The Ducks have made a big change in a subtle way that could mark the gradual decline of the Pistol formation at Oregon! This change was evident in the Pac-12 Championship, but not in the Fiesta Bowl, yet materialized again in the Oregon Spring Game. I refer to how the Inside Zone out of the Shotgun is now being run, as this “new” method is making a comeback to Oregon after being introduced originally by the Ducks back in 2014. So yes, this is an Oregon, “Back-to-the-Future” moment, but a very positive one that merits our examination.
As you will see the screenshot above, and the videos below, (They are not long, as they are only one play each) the running back, who usually runs across and in front of the quarterback is now running the Inside Zone differently. Now he will take a jab step from the side of the QB toward the quarterback and will face the line of scrimmage, charge forward and downhill while aiming at the playside guard’s inside leg.
The A-Gap being attacked (playside) is still on the opposite side of where the running back lined up, (the red/white “A” above) but this way he has more flexibility in his running paths to Bang, Bend or Bounce the play as he would with the Pistol formation.
When Oregon ran this Inside Zone variation in 2014, I created an analysis that remains one of the most watched over the history of FishDuck. It helps young running backs to see examples of the three running back path options, and we can update it with some fun examples from this last Pac-12 Championship. (all three examples are in one game!)
The new Shotgun Inside Zone can be with reading a defender or just a handoff. In the example above, the QB is reading the backside USC defensive end, and since the DE is not charging the running back but staying out on the perimeter to guard the tight end–the correct read is to hand-off to Travis Dye as the QB carried out. Because Dye is lined up on the right side, then the playside or A-Gap the offense is targeting is on the left side, between the center and the left guard.
The blocking above is superb, and Dye just “Bangs” it right up the middle (hence the label for this running back path) for a big gain. The combo block by the center Alex Forsyth, No. 78 with T.J. Bass, No. 56 is what pops it. The both clear out the Trojan Nose Tackle and then Bass slides over and knocks the linebacker out of the way. This kind of play gets Coach Mario Cristobal very excited!
Above is not a read, but a straight hand-off, thus a Shotgun Inside Zone. Since Travis Dye lined up on the left side of the quarterback, they are attacking as playside the A-Gap on the right side of the center. When Dye gets to the hole, it is jammed as he runs into the back of a teammate, but he can see that that USC defensive end No. 49 and Trojan linebacker No. 26 could quickly slide off their blocks and nail him for little-to-no-gain.
Hence Travis is going to “Bend” his running back path to other side (left) of the line of scrimmage, and is immediately confronted by a tackler that he discards with a spin move. The defensive pursuit is on Dye immediately, and while he only makes four yards…he made four yards when there were wall-to-wall defenders where the Ducks originally attacked. This is a good running back making something out of nothing.
Before we move to the last video example, it helps to look at the screenshot above to see “why” Sean Dollars, No. 5, will “Bounce” it out to the sideline. As Dollars approached the line-of-scrimmage he could see that the playside A-Gap (Bright Red arrow above) was plugged, and the backside A-Gap (Yellow arrow above) was also filled as well as the backside B-Gap and the defender rushing in from the C-Gap (Burgundy arrow on left above) gave an extra bit of urgency to his decision.
Fortunately the playside guard above, Steven Jones, No. 74 moved his defender inside, the tackle, Malaesala Aumavae-Laulu, No. 71 went out to confront the safety while Tight End Hunter Kampmoyer No. 48 simply shielded the USC defensive end from the play (that works!) and the result is a nice running lane for Dollars to run outside through.
Above is truly a Shotgun Inside Zone Read as the QB reads the backside USC defensive end No. 50, who hesitated during the mesh, and thus the correct read was to hand-off as was executed. The fact that Sean Dollars recognized this “Bounce” opportunity so quickly is proof as to why he saw more playing time at the end of the season. When Dollars-turns-on-a-Dime, good things can happen!
“Oh, how we love to learn about Our Beloved Ducks!”
Charles Fischer (Mr. FishDuck)
Top Photo by UO Athletics
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Charles Fischer has been an intense fan of the Ducks, a season ticket holder at Autzen Stadium for 35 years and has written reports on football boards for over 23 years. Known as “FishDuck” on those boards, he is acknowledged for providing intense detail in his scrimmage reports and in his Xs and Os play analyses. He and his wife Lois, have a daughter Christine, reside in Eugene Oregon, where he was a Financial Advisor for 36 years and now focuses full-time on Charitable Planned Giving Workshops for churches and non-profit organizations.
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