The UO 2019 Football season was an overwhelming success as the Ducks ranked No. 6 in the final CFP poll, (No. 5 in AP and Coaches Poll) and won the Rose Bowl game on New Year’s Day surpassing most projections. Many of us, on January 2nd or even as we celebrated into the New Year’s night the Rose Bowl win over Wisconsin, began looking ahead excitedly to the 2020 season.
After all, the ultimate prize is the NCAA national championship – and the Ducks are building a juggernaut to reach the BCS championship playoff. Might 2020 (if we play) be the year?
Ducks Football is in “time-out” status. In today’s competitive Power 5 world, football never stops, but this is an unexpected peculiarity, a national emergency with related Federal and State mandates.
Building upon the returning personnel and successes of the 2019 season the 2020 season begins with high expectations. The players, fans, coaches and media will be expecting great things and another championship from this team – maybe the National Championship? Such expectations may not be fair, but that’s the way things are in major sports as the bar rises higher.
Jim Moorhead, formerly Head Football Coach at Mississippi State University, was named offensive coordinator in mid-January 2020, replacing Marcus Arroyo. Coach Moorhead is widely recognized as one of the top tier offensive leaders in college football. As Oregon’s Offensive Coordinator he will bring new concepts and strategies to the offense that has made Oregon great.
He will keep what worked from last year’s offense and replace certain aspects of the offense with different tools from his coach’s toolkit gathered from many years of experience at Georgetown, Akron, UConn, Fordham, Penn State and MSU among others. (We don’t really know very much yet about what the offense will look like when the season opens.)
Some of its details are leaking out or being mentioned by the coaches to the media. We will explore them here at FishDuck.com and Coach Eric Boles gave us a dandy this week. When reading about Jim Moorhead, it’s clear that highly acclaimed football coaches mention game design, flexibility and skills to adapt to the opponent as hallmarks of his coaching.
So, what do we know that’s new about the Offense?
You may already be thinking, “the Pistol is not new” because that’s what the Ducks lined mostly lined up in last year. The Pistol is mentioned here, because when Coach Moorhead was announced as OC, many wondered what formation and offense he would install. In this Pistol we will see the QB show RPO, but he really will tuck and run when there is daylight. RPO plays will develop real-time, based on a read-response to the position and reaction of the defenders.
Coach Moorhead has built his fine reputation coaching up Quarterbacks for his RPO plays. Shough, Butterfield, Millen, Ashford and others to come should benefit and produce more yards than they would have gained otherwise, with this variation of offense. In a recent interview Coach Moorhead described the QB’s priorities when running as, “Touchdown, First Down, Get Down”.
Look for more passes over 15 yards to be thrown this year. The Ducks will throw for chunk yardage and will not be afraid to go for it all at times on first and second down as the downfield threat will keep opponent DB’s honest and on their heels.
With more experienced receivers, and the addition of some new talented receivers, (Plus Coach Moorhead’s history of scoring production) the passing game may be another bright spot in Oregon’s offense which should delight fans immensely.
Role of the Tight Ends
Tight End athletes are super-heroes of sorts, as it seems they are strong, big, fast, athletic and can jump over tall buildings. Coach Moorhead will demand more productivity from the TE group, teach them new skills. and provide plays that will cause the TE’s to exploit the defenders both blocking and receiving. It is too early now to know which player will step up, but Coach Moorhead will give the Tight Ends opportunities and teach them in ways we haven’t seen on Ducks teams in recent years.
Turn the Running Backs and Wide Receivers Loose!
As an OC, Coach Moorhead is especially admired and recognized for his track record of developing the skill positions of QB, WR and RB. Behind the deep and skilled offensive line, the skill positions (benefiting from Moorhead’s offense and play-calling) will have plenty of opportunity to excel. The season-end statistical line will reflect their productivity I anticipate.
The offense, triggered by the QB, will identify opportunities and adapt to exploit the opponent. The Oregon offense will be trained to recognize advantageous imbalance, open zones and weaknesses, then take advantage of what is given to them. Slot receivers, motion, RPO, jet sweeps, screens, swing passes, long passes all punctuated with a steady diet of 50:50 run plays with our group of faster, stronger running backs.
Coach Andy Avalos began his tenure as Oregon’s Defensive Coordinator with a bang in 2019. Arriving from Boise State, where he frustrated the Ducks, Coach Avalos fielded a defense that gained national acclaim and was highly rated in several comparative statistical categories. Coaches Heyward, Wilson and Avalos are expected to have one of the most dominant defenses in the country.
The 2020 Duck’s Defense “has the meats” in the middle, on the edge, at the second level with linebackers and in the defensive secondary. The Ducks will be a force to be reckoned with and one that most teams will not overcome because between the size, strength, speed, skill, these Ducks have it. This team might be the best Duck’s defense ever! (Until 2021)
So, what do we know that’s new about the Defense?
Coach Andy Avalos has talked this spring about working on “multiples”. All the team’s Safeties and Nickels are being trained to play all positions and to know assignments throughout the backfield. He has spoken about using more alignments with varying responsibilities taking advantage of the high talent level and skills of the players. When facing passing downs the defense will load up on DB’s to increase the speed and pressure.
Oregon has a talented and athletic group of Linebackers that can press the passer, help on the edges and fade with receivers to bolster the pass defense. Coach Wilson, when interviewed following the third practice discussed “mixing it up” and the immense riches at linebacker. Coaches Keith Heyward, Ken Wilson and Avalos are expected to have one of the most dominant defenses in the country.
Plus Turnovers Advantage
Ryan Robertson, of FishDuck.com wrote recently that Thomas Graham, Jr., Deommodore Lenoir and Jevon Holland make up one of the most talented secondaries in school history. The 2019 Oregon defense ranked second nationally in interceptions while giving up only 222 passing yards per game.
Indicators point toward a Ducks team that will shake the ball loose with aggressive players at all levels with the ability and the techniques to strip the ball loose. The players should benefit from the DB strategy to make even more interceptions than in 2019. Plus turnovers is a key indicator in win probability.
Mario Cristobal to CEO?
Will Mario Cristobal grow and evolve into a CEO role?
As the Head Coach his stamp is on the team, and has been hands-on in working with the offensive line and so many aspects of the entire team. He has chosen new coaches and retained others that reflect his “way”. Coach Cristobal has capable and talented leaders of the Defense in Andy Avalos and Keith Heyward. He’s now added a recognized expert on Offenses in Joe Moorhead.
It is yet to be seen how play-calling and on-field coaching will evolve with the 2020 staff. Will Coach Cristobal loosen the reins and let his thoroughbred coaches and players run?
Oh, how we love to love Our Beloved Ducks; to see new Ducks enter the flock, to see new seasons arrive and new teams form and develop. It’s great to be a Duck!
Greenville, South Carolina
Top Photo by Tom Corno
Born in Eugene, Brent Pennington grew up along the Siuslaw river in western Lane county competing in four Coast League sports. He attended his first Ducks football game in 1960, and was inside Autzen stadium for its opening game in ’67. Brent attended the UO College of Business Administration from 1969-1975 interrupted by U.S. Army service. He has traveled much of the world in the Lotteries and Gaming industry.
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