Coach Joe Moorhead is known all throughout the coaching ranks as a master schemer and architect of one of the smartest RPO based offenses in the nation. He has designed an offense with the Oregon Ducks that allows them to keep the physical style of run game they’re known for, while adding another layer. The RPO system that Coach Moorhead has installed allows any of his pass options to be attached to any of the run game. This has made Oregon’s rush attack that much more explosive this season.
One of the packaged plays that the Ducks have used to huge success this year is the Split Zone RPO. The play takes a simple play, the Split Zone, and adds an extra dimension to it, which keeps defenses from bearing down on the run. But, when they do, the offense has the ability to make them pay for it.
In the Split Zone, the offensive line is going to block Inside Zone in the direction of the play. If the lineman is covered by a defender, including being shaded to either side, he is going to block that guy. If the OL is uncovered, he will look to create a double team to the next playside gap or move up to the second level and block a linebacker. The double team blocks are meant to be carried until the second level defenders attack, prompting one of the linemen to come off of the double team and take him on.
The running back in Oregon’s version of Split Zone is going to take a playside jab step and head straight downhill towards the line of scrimmage. This path by the RB allows him to see how the blocks are unfolding, and gives him the opportunity to decide which A-gap he’s going to press.
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The difference between the Split Zone and this particular RPO version of the play, is what the tight end does, and the option that it gives the quarterback. Instead of blocking the backside end, the TE will continue on to run a banana route, or a speed out, behind blocking wide receivers. The option comes into play as the QB watches to see what the backside outside linebacker does. If the LB stays upfield, or widens to play the TE’s route, the QB will hand the ball to the RB. If the LB crashes in on the run, the QB will pass to the TE. There is also a version where the QB has an option to become a run threat, making it a triple option of sorts.
In the clip above, you can see that the OLB stays home which prompts the quarterback to hand the ball off. The offensive line does a nice job of picking up all of the defenders that they need to, including a scraping linebacker, and CJ Verdell makes it, almost unimpeded, to the end zone.
The Split Zone RPO is a perfect example of the type of offense that Oregon continues to evolve into. It has a physical downhill running game combined with a passing element to keep defenses on their toes. And it’ll be exciting to see how it evolves even further.
Coach Eric Boles
Top Photo Credit: Twitter
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Eric resides in Central Ohio, just outside the capital city of Columbus. He is a former offensive assistant and return game coordinator for the Ohio State – Newark/Central Ohio Technical College Titans football program.
He is an OSU-N graduate, having completed a Bachelor of Arts program in psychology.
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