The Joe Moorhead Offense: Personnel and Formations

Coach Eric Boles Analysis

The Oregon Ducks have found their guy in offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead. Coach Moorhead has found success at multiple levels, and his offense has been record-setting. The offense was created while he was the head coach of the Fordham Rams in the FCS. Over his final three seasons at Fordham, before he left to become the offensive coordinator for the Penn State Nittany Lions, Moorhead’s teams averaged 39 points per game.

The season before Coach Moorhead became Penn State’s OC, The Nittany Lions were ranked 101st in scoring offense in the nation. The Nittany Lions ended Moorhead’s first season ranked the 21st at 37.6 ppg, and in his second year they were ranked 7th at 41.1 ppg.

Today I want to focus on the personnel groupings and formations that make Coach Moorhead’s offense go. He has referred to his offense as the “chipotle offense,” an offense with few ingredients that can be combined in many ways.

Coach Moorhead’s offense uses a total of three different personnel packages: 12 personnel (1 RB, 2 TEs), 20 personnel (2 RBs, 0 TEs) and 11 personnel (1 RB, 1 TE). Out of the three, he stays in 11 personnel over 90% of the time, using the this package for all but two of his formations.

Using 11 personnel in multiple formations does a couple of things. The first is that a defense deploys their personnel based on what the offense puts on the field. With the same offensive personnel, the defense is never sure how the offense is going to align. Secondly, when Moorhead goes tempo, he doesn’t have to substitute guys in and out, allowing him to go more quickly and leaving the defense with less opportunity to substitute.

Ace Wings, 12 Personnel

The formation above is the only 12 personnel set that I’ve seen on tape. It’s an “ace” formation, with the TEs in a wing position instead of in-line. Being in the wing position allows the TEs to motion and allows the offense to run one of its favorite plays, the split zone run, which involves one of the TEs coming across the line to seal the backside edge defender.

Split Back, 20 Personnel

Again, the formation above is the only one from a specific personnel package, in this case a 20 personnel package. The split back formation places two running backs in the backfield with the quarterback. With the Ducks’ deep RB group, this could be a formation we see often.

Base, 11 Personnel

The base alignment for the offense (above) is a classic doubles formation out of an 11 personnel package, with the TE in a wing position. This will be the formation that the Ducks are in most often, but the TE can motion out of the wing to form a number of other formations at any time.

Trips TE, 11 Personnel

Another more traditional, 11 personnel formation (above) is a trips set with an in-line TE. This is the only formation in Moorhead’s offense where the TE is not in the wing position.

Spread, 11 Personnel

The “2×2 spread” look in this offense is a little different because it sticks to the 11 personnel package, with the TE in the slot, where a lot of other teams will go with 10 personnel with one RB and four WRs. This package/formation combo will be familiar to Ducks players as it was commonly used under Coach Marcus Arroyo. Under Arroyo, however, the TE was mostly on the line, while Moorhead typically backs the TE off the line, allowing the offense to motion into a different look when needed.

Trips, 11 Personnel

The trips formation (above), like the spread, is from the same 11 personnel grouping.

Empty, 11 Personnel

I bet you can guess which personnel grouping the empty formation (above) is out of. Here, the TE plays in the same slot position that he does in trips, and the RB lines up in the slot position on the other side of the field. The offense can run plays out of this formation, or the RB and/or TE can motion to a number of different positions to catch the defense off guard. Putting the RB or TE in motion can also give the offense a hint as to how the defense is planning on playing them.

I wanted to show each formation so that you can get a basic understanding of where the offense starts. Of course, I only showed you the spread alignments, but almost every one of the formations has a tight alignment too. The RB can be aligned to either the weak or strong side, and the TE can align to the other side of base, creating a 3×1 look.

The point is that Coach Joe Moorhead makes things simple for his players by limiting the personnel “ingredients.” This simplicity allows the players to focus more on the diverse concepts typically run  in a west coast spread offense.

Coach Eric Boles
Newark, OhioTop Photo from Twitter

Phil Anderson, the Volunteer editor for this article, is a trial lawyer in Bend Oregon.


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