Something we have heard throughout the offseason is that the biggest changes Joe Moorhead will bring to the Oregon offense are in the passing game. Coach Moorhead hasn’t been shy about pushing the ball down the field at any of his previous stops, and that looks to continue with the Oregon Ducks. One concept that highlights the new offensive coordinator’s propensity for attacking defenses vertically is known as the smash fade.
The smash fade is a combination of routes between the outside receiver and the slot receiver. The outside receiver in this concept runs a hitch route, while the slot goes downfield on a fade. This is an incredibly effective concept against single-high defensive setups. When a defense decides to only keep one safety high, the smash fade puts the corner in a bit of a no-man’s land.
Once the quarterback decides that the defense is in single high (which can either be man coverage or a cover 3), he reads the cornerback’s reaction. If the corner were to fall back into coverage, the outside receiver would be sitting there in the hitch for at least a five yard gain. If the corner were to sit on the hitch, then the fade from the slot receiver would have a good chance of opening up behind him.
Should the quarterback get a read that tells him that the defense is playing a coverage with two high safeties, there is a shallow/dig concept to the other side of the play. Conceptually, the shallow/dig utilizes field levels to open up receivers, designed to force a defender to choose between a high or a low receiver. This time, that defender is the middle linebacker.
If the MLB decides to drop down and attempt to take away the shallow route from the outside receiver, the quarterback is going to get the ball to the tight end running a 15-yard dig. If the backer drops to cover the dig, the shallow has room to pick up some decent yardage.
In the clip above, the defense decides to run a single high defense with man coverage underneath. The single high look allows the quarterback to know that his next look is the cornerback to the side of the smash fade. Because the underneath coverage is man-to-man, the corner sits on the hitch. The slot receiver beats his man off of the line, and the safety in the middle of the field doesn’t have enough time to get to the fade.
The smash fade is a great concept that stresses the defense vertically, and it is exactly the type of passing game that Coach Moorhead will look to utilize with the Ducks.
Coach Eric Boles
Top Photo Credit: Tom Corno
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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