The Joe Moorhead Offense: The Devastating MESH WHEEL Play

Coach Eric Boles Analysis 41 Comments

A few weeks back, I wrote about the possibility of seeing a specific play from Coach Brennan Marion’s highly praised GoGo offense. Though we’ve yet to see the Oregon Ducks implement the two-back look of the GoGo, we did get to see Coach Joe Moorhead’s take on the Mesh Wheel concept against the Washington State Cougars with the kind of results we hoped to see from the GoGo offense.

The Mesh Wheel Concept of Joe Moorhead.

The concept, like a good deal of Coach Moorhead’s pass game, utilizes both the tight end and running back. Just how often the running back would be used in the new Ducks offense was a topic of discussion amongst fans for much of the off-season, and Coach Moorhead has emphatically answered that question in the first two games of the season.

We have discussed, lightly, that Coach Moorhead leans quite often on a West Coast Offense passing scheme, and the Mesh Wheel is a classic within that specific scheme. It’s also a concept enjoyed by Air-Raid offensive minds, and something that the Ducks saw often from WSU during Coach Mike Leach’s era. The play is a wonderful man-coverage beater, but also has some built-in answers to zone pass defenses.

In the game, Oregon ran the play from a trips set, where there is an in-line tight end to one side of the formation and three wide receivers to the other. The TE and the first inside wide receiver work the mesh portion of the concept as both run shallow routes. If the defense is playing man coverage, a natural pick can occur, forcing the defenders to avoid each other and open space up for the receivers.

If the defense decides to deploy a zone coverage scheme, there are a couple of options for the offense. Some coaches teach their receivers on the shallow route to pass each other and find a soft spot in the zone. What it seems like the Ducks have chosen to do is add a hi-lo concept to the play. They achieve this by having the second inside receiver run a drive passing route. This places the inside linebacker in a vulnerable spot by making him decide which route to take away. If he drops back, the shallow comes open and vice versa if he comes down.

There is another option available, and Oregon struck with it beautifully against the Cougars. In man coverage, chances are that the defender assigned to the running back isn’t going to be able to keep up on the wheel route. A lot of times this defender is a linebacker, but in the blitz scheme that WSU utilized, it was a defensive end that was assigned to the back. Travis Dye just has too much speed and got free down the sideline for a 71-yard touchdown.

The Mesh Wheel concept is an awesome design, and Coach Moorhead dialed it up at the perfect time. It will be equally as awesome to see what this new Ducks offense accomplishes as the players settle in, and as offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead unveils more of his surprising attack. We can’t wait!

Coach Eric Boles
Newark, Ohio
Top Photo Credit: Tom Corno

Bob Rodes, the Volunteer editor for this article, is an IT analyst, software developer and amateur classical pianist in Manchester, Tennessee.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

The Comments Below are CLOSED, as we are moving to the OUR BELOVED DUCKS Forum!

Comments below articles are now closed as we have moved all conversation over to the free Our Beloved Ducks Forum. It has been a big success already with many more posts than what we could fit into the comments below articles.

The Our Beloved Ducks Forum is where we we discuss the article above and many more topics, as it is so much easier in a message board format over there.  At the free OBD forum we will be posting Oregon Sports article links, the daily Press Releases from the Athletic Department and the news coming out every day.

Be a part of the forum and stay caught up!  When you wish to post there, do know that you are protected just as you were on FishDuck. Join us on the free forum right here!

Our 33 rules at the free OBD Forum can be summarized to this: 1) be polite and respectful, 2) keep it clean, and 3) no reference of any kind to politics. Easy-peasy!

OBD Forum members….we got your back.  No Trolls Allowed!

Notify of
Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck

FishDuck is in the Top 1% in the World AGAIN!

According to (an Amazon Company) and Google Analytics–this site is again among the best on earth for pages read every month. There are about 200 million websites that are active, and to be in the top 1% a ranking of No. 2,000,000 or higher would need to be achieved.

FishDuck has a global ranking at just over 1.1 million, thus in the top 55th of 100ths of 1%.

A unique visitor is someone who comes to the site once a month or 200 times–both examples are only counted as one unique visitor. For the prior 30 days this site had over 56,000 unique visitors, which is pretty amazing for only one article a day and ALL-VOLUNTEER.

Thank you for making it special, and we intend to build on this when the new forum is released. Our comment deletion rate has gone down even below the 4/10ths of 1% reported before, and again–this points to a very special community here at FishDuck. Thanks for making it happen!

I will write a game-prep article publishing very early tomorrow morning, and a game recap publishing Sunday. Good times!


Congratulations on the vision and the execution, Charles; pretty darn impressive. This is the only 1% I’m a member of, and it’s a good crowd.

