QBs Running MORE in 2020: Can the Oregon Coaches Achieve the RIGHT Balance?

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck Analysis

It is going to drive me crazy, like Willie Taggart running Justin Herbert between the tackles and the predictable injury (I called it a week in advance) occurring in 2017, trashing my season tickets. Injuries to QBs ruined seasons in 1988, 1991, 1993, 2005, 2007, 2015 … and then 2017, too? Going into 2018 and 2019, we fans did not want to see Herbert risk any injury, and Coach Mario Cristobal accommodated that until the 2019 Pac-12 Championship and then the 2020 Rose Bowl, where Herbert truly cut loose.

Now, we’re hearing that the QB is going to run a ton more in the Joe Moorhead offense? So much so that a transfer QB Anthony Brown is brought in?  Omigosh, should I just be done with it and get into the fetal position under the kitchen table?

“You fans are never happy…”

If the coaches feel that way–I understand. But, after watching so many seasons get wrecked by the loss of Oregon’s signal-caller … they can hardly blame me.

There are a bunch of RPOs, Mid-Line Zone Reads, or Inverted Veers where the quarterback is running the ball in what I call “linebacker land,” which is quite hazardous. Taggart had those plays and I’m seeing examples of Moorhead/Penn State plays from the analysts at FishDuck.com, where the intent is running the quarterback inside the box.

Note in the play above how Herbert is being tackled from the side, you know, where knee injuries can happen. Other times the free safety is coming up to smash our quarterback head-on…

I don’t like those plays.

I want to see running backs do the running between the tackles, not the quarterbacks. If the QBs do run, they should take a jaunt into the open field where it is easier to slide, or go out of bounds like you see below.

It comes down to the play design; above, we see Marcus Mariota make a house call primarily because he was so darn fast, yet he would have made at least ten yards solely due to his read of the defender and how the play is created. Mariota reads the blitzing linebacker, so he pulls the ball and has an open field ahead of him.

Note how the other wide receivers were positioned well away as a Bubble Screen threat … of which also gives the quarterback plenty of open field away from “linebacker land.”

I prefer the second example.

This is not that hard; under Chip Kelly, the QB only ran the ball when a gap was open from the vacated defender being read, and it did not happen often. A quarterback may only run the ball two or three times a game or even not at all if the defender “sits” in the gap. This identical philosophy has been used by Clemson and others who copied the Oregon model.

A defender will be allocated to the quarterback as Joe Moorhead wants, with a backside defender being read out of the Shotgun. Thus, running the quarterback by design (and often) is not necessary. Just the threat of the quarterback taking off does the job…

Justin Herbert reading a backside defender out of the Shotgun in the Rose Bowl.

However, this would require running the Shotgun Spread as opposed to the Pistol; quarterback keepers in the Pistol usually end up running in the box with more injury exposure. We have noted numerous QB keepers out of the Shotgun by National Championship winners such as Clemson, Alabama and Ohio State.

Can the current Oregon coaches arrive at a happy medium?

“Oh how we love to ponder Our Beloved Ducks!”

Charles Fischer (FishDuck)
Eugene, Oregon
Top Photo from Kevin Cline


Chris Brouilette, the FishDuck.com Volunteer editor for this article, is a current student at the University of Oregon from Sterling, Illinois.

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