The Rise of the RPO in the Ducks Offense

Coach Eric Boles Analysis

Perhaps Marcus Arroyo’s biggest challenge when he took over as lone offensive coordinator and play-caller for the Oregon Ducks was building an offense that would marry his own experience with the kind of physicality that head coach Mario Cristobal was looking for in the run game. I believe that his answer has been to infuse a heavy dosage of RPOs (run-pass options) into the Duck offense.

Arroyo coached under both Jeff Tedford and Mike Gundy leading up to his time with Oregon. Those are two coaches that have used the passing game to great affect; Tedford using more pro-style concepts while Gundy is more of a spread guy. These two schemes surely shaped who Arroyo is as an offensive mind, especially the time spent with Tedford in the NFL where you see everything that a defense can throw at you.

In a previous article, we discussed an RPO with a backside slant-flat concept. NFL teams birthed that RPO to combat man coverage. Chip Kelly has admitted to having a difficult time with man coverage against the RPOs he was using at the pro level. Eventually, as other NFL coaches incorporated them, more ideas were brought to the table.

Arroyo brought this concept out several weeks ago against the Auburn Tigers (above), the most NFL-like defense Oregon will see in the regular season. The Ducks used this RPO very efficiently against Auburn’s man coverage. Though a small sample, this showcases Arroyo’s experience and ability to put his players in positions to be successful.

Against the Nevada Wolfpack, Arroyo unveiled a few more RPOs. One of these, shown above, is a perfect example of mixing a power run game with a passing option, as the Ducks run power up front with a slant look from the play-side receiver. This shows the variety of run plays the OC can pair with pass concepts. It really keeps defenses on their heels when you can attach pass concepts to any number of your run looks.

I love the number of RPOs that Arroyo has brought to the Oregon offense. I’ve only shown a couple here, and I know they can be difficult to appreciate without a breakdown, but the Ducks have run many more of them in just the first three games.

With the resurgence of a downfield passing game, I believe these RPOs add another dimension to the Oregon offensive scheme. That speaks to Arroyo’s ability to design an offense. These plays are allowing the Ducks to attack defenses up the middle, while also stretching it horizontally and vertical with passing concepts, all in the same play. I’m loving it, and believe that it’s the perfect way of melding the two offensive philosophies of Arroyo and Cristobal.

Coach Eric Boles
Newark, Ohio                                    Top Photo Credit: Kevin Cline


Spencer Thomas, the Volunteer Editor for this article, is an attorney for the Social Security Administration in Atlanta, Georgia, and coaches high school football for Hillgrove HS in Powder Springs, Georgia.


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