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck

Thanks jrw, and I only wish that more of the 56,000 visitors (of which most visit tons of times per month) would post their thoughts and comments. It is only a tiny percentage that post, which makes you that much more unique!

Jump in everybody, as the water in this Duck Pond is just fine….


OT: What day, time, and channel is ‘Talkin Ducks on?


Each week the first “Talkin’ Ducks” airs at 6:00, Tuesday on NBCSportsNorthwest, and it’s typically repeated throughout the week. That’s 737 on Comcast in Portland, not sure in other locations.


Remember back when you were a kid and you and your guys needed to find another bunch of guys to play a game? That’s where Stanford is this week. This is going to be a crazy season.


Im not worried about the O minus a few mistakes but the D has been not so good in the 1st quarters. The O has surprised me–GO DUCKS!!


A couple of ESPN writers took the time to look in to how it all went wrong at FSU.

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck

A great statistical breakdown of tomorrow’s game is right here, and I am impressed with the research and work. The stats on offense versus the UCLA defense is quite interesting; a good read.


Thanks Charles, good stuff in there. Not surprising, UCLA hasn’t fared well with a back-up , though we have seen such QB’s play pretty well against the Ducks; and later in the article, there’s hope that if a back up has to play for the Bruins, he could have some success. It was also fun seeing where SI’s rating of the Bruins hiring Chip & Nebraska landing Frost were home runs, and Oregon’s hiring of Cristobal, a pop up to the catcher.


Sorry for being late to the game this week. It’s been busy at work as we push to get ahead before the holiday’s so todays UCLA Roster update will be really stripped down. Add in that UCLA is supposed to have a number of people out including the possibility of DTR and I’ll Keep this one short.

previous high 4 star, was really close to a 5 star in the 247 model. He has all of the physical aspects to play the game, he is quick has a good arm and shows flashes of brilliance. With that he has butterfingers. He only has one fumble this year but recorded 12 last year. He is probably the main reason UCLA is both successful and stinks.
RB: Felton
after being at the university for a number of years is finally getting his shot, nothing really special but frankly he is doing a good job just the holes aren’t being opened by the oline.
This oline isn’t very good in either pass protection or run blocking. They are allowing DTR to be hurried, sacked or scramble on about 25% of his passes and they can’t open holes in the run game. because of this most of the UCLA’s rushing is coming from QB scrambles.
Chip recruited some good talent at the position when he first started at UCLA but either due to coaching or just the talent not panning out they aren’t really great.

Overall this offense is basically feast or famine, they survive and rely on big plays to bail them out. solid tackling should and keeping them driving will force a number of three and outs. If DTR is actually out for the game and whoever is in takes to long on the reads or doesn’t have the ability to scramble you can expect to see a number of sacks.

Defense is in a new system this year as UCLA maybe brought on a new DC to be a Co-DC. it is now a 4-2-5 which is better for the system
This dline had two different games, against Colorado they rarely got push and couldn’t stop colorado from running at will against CAL this dline got push all night long. AS i don’t expect them to have actually changed I suspect CAL is terrible and COL is decent/above average. I don’t expect this DLine to do great.
the LB’s in this system are very similar in regards to what we faced at Wazzu except I think they are slightly higher talent with significantly less coaching.
speed-Check, talent-check, coaching- , playcalling-. this is a decent set of DB’s they as a whole are probably better than what he have faced talent wise but with that said the play calling is often pretty bad and puts the players out of position.

UCLA likes to call a lot of blitzes(check out writeforcal for the video they released today) the issue here is that it creates a lot of man coverage that can be beat with some quick passes. I expect oregon to open and lean on the run pretty heavy against ucla until and once the box is loaded and ucla shifts to man watch for some quick passes over the middle to continue moving the ball. overall i am not very high on ucla as a team and think poor coaching and the lack of recruiting is causing this team to fall off the board.

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck

As always I love your takes, and I’ll have mine tomorrow morning. (Very early) I agree that the running of DTR creates a ton of offense, but I thought the Outside Zone Reads and Sweep Reads out of the Shotgun made a ton of yardage for the Bruins versus Cal.

I like your thinking that UCLA will probably put an extra defender in the box because they feel they need to, and because their DBs can hold up.

I’d like to think that JJ and Redd will have something to say about that… :)

Great stuff, and THANKS.

David Marsh

So… ASU v Colorado was cancelled and now WSU v Stanford is cancelled… So that means Stanford v Colorado… Wait didn’t we see that one last weekend.

That’s just bad luck there…

Trying to now break up another game to
create two games to find Stanford and Colorado a game to play doesn’t really make sense at this point. It really just sucks that four teams have to sit, unless they can schedule a non con game, when only two teams can’t play.

