The Oregon Offense: The Freeze Option

Coach Eric Boles Analysis 26 Comments

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After a  tough week one win against the Fresno State Bulldogs, the Oregon Ducks look to build off of the offense’s strong points. Though the Bulldogs are an extremely well-prepared football team, the Ducks often made things more difficult on themselves than needed, as they kept things as vanilla as a spring game. That was actually by design as the Ducks prepare to play the Ohio State Buckeyes, and wanted as little of their offense on tape as possible.

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The Freeze Option

When Oregon needed to put the game away, they turned to a wrinkle that Coach Joe Moorhead introduced last season; the Freeze Option. The Freeze Option is designed to look like an Inside Zone (Out of the Pistol formation) at the snap of the ball to “freeze” the defense, and then quickly becomes a Speed Option. The Ducks used this play to produce their longest run of the day against the Bulldogs, and to seal the victory.

With the Freeze Option, the offensive line will block in the same way that they would if the offense was running the Inside Zone. In the diagram above, they are blocking the Inside Zone to the right. If an OL is covered by a defender, he will block that defender. The uncovered OL are going to target the next playside gap, and either help the covered OL or climb to the second level of the defense.

At the snap of the ball the running back is going to jab and take a step downhill as if he’s coming for the handoff, right before getting wide and into pitch relationship with the quarterback. The QB momentarily opens to, again, mimic the look of a handoff in the Inside Zone. After a beat, he runs downhill, attacking the backside defensive end. The defensive end is the read key. If he stays home to take away the QB run, the ball is pitched to the RB. If the defensive end widens to take away the RB, the QB will run the ball inside of him.

In the clip above, you can see how the mimicking of the Inside Zone keeps the defense at home long enough for the offense to block who they need to. Anthony Brown (No. 13) gives a little bit of a pitch fake, getting the defensive end to bite just enough to allow him to take it to the house.

Though the Oregon Ducks didn’t show many wrinkles in their week one win, I fully expect them to show much more at the Horseshoe, and the Freeze Option is sure to be a part of it.

Coach Eric Boles
Newark, Ohio
Top Photo Credit: Twitter

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UtahDuck’s Ohio State Preview from Last Week:

Oregon vs Ohio State University – 9:00 AM PT – Fox
OSU is a 14 point favorite.
OSU currently has The best odds of winning the B1G.(-170)
(For teams that played less than 8 games in 2020 I will be reviewing their 2019 team as well)
 
Record: 2020 7-1(3 canceled games)
     
Notable losses:

QB Justin Fields Draft pick 11 
LB Pete Werner Draft Pick 60 
C Josh Myers Pick 62
G Wyatt Davis Pick 86
RB Trey Sermon Pick 88
LB Baron Browning Pick 105
DT Tommy Togiai Pick 132 
TE Luke Farrell Pick 145
CB Shaun Wade Pick 160
DE Jonathon Cooper 239 
 

Recruiting and Transfers:

This is a top level recruiting team(not that that really needed to be said). With this they also haven’t experienced a lot of attrition in the transfer portal. When they do reach out to the transfer portal themselves it is to take high level players most notably Fields and Sermon. 
 
Offense:

Offensively Ohio state has two major ‘concerns’. First is obvious in that with fields now in the NFL it will interesting to see how Stroud comes in and replaces him. CJ Stroud announced as the started by Coach Day is a pro set QB that does not have the wheels that were often needed by fields.

Next is the reshuffling at Oline. Ohio state lost their starting center and Right guard from a year ago. To fix this they have literally reshuffled their entire oline. They moved their LG to Center, LT to LG and RT to LT. I am not an offensive line coach but this seems like a lot of movement especially considering some of these guys graded quite well at their position. I am excited to see how they now perform.

As for the rest of the offense, OSU has the best WR core in all of college football period. They have probably their best receiving TE in the history of the school although I am not sure how big of a difference he makes as the WR’s will get more balls thrown their way based on Day’s offense.

Finally RB, Ohio state appears to be moving smaller. The reports are indicating that Miyan Williams has won the starting job. He is 5-8 and significantly shorter than the standard 5-10/6 RB’s OSU is used to. I am not sure at his height if he will be efficient in pass protection and will more than likely be swung out as a check down or they will rely on the long term backup Master Teague in that situation.

Defense:

First I am not really certain what the OSU Defense is going to be in 2021. OSU has typically ran a 4-3 but instead of 2 corners and 2 safeties they run a single high safety with a “bullet” replacing the strong safety. Who was functionally another linebacker creating more of a 4-4 defense with a single high safety. The problem with this is OSU was 122nd in Passing yards/game in 2020. They allowed 304 yards a game. It was safe to say it was awful…

Because of this I think they will transition to a “4-2” this season. They will likely drop the sam linebacker in preference for a safety. From my research they appear to be keeping their “bullet” position. 

Now for the expectations. Despite losing two starters at dline, I wouldn’t expect much of a drop off. OSU recruits the position and coaches the position probably better than any team in the nation.

