The Joe Moorhead Offense: The Devastating MESH WHEEL Play

Coach Eric Boles Analysis

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.


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