David Marsh

I would like to point something out about the plays this year on the whole… Moorhead has done a great job of getting more receivers in space and the receivers have done a great job CATCHING THE BALL!

Last year there was a good amount of improvement in this regard but this year for the most part receivers are catching the passes thrown to them, especially making the catches for balls thrown to them in space.

I love Herbert and like so many Duck fans thankful for how he really carried our team for the most turbulant time in Oregon’s coaching history in a very long time (Herbert had 3 head coaches and had to learn 3 offensive systems!). Though I do think Herbert’s mega arm that is paying dividends in the NFL was probably a bit much for receivers. Catching NFL bullets from a quarterback isn’t easy, especially when the receivers are not top tier talent.

I would say Shough is throwing an easier to catch ball that just isn’t as fast as Herbert’s throws.

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck

Amen Duck-Brother….as it seems like 100% difference from two years ago, and a dramatic step up from last year. What has impressed me as well is when a little-used receiver such as Kris Hutson or Josh Delgado get their chance–they are making the big catch too.

That clutch 3rd down play where Shough threw into an amazing window on the sideline while being hit, and No. 83 Delgado went up and made the catch and touched his feet down before going out-of-bounds…was incredible.

I am now a big fan of receivers Coach Bryan McClendon….


Something special brewing in Eugene.

Oregon comes in at No. 4 in ESPN’s preseason combined men’s and women’s college basketball rankings


#4 would be great, however I’m not sure how it works out. The Lady Ducks are #10,

and the Men come in at #20

I guess it could be that 10 & 20, = 15 is the 4th best combined rankings, so still good. Baylor is a combined 3, UCLA is 15.5.


This play was a thing of beauty since this was a third down play with just a six point lead. The Cougs have a very competitive run and shoot offense and we had been giving them every opportunity to put a beating on us. If turnovers, missed tackles, and blown coverage was the theme of the day, we over achieved.

Always enjoy your play analysis. Thanks for taking the time to put this together.

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck

What a gutsy play-call, because if the play did not work–WSU gets the ball back and can win the game. So many close calls….


Multiple UCLA football players, including junior quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson, are waiting to find out whether they can play against No. 11 Oregon on Saturday after at least one positive COVID-19 test placed teammates in quarantine through contact tracing.
The uncertainty facing the Bruins was confirmed Thursday evening by two people close to the team who spoke on condition of anonymity because of privacy concerns. A UCLA spokesperson would not comment on player availability, citing school policy.


Contact tracing would definitely take its toll on any team. Ughh.


Thanks Coach. What I like about that play is that it’s an easy read for the QB. JoMo is using everyone in the passing game.


This offense is going to appeal to many recruits on offense. Everyone has a chance to touch the ball. Perhaps a tackle eligible set next?

Jon Joseph

Great info Coach, thanks.


This highlights the other difference Moorhead brings to our offense. The first one is the QB running more liberally, this one is the RB as a receiving threat.

With these two variables in play the defense can’t easily predict what is going to happen. We still have the pistol plunge, but with the O-line performing and the variation of plays the defense can’t sit back and stuff it. Love Moorhead!

Also love the new Ohana uniforms. The creative juices in the uniform department nailed this one, brilliant!


A note from last week’s game…CJ showed much more patience in finding the hole and exercising good judgment with his runs. He had an outstanding game. He even made the pistol look half decent.

I’m cheered to see the increased use of wheel routes…used quite effectively against the Ducks in past games.

And yeah, Hayward, those uniforms just look…powerful.


Not a big fan of the pistol, but agree, anything well designed, and executed with perfection works well. It is nice to see the pistol actually have some good outcomes. I think the pistol, this year, makes a pretty strong case Moorhead is the real deal!


Coach, I was just trying to make Charles happy. ;-)


…and by the way….great article. I really enjoy your technical articles.


When I see one of these descriptions, I go back to the image of Coach Vince Lombardi at the chalkboard. Bart Starr took the ball from under center, and then there were looping arrows going straight through the defense.
The saying back then was, “the Packers are so good it doesn’t matter if the defense knows what play is coming”. A couple of weeks ago, QB, Lamar Jackson of the Ravens voiced his frustration, “the defense knows what’s coming!” The Ravens aren’t the Packers of the Glory Days.

Fortunately, the defense doesn’t have the slightest idea what’s coming from the Morehead Ducks offense, Coach Boles just showed us all the options this play has, how it’s effective against man or zone, and we absolutely can’t wait to see even more!


A terrific explanation with powerful visuals makes this a great lesson. The scheme pressures the defense and develops with a pace that allows smooth QB progressions.


Excellent Coach B. Thanks for the Friday pre game read!