The Oregon Offense: The Powerful Moorhead ISO Play

Coach Eric Boles Analysis 12 Comments

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One good thing about an extended off-season is we get to learn more about the new offense Coach Joe Moorhead has brought to Oregon before seeing it in action. Okay, not exactly a great consolation prize: we want to see it now! Hey, I’m just trying to make lemonade here.

Today’s flavor: coach Moorhead’s ISO play.

The ISO–or as some are calling it, the zone insert–is a pretty simple play. Back in the day, it was primarily a man-blocking scheme, but it’s hybridized into a cross between man and zone blocking. As the name suggests, the ISO is a run play that isolates a specific defender to be blocked by a leading H-Back(Tight End/Fullback).

GoArmy Edge Football

ISO/Zone Insert

The offensive line blocks the ISO like an inside zone. They use the covered/uncovered principle (blocking head-on if covered, sliding down to double team if uncovered), create double teams, and release to the second level of the defense. Unlike the inside zone, however, the linemen ignore the middle linebacker, leaving him isolated for the H-Back, who leads through the gap. The running back takes a slide-step to allow the H-Back through, then follows the H-back downhill.

It’s simple, and it’s Mario Cristobal physical.

As is the case with about 99.9% of Coach Moorhead’s run game, there is an extra level of complexity created with the option of RPO’s. Coach Moorhead’s ISO play actually has two RPO’s attached to it. The first is the bubble screen to the backside: should the quarterback see the box too full, he simply zips the ball out to the bubble.

On the other side of the play, the wide receiver runs a slant or shallow post. If the underneath defender to that side plays the run too aggressively, the slant is a great option for the QB to pick up decent yardage.

The ISO play sets up pretty nicely in the clip above. The blitzing defense gets solid disruption, but the offense only needs a couple of yards. One issue created by the defense here is that the MLB is quick with his blitz, and the H-back has to absorb him rather than bringing the block to him. But the H-back stays physical and the RB (Saquon Barkley), while arguably misreading his lead block, has the strength to pick up the necessary yards.

The ISO is a great compliment to the inside zone, the staple of Oregon’s run game. It matches the downhill approach that the Ducks base their scheme around and will be a welcome play in Eugene.

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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Mark Helfrich has a new job. He has joined Fox Sports and his first game is tomorrow; Eastern Kentucky @ West Virginia, 9:00 on FS1.


Thank you Coach B.

And STAY SAFE all of you West Coasters!!!

Jon Joseph

Thanks Coach. Always enlightering.

Santa Rosa Duck

Thank you Eric, always great insight for non X’s and O’s guy like myself.

Off topic: The existential threat to Pac 12 football. We have touched on this a bit but I think this is a huge threat.

I have lived in Sonoma County, CA for many years. I have lived in Seattle as well as Eugene. The quality of life as to the summer/fall seasons regarding fire and smoke has been deteriorating for years. The fire season for California is thought to typically start about September 1 and run through the middle of November or until the rains come. Oregon and Washington are under seige as well.

The combination of drought, 25 years of cutting back timber harvesting on government lands and a couple of degrees of climate change have everything dried out and this does not look like it is going to change for many, many years if at all. My wife and I have gone to Ashland for many years for the theater and have been smoked out 2 of the last 4 years. I cannot recall which game at Autzen we attended about 4 years ago, maybe but it was September, hot and smoky with a fire burning west of Eugene. Miserable and the concessions ran out of water at half time.

Now we are coming into a normal football weekend. I just checked the Air Quality Index (AQI) for all the Pac 12 cities.

Seattle 176 Unhealthy
Pullman 53 Moderate
Corvallis 198 Unhealthy
Palo Alto 179 Unhealthy
Berkeley 241 Very unhealthy
Los Angeles 144 Unhealthy
Phoenix 122 Unhealthy
Boulder 32 Good
Salt Lake City 66 Moderate
Tucson 59 Moderate
Phoenix 122 Unhealthy
Eugene 422 Hazardous!!!!!!!!!

IMHO if tomorrow Sept 12 Pac 12 college football home games could only be played in 4 cities and 8 cities would have to cancel. Of course many of the games last week would have been cancelled as well. My wife and I live in Santa Rosa, Ca and have a fishing house in Dunsmuir, Ca but within a couple of weeks we are going on a road trip and Looking for a new place to live. Once upon a time it was to be Ashland but no more.


Wow, Eugene is that much worse than anywhere else in the Pac-12! I’ve never been happier to be anywhere else than what was my hometown growing up. Could it be that 2020 is the embodiment of having to hit rock bottom before it can get better?

Jon Joseph

Unfortunately, spot on. The other day in LA it was 114 degrees. That’s Vegas/Phoenix stuff.

The forests must be trimmed. The downed trees removed. Any judge who continues to prevent this happening today should be forced on the fire line with the fire fighters.

Common sense has to prevail or ‘everything’ will go up in smoke or poisoned by smoke.


Another well done analysis, thanks!


I WOULD to love to see it in action this Saturday at 5:00 vs Ohio state !!!!


So this is (I think) the second time I’ve seen you write about how Oregon’s offense is (speculatively) going to work in the near-ish future, and if I recall, the second time you’ve used Penn Sate as the video reference. Granted, he was the HC, not OC at MSU, but have you done any cross-referencing on how there were similarities between the offense at both schools?

I agree that his time as an OC is probably a better view into the crystal ball of what we’ll start seeing here, but it’d be interesting to see the similarities, or even differences between his last two offenses.

I mean we all know what we’d like to see here, but without the Chipper running things, we’re just not going to and honestly we should probably give up on the notion of that happening again…BUT, that doesn’t mean we can’t improve on the ‘everyone in the stands knows what play is coming next, so how can the opposing defense not know too’ offense we’ve seen the past couple of years.

It is forgiven because you are new, but this is a common analysis article at FishDuck when we have a new offensive or defensive coordinator and do not yet have Oregon footage. If you look at this page of analysis articles done by Coach Boles, you will see nine different analysis articles about the Joe Moorhead offense.

In the Oregon Football Analysis page at FishDuck, you will see tons of categories over the years with over 400 analysis articles and videos available to learn about the present Oregon offense or defense. Often over the summer before a season we will see lots of analyses about the upcoming new offense or defense to help know what to watch for.

This happened before Taggart’s first season, Leavitt’s first season, Avalos’s first season and now before Moorhead’s first season. And yes…in my conversations with Coach Boles–he is viewing all footage of Moorhead available on the web between all the schools he coached at. It just makes sense to use the plays from the most explosive offense he had and that has plays more easily available on the web.

And BTW…I have my doubts that even Chip could now do what Chip used to do at Oregon….


Chip Kelly changed college football. Not many coaches can have that said about them. Mario Cristobal may not be a offensive guru, but he and his staff can recruit to Eugene like nobody before them. I like the direction that this coaching staff is heading.

While the offense the last few years was not going to outscore teams to death. The rebuilding of the defense and recruiting elite athletes has everyone’s attention in the PAC 12. There were some pretty exciting games at Autzen the last few years during this process.

Moorehead will have elite athletes to work his scheme. With an elite RB that fits into his scheme we will be in Title contention with a “non-Kelly“ offensive scheme.

Jon Sousa

DF, many here think that Moorhead might make us not miss the Chipster at all. Especially looking at his recruiting down through the years. The last couple of years CK has not surprised anyone. MH probably helped more than anyone thinks.

Cristobal in the driver’s seat, Moorhead and Avalos riding shotgun, a boat load of very good recruiters… I am already not missing CK, and not wishing him back. Instead, I wish him well.