galley as we celebrated the effort and extreme athletic ability.  Diante who?


Hoffman is acting and playing like a scholarship player that he is.  The 3-on-2s is a drill where three defenders are playing a matchup zone defense against two receivers…which is something they will face.  WRs must run their initial routes, and then go into predetermined ancillary patterns that the QB understands is developing.  Problem is that while you explode out of your cut into the next pattern….the DB has seen this process a hundred times in practice already.  Justin burns the Zone defense outside, but waits for the millisecond defensive commitment to turn upfield and haul in a longer pass where he shields the defender from the ball based upon trajectory.  It is such a heady smart play done in half a second and requires the athleticism not seen from a walk-on since Jason Willis of ten years ago.  (Damn good company Hoffman!)  He is going to take the “possession WR…the 3rd down specialist” from Maehl as Jeff is moving up.  Justin’s got bulk for blocking, speed for separation, and smarts to make it happen.  A Eugene duck that makes us all proud!


Maehl is hurting our QBs.  He is blowing up as a receiver rarely seen anywhere; he is always open and the QBs know this and focus upon him too much.  It becomes ridiculous when Costa throws up a 35 yard prayer that is short and shouts pick, yet Jeff goes up, outfights the DB for the ball, and pulls it close to the body and moving the body so that the ball doesn’t touch when he crashes to the ground.  I couldn’t decide how to react; it was an INCREDIBLE catch….but Nate should have never thrown it.  Jeff’s in rare air….and the comparison I made to Cristin McLemore last report began to come to mind again.  McLemore felt that, “no one can cover him!”  Maehl is shouting that with his body language and his results.  He’s hurting our QBs now, but will be quite the weapon when we strap it up for games.  Good for him!


The defensive play of the game occurred when Brandon Bair blocked a DT pass and Terrell Turner caught it returned it for a TD!  (I didn’t know that DEs could get high enough for a leaping “bump” but TT did it well!


Coach Kelly did some “attitude adjustment” of a newbie when he told him that he is NOT to jaw at the officials.  “You play and keep your mouth shut.”  OK…me too.


I’ll let you read about the one-on-one competitions elsewhere as the defensive and offensive linemen try to root each other out backward.  Many websites and Rob Moseley do a good job describing it, but I saw something that made me ponder.  Some rookies surprised me by the strength and techniques.  Nick Rowland, and in particular, Karrington Armstrong won in grand style.  Armstrong is a big player, but his form was so superb and almost appeared effortless.  My friends, that is when you have a player with extreme athleticism because it is the only way to make it look easy or routine.  I’ve never noticed him before, but FishDuck is going to keep an eye on this member of the young guns coming up on the offensive line.


The final play that resulted in a blitz which overloaded the left side by Pleasant (Safety) and Kaddu (Linebacker) reminded me of the fourth down against UCLA where we did a similar thing and swamped that play as well.  Defense wins the Competition Day on the last play again.  Coach Aliotti is a wily one!


The QBs thrill and frustrate.  Nate threw some sweet passes, but throws too many boneheaded picks still.  Darron holds the ball WAY TOO MUCH, and he gonna get killed doing that.  Add to my concerns about his pocket presence….and I see why he looks to Maehl all the time.  Costa threw some nice balls to Davis, and Cantu on both long and shorter patterns.  Yet DT threw a long beauty to walk-on Will Murphy that anybody would have been pleased with.  I saw a wonderful Inside Zone Read fake that turned to a play-action pass.  Noone was open so Thomas ran to open field for a wonderful 15 yard gain.  Very Dixon-esque.


Bottom line?  The offensive results would have been better against prior Oregon defenses; I maintain that this defense…this year is special.  You’re not going to have Rowe-Matthews-Bair-Paysinger-Boyett-Jackson-Pleasant playing together again.  Some will…but not this special group, and I sense they know it and want to make the most of this unique year together.  We are going to have some breathless moments from our defense.  Count on it.


Ponder this one….we line up on offense and we are breathlessly moving into position in our No-Huddle Offense.  This has been happening all game, and the defense is becoming fatigued and caring less about being in precise position since the primary objective is to get air in the lungs again.  The defense sees that we are lined up for an Inside Zone Read to our right and the defensive signal comes in to shift over to counter it.  The defense gets into position as the QB barks out signals, and as he calls out….he hesitates and then the RB shifts over to an Inside Zone Read to the left!  There is no time to shift back as the ball is whipped up to the QB; in fact the defense is now shifted and slanted away from the play which means that our offense is running that play with an extra blocker to the defense’s weakened side.  It goes for touchdown that could not have been stopped.


I just described the game winning play in the second overtime against Arizona.


They were caught flat-footed, and our adjustment done in the second before the snap made all the difference.  This is something that I didn’t see until this summer, as I didn’t really know what an Inside Zone Read was until a month ago.  (Trust me…most don’t, including many who read my report.  You have to see it on replay to understand) We were practicing this and did it in today’s practice.  Now the variation practiced was different, but the strategy was the same; as a defense…there is nothing you can do with a last second offensive adjustment and you’re screwed.  It is another area that I marvel at the simple brilliance of our offense.  The defense can line up right and still lose?  Holy Crap!


I keep eyeing the sidelines looking for a special someone who can make my dreams come true.  (Not a female…I’m happily married)  He turns the corner and I approach the Sports Information Director at Oregon with a cooing voice, “how is my good friend Dave?”  He has known me on the sidelines for many years, and knows of my reports.  He smiles and asks, “you want in….don’t you?”  He knows I’m dying to get into the closed Scrimmage next Thursday, and he politely explains how NOBODY is allowed in…not even press or media.  As I’m pleading my futile case….BadMotherDuck comes by to chime in and spoil my carefully crafted bullet points.  “Sigh.”  BadMother is like a problem child….you love him, but boy he can be a pain sometimes.  It was to no avail anyway.  This is the last report for fall!


Final thoughts?  My head says that with new QBs we get 9, maybe 10 wins if all goes well.  My heart says….we can go undefeated.  We have a fortuitous matching of USC reeling, a weak Pac-10, (I think only three will be in the final top 25) and we face the toughest in Arizona and Stanford at home.  Not easy, but We Can Do This.  I have never watched both sides of the ball be so good in the same fall camp as this year.  Yeah…we can falter with injuries or brain-dead Quarterbacking, but I think we’ll be OK in both those areas.


We can be as fans like our leaders; confident but not arrogant.  We can state our goals and respect our opponents, and yet brave enough to articulate our dreams while believing it can happen.


We do so love our Ducks!





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