The Moorhead/Cristobal Offense: Oregon’s Wide Zone Play

Coach Eric Boles Analysis 29 Comments

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While Coach Chip Kelly was in charge, the Oregon Ducks often went to the Outside Zone to get around defenses. In this play, the offensive line would work laterally to get an angle on the defense and spring the running back to the outside. With Coach Mario Cristobal at the helm, the Ducks have often gone to the Wide Zone. At first glance, you could easily mistake the OZ and WZ for one another, but there are actually some philosophical differences between them.

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Wide Zone

Where the Outside Zone tries to get to the outside of the defense, the Wide Zone looks to stretch the defense first and then puncture it. Coach Alex Mirabal even stated that with the Wide Zone they are not looking to go around defenders, but through them. It’s a play that uses the defense’s movement against it, but also sticks with the physicality that this Oregon offense is built on. Though the option to bounce the ball outside is an option, should the defense dictate it, the ball carrier is more often than not going through the heart of the defense.

The rules for offensive linemen in the Wide Zone are pretty straight forward. They are broken up into covered and uncovered linemen. Any OL is covered if they are shaded or directly heads up with a defender. If the lineman is covered he is going to take his backside knee through the center of the defender, his backside hand through his sternum and his playside arm is targeting the playside arm pit of the defender.

If the lineman is uncovered, he has a three step decision to make. By his third step, he must decide whether he’s going to take over the block from the covered lineman, knock it over or climb to the second level. If the defender crashes back, the uncovered OL will take the block over. Should the defender be going with the flow, trying not to be reached, the uncovered OL will climb to the linebacker.

As far as the running back is concerned, his aiming point is the backside of the tight end, or the ghost tight end if there is none. His first read is the playside defensive end. Should the defender crash hard to the inside, the RB can run to the outside. The second read is the next inside DL; this is how the RB will choose his inside gap. Overall, the back’s job is to stretch the defense, by pressing the edge, and then puncturing the inside. This allows the RB to use the pursuit of the defense against them.

In the clip above, the right tackle, right guard, left guard and tight end are all covered. If you look closely, you can see the techniques described above. The same is true for the center and left tackle, who are uncovered in this clip. The running back presses the edge of the defense before puncturing the middle, and nearly takes the ball to the house.

There is another technique that the Ducks use in the Wide Zone. Should the linebacker have leverage that will allow him to shoot the gap before the covered OL can pass the first level block off to his uncovered teammate, they can make a call for a Fold block. This is a call made by the players on the field. In the clip above, you can see that the left tackle Penei Sewell executes the Fold block by pulling around the left guard’s block, and blows up the linebacker.

The Wide Zone is firmly within the physical style of run game that the Oregon offense is built on, and one that has served them well. Watch for it this season!

Coach Eric Boles
Newark, Ohio
Top Photo Credit: UO Athletics

Next Article is tomorrow!

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J Duck

Penei took out a LB, but he took out a DB as well. Remember the time he bowling pinned THREE in one? OUTLANDish


Coach Boles, it seems the RB has a big responsibility in determining when and where to make the cut. In that example of Penei hitting the LB, Verdell didn’t get to Penei’s back side. If he had, it would have been a bigger play.

Is this a learned skill? More about timing?

It seems to me LaMike was particularly skilled at getting through a hole.

I know we all complain about the pistol, but it seems to work for other teams, even us once in awhile. Is it’s failure due to the RB not doing it right, or linemen?

Is it a learned skill?

Seven Mcgee seems to have visual skills and juking ability to be good at this.

What are your thoughts?.


Maybe Morehead doesn’t coach RB’s correctly bcuz it’s not his offense. Or maybe this will be the year Verdell puts it altogether.


I agree. I’m willing to bet TJ puts up most yards of his career. Even with all the RB competition, if he stays healthy.


Off topic. I don’t usually look at the ESPN recruiting rankings but they have Oregon at #5 with 16 four star players. Oh how sweet it is to be bringing in the Jimmy’s and Joe’s!

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck

We have a long way to go, but with nine of the 4/5-Star players now…if we get three more out of five who verbal…we will stay in the Top-10 when final results are tabulated.

Kayvon Thib._Video_FP.jpg

Emoni Bates News!

Yesterday, the word was that he would make his decision today. However, the decision is now expected to be made on Friday. Memphis is still considered the favorite to land the #1 rated recruit, however this delay in announcing, certainly doesn’t hurt Oregon’s chances.

A friend of Bates’s has already signed with Memphis, so that’s a plus. But Altman has shown that he’s a hall of fame caliber coach, Penny Hardaway has not shown that yet, and Altman has 2 first round picks in a row, (Pritchard, Duarte) to show Bates that coming to Oregon can get you to the NBA.

Is it Friday yet?

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck

Normally I would say that with Dana’s recruiting already–Bates is frosting. But he is so much more and a game-changer…

My spin is that it is good-or-good; if he doesn’t come, then we have a GREAT team for this year regardless, and he is does come….that’s BETTER!

Brooks FP (2).jpg

Oh well. It turns out that the announcement would come on Wednesday. Emoni Bates is going to Memphis.

Steven A

I also think that this means there might be some doubt left in regard to Memphis, otherwise why wait until the last minute (he has to enroll by Friday if it’s Memphis)


Everything is good about this. as Mr. FishDuck wrote, this year’s team is already great, Altman is at the top of the heap in coaching and recruiting. If Bates decides on Oregon on Friday the team will be better than great!

If he decides to go with Memphis and Hardaway. Good for Penny and Memphis on getting him. Penny has a long way to go to reach Altman’s level and should Bates go Tigers, I’ll still take the Ducks to go farther this season.


Thanks for the analysis. The videos help to bring out alive to see!

I question the pistol set of the running back. He is too deep. By the time he hits the huge hole it is closing and he gets tripped. Good gain but could’ve had more!


A running back should hit the hole as it is opening and then accelerate. LaMichael James was so good at doing this! No more pistol where the back is 8 yards from the ball – especially on the pistol plunges! DE’s tackle the RB for a loss every time.


Not trying to defend the pistol formation, but it does seem that Verdell is not the ideal RB for that formation. He runs hard in a straight line and doesn’t elude many tackles. LaMichael might have gone to the house on that play.


I’m not a fan of the pistol. I prefer getting to the feet of the linemen quicker. On the last video with Penei fold blocking, if the RB was not pushing the edge, but instead looking to explode off the butt of Penei the play maybe goes all the way.


I appreciate your analysis. My preference is for a different formation than the pistol. I would like to know what technique Mastro teaches. Not all backs have excellent vision but can be taught to improve.

Coach Boles!

That explosion play against the Cougars baffled me because it was not actually an Outside Zone, and I could see that at the time. But now you clarified the play as a Wide Zone, and Travis Dye “pressing” inside makes all the sense.

So grateful for your analysis–THANKS.

(Travis Dye in the explosion play below…)

Travis Dye_Tom Corno.jpg

A great lesson that you explained and illustrated clearly. Which situations set up this play? Or. is it part of routine series or probing and challenging the defense?

Thank you, Coach.


Thanks for the lesson Coach B!