The Joe Moorhead Offense: The Hitch Concept

Coach Eric Boles Analysis

For most of the off-season, we have been examining what makes Coach Joe Moorhead’s offense go. For the past couple of months we’ve focused on his passing attack, and today we’ll dig even deeper into that aspect of the offense and learn a bit about Coach Moorhead’s “hitch” concept.


It’s well documented that Coach Moorhead likes to stretch a defense vertically. What happens when you continue to test a defense with deep passes throughout a game? You start to soften the coverage. The corners start to play off , the safeties get deeper, and the entire secondary starts to rock back on their heels at the snap. That’s where the hitch concept thrives.

The hitch concept usually consists of all hitch routes. Occasionally Coach Moorhead adds an out route by his outside receiver to the boundary side (short side of the field). The hitch concept is so simple that almost all of the quarterback’s decisions are made before the ball is even snapped.

The very first thing that the QB assess is the position of his offense on the field. If they are on or near one of the hashes, the QB will never throw the hitch to the field side (the wide side of the field). That is a long, lateral distance to throw and carries a big risk of the corner undercutting the route and taking it the other way.

After the QB assesses field position, his next pre-snap read is whether the throw is going to the slot receiver on the field side or one of the two receivers to the boundary side. If the linebacker to the field is playing too far inside the box, the QB can take the slot all day long. If that LB is playing wider, the next read is the outside receiver to the boundary side. A corner playing loose will trigger a throw to the out or hitch route on the outside receiver on the boundary. Should that be cloudy, the hitch to the boundary slot receiver is next. And if all fails, with the corner staying tight and the LB’s muddying the area over the slots, the QB has the RB sitting right over the middle.

One of the nice things about the hitch concept is that the QB can be right a couple different ways. In the clip above, the QB could have easily thrown the slot hitch to the field, but he had his mind made up on the boundary. He saw the corner playing off the WR to the boundary and knew he had the out route.

The hitch is a simple concept, but an effective one. When paired with the deep shots Coach Moorhead likes to take, the defense can be easily caught off guard as their coverage starts to become relaxed. It’s definitely something that will be fun to watch play out in Autzen.

Coach Eric Boles
Newark, Ohio

Top Photo Credit: Kevin Cline

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

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