As for the rest of the defense they have a quality returning safety and I would expect teams to avoid throwing the ball in his direction. 

Game expectations:

OSU is the best team we face in 2021. Just like Oregon they have the question of QB. I am interested to see how Stroud will do in Day’s system. Stroud just isn’t as athletic(speed and quick) as what has been in the OSU system the last few years.

The next question is what does OSU do to improve their defensive scheme. They have no problem in the run game but have shown some significant weakness in defending the pass. 

If Oregon wants a chance to beat OSU they first need to pass the ball. I’m thinking a minimum of 40 passes in this game. And they really need to find a way to punish the press coverage at CB. 

Next is take advantage of the new bodies on the right side of the OSU’s offensive line and hopefully create a few mismatches were a lanky DE just has to drive through the shorter RB in Miyan. 

All in all, I think this game is winnable but the offense has to be ready to let the ball fly and they have to take advantage of a QB who will be in his second collegiate start.

DuckIt

Thanks for breaking down this play and sharing this clip. In hindsight, it’s hard to say that it was the wrong call by AB, but it was a poor read. Verdell had an unimpeded path to picking up 1st down and more. For AB to convert on 4th down, he had to break through a one arm tackle by a DB who for the most part, stayed home. In my opinion, the DB didn’t bite enough to warrant AB keeping the ball. The DB took one step towards Verdell and then came right back to AB but fortunately, was too slow to wrap him up. I think AB made up his mind that he was going to keep the ball, before it was even snapped.

DuckIt

So it makes me wonder, is AB doing what is best for the team or for him? This might be his last hurrah and chance to impress the NFL scouts. And he certainly hasn’t been winning any praises with his arm, so he may feel compelled to do it with his legs.

teeduke

Charles—

I received the message below when I attempted to go to your website a few hours ago using my Firefox browser. Thought you should know.

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It’s likely the website’s certificate is expired, which prevents Firefox from connecting securely. If you visit this site, attackers could try to steal information like your passwords, emails, or credit card details.

What can you do about it?

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Annie

By any chance did you go to the old forumfishduck.com ? I accidentally went to it once after it was discontinued and got that message. Just a thought.

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck

Oh yeah. I got it on my phone, on my desktop and could not get into the Admin. area of FishDuck, thus I was blind. Turns out it was a simple fix, as my web Developer repaired something and forgot to click one box is all. Too many work hours for him and he fixed it immediately. (It was on Chrome too)

And it just about scared the wee-wee out of me.

Duck Phan Phil

Thanks for teasing out the freeze option for us coach B! I tend to agree he probably should’ve pitched it. Freezing the video at the decision point I see a better chance of CJ scoring than AB. Although the counter point is that the objective was to get 2 yards for a 1st down and keeping it instead of pitching it 4 yards back is probably the safer bet in that regard.

I kept thinking of it as a Triple Option with an Inside Zone, but no–Coach Boles is right. It is a Speed-Double-Option, and works so well when you’ve given the defense a steady diet of Inside Zone off the Pistol.

Jon Sousa

Thanks for covering this play.

I was at the game (first ever) and I thought two things about this play.

1) 4th and 2, I saw the pistol (and so did the defense)… What does Oregon ALWAYS do in this situation????? Pistol plunge on the left side. It looked exactly like this was going to happen… until it didn’t… 1st down and more!

2) My second thought was that MC and Moorhead didn’t want to use this play… but they had to. They had to win this game and so they used more of the book than they wanted to. If they would have never gotten to this 4th and 2… If we would have just kept moving the ball down the field… we would have never seen this play last week.

NW777

The Ducks have better QBs waiting to flap their dark wings now than when the starter went out in past years, except when Herbert was the backup. Let Brown run. It will create more opportunities. The last time these teams met, it was 3rd string QB Cardale Jones’ first game. May the quick Brown Duck jump over the Buckeye tree log.

UtahDuck

Stony Brook Review: This one will be shorter than usual due to the lack of information on FCS teams. I will give more of a history of the football team instead of a full review

2020(technically spring 2021) 1-3 with two canceled games.
2021 0-1 loss to New Hampshire.

Stony Brook(SB) football started in the mid 1980’s in division three ncaa, becoming division two in 1989 and moving to division 1 in 1999. So in that regard they have been fairly quick in moving up the ranks in college football. SB plays in the Colonial Athletic Association(CAA) with the most notable team from the conference being James madison.

SB has made it to the FCS playoffs 4 times. in four times they have never made it past the second round and once lost in the first round of the playoffs. with their best runs coming in 2012 and 2017 going 10-3 both years

SB has played 12 FBS teams and has a record of 1-11. Their lone win coming in 2012 against a 2-10 army. They have also had a few close games losing to uconn in 2014 by 2 and losing in quadruple overtime against buffalo.

