The Oregon Offense: The Powerful Moorhead ISO Play

Coach Eric Boles Analysis

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).

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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In mid-August of 2024, we will go back to the seven-days-a-week of articles during the football season as we did in the football season of 2023.

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