Coaching despite being a team over 30 years old, SB has only had two head coaches. Sam kornhauser coached from the 1980’s till 2005 and chuck priore has coached since then.

If you take away two things from this, one the FCS system isn’t all that great. the 2018 team that made the playoffs was a 6-5 team. 32 teams is way to many teams to be letting in the FCS playoffs.

second Oregon should roll this team. SB has been on a downward trend since 2017 and I don’t see that turning around in 2018. game should be in garbage time by the second quarter.

Haywarduck

Great analysis and work up to allow those with a tenuous understanding of little more than the scoreboard to see clearly what is going on.

I too see the pitch would have been a very productive decision. This seems to highlight to two elements I was wondering about as the game progressed.

One AB seems to be a very good runner. The way he cuts and moves through the open field is more like a RB than a QB. The only weakness seems to be letting the ball get away from his body the last few yards of his run.

The other item this run highlights is AB not seeming to trust his offensive weapons. One would think if the RB is open for a big run you pitch it, even if your option looks good. The RB’s job is to run the ball, the WR job is to catch the ball, AB job is to distribute the ball.

AB’s default seems to be to run, not pass or pitch. Maybe I am not seeing the whole field and the WR’s aren’t open, but his job is to distribute, pass, handoff and pitch it.

Don’t get me wrong, it is amazing we have a qb who can tuck it and run. This opens up the field for other plays. The problem seems to be the other plays aren’t reaching fruition. He is going to get hurt, shut down and the offense will stall unless he becomes more of a distributor of the rock. I look forward to that progression this week.

Haywarduck

Agree about the drops, and he is playing the conservative option Cristobal most likely is yelling at him through his headset, just kidding, almost.

I also worry about him taking the ball and running it down the middle of the field, with his knees, and history of injuries. I suppose that is why we have so many young guys on the sidelines, waiting to fill in.

I just want to see some more of those really nice passes, and yards after catch!

It is funny, I wanted to Herbert to run more, now I want AB to pass more, never satisfied, always the critic. It is nice to be on the couch, and never, well seldom wrong!

Jon Sousa

About the knees. I had an ACL repair many years ago. The Dr. told me that my knee would be tighter and better than it was before.

He was right! My ACL knee is much better and stable than the other one. I have had 4 knee surgeries but only one ACL. That knee is my best.

Likely, AB feels more stable in his knees now then ever before.

30Duck

I have the same concerns about AB. He’s a 6 year senior, which should bring with it confidence, and leadership. It is a new season, new players new scheme. But I didn’t see AB as a savvy Veteran QB against Fresno State.

AB isn’t Marcus. But when Marcus tucked the ball and took off, he ran with confidence. I didn’t see that in AB’s running, not for the TD either. It seems like he chooses to run because he really doesn’t have a lot of confidence in his passing.

Not treally the mindset you want leading the Ducks against Ohio State. But, if he can loosen up, have some good luck early, this could turn out well.

smith72

Excellent points Hayward! Anthony Brown is a fumble waiting to happen. In the pocket ready yo pass the ball is low and away from his body. Fumble potential! When he runs the ball is gripper in his hand away from his body. Fumble sure to happen!

These concerns outweigh any good that can result in his being the quarterback. Turnovers kill.the offense!

smith72

Apologies for typos. “ready to pass” and “ball is gripped”.

Haywarduck

Agree, not sure why this hasn’t been worked on or addressed. We have already seen one turnover from AB this season, tosu has to be drooling, and focused on the opportunity. Don’t just sack him, tackle him, knock the ball loose.

Fortunately I think DeRuyter has been coaching up this tactic too. We are going to have to win the turnover battle!

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck

Brown had a fumble swatted out in the Spring Game by Thibs too…

CastawayDuck

Or more a leg injury waiting to happen. They need to review former games under Chip and utilize him more like DT or MM and less like ’18/’19 Herbert. Attack the open lanes, make someone miss out in space, misdirection. Heck, even in the Pistol formation when executed properly he is a weapon. But, through the A/B gaps like a RB? Thats no bueno,imo.

Completely agree; running a QB between the tackles is asking for trouble…

CJ

Great play and excellent execution. Looks like if Brown pitched it then the back had a big play there as well, but in the end he made the right decision to keep it for the house call.

We are going to need a lot of these wrinkles this weekend. I sure hope a lot of people are right about purposefully dumbing down the offense in last weeks game.

We have seen Cristobal and Ducks play very poorly before and then come out in ensuing weeks and wreck quite stout competition (see 2019 and 2020 Pac12 Championship Games for examples).

Will history repeat itself in this game or is Ohio State on a different level then those Utah and USC teams? Can Mario, in one weeks time, get this team to look completely different than they did last Saturday?

CastawayDuck

I keep thinking of the similarities of Herbz last play in the Rose Bowl running for a TD and Brown’s similiar run. Reminds me of DT. I think its a preview of what Moorehead may be creating w Brown. And hopefully its attacking the edges and not using him as a RB.