Beware Kicking the Dawg: DeBoer Bites Back

DazeNconfused Editorials

The ‘hubris’ that exudes from Husky Nation has made Oregon’s dominance over Washington on the gridiron all the more enjoyable for Duck fans during the last 20 years. I personally can’t think of a more comical topic for us Ducks to discuss than those downtrodden Dawgs! But with the hiring of HC Kalen DeBoer, the Huskies are about to get some serious bite to accompany their bark.

In 2005 DeBoer was named head coach at University of Sioux Falls, a position he held through the 2009 season. In those five years at Sioux Falls, DeBoer compiled a 67-3 record and won three NAIA National Championships!

DeBoer moved up the college football ranks, starting over as a position coach, until in 2017 when Jeff Tedford hired him as OC at Fresno State for two years. DeBoer moved to Indiana for a season as OC in 2019, inheriting an offense that ranked No. 71 in total offense the year prior, and improving them to No. 51 in his lone season. At the end of the season, Tedford retired, opening the door for DeBoer’s first Power Five head coaching job with Fresno State.

Former Fresno State HC Kalen DeBoer addresses the media after the final spring practice of 2021.

DeBoer’s Second Year at Fresno State in 2021

DeBoer posted No. 14 Total Offense numbers with over 6,000 total yards (6.34 yards per play), and averaged 464.8 yards per game! DeBoer did that with the 75th, 103rd, 85th and 92nd-rated recruiting classes from 2021 – 2018 at Fresno State. He led the Bulldogs to a 10-3 record, going 2-1 against Top 25 teams on the road! DeBoer, on the road, played Oregon within a score… then beat UCLA and San Diego State!

Husky Offense Instantly Improves Under DeBoer

DeBoer has much better overall roster talent to work with at Washington than he did at Fresno State. The favorite to emerge as the starting quarterback will be transfer Michael Penix Jr., who put up career numbers in DeBoer’s offense in 2019. Penix, at Indiana, flashed brilliance in 2020 against Ohio State, throwing for 491 yards and 5 touchdowns in a losing effort.

DeBoer’s Scheme: Multiple Sets, Confusion and Space

DeBoer runs an everything and the kitchen sink type of offense. He runs all kinds of different sets and gives a different look on every single play. DeBoer will go shotgun or under center, empty, empty with a halfback on the line, one back with a halfback on the line, Pistol, one back with a 2 x 2 reliever set. It never ends all game long as DeBoer runs out all his sets and plays. He uses lots of pre-snap shifts and motions; everything DeBoer does is to make the defense read and communicate as the offense comes to the line.

DeBoer’s offensive scheme creates a nice open space for his receiver to make a catch and run against the Ducks in Eugene in 2021.

The pre-snap shift makes the defense read again and communicate a change in assignments. If DeBoer runs a receiver across in motion, and the defender goes across the formation with him, the defense shows they are in man-to-man. If the defense isn’t playing man-to-man, then the defense must communicate the switch in coverage. Either way, the motion keys the QB in on man or zone coverage.

The multiple sets, pre-snap shifts and motions are all window dressing, as DeBoer has a target he wants to attack with a matchup in space. That matchup is sometimes as simple as getting an extra blocker advantage at the point of the play. It could be as complex as using the route tree to pull defenders out of an area to create an open space he attacks with another player.

DeBoer is a master play-caller. In addition, his offense is patient, lending itself to a high completion percentage and positive plays — and that leads to lots of first downs. Fresno State averaged an impressive 24 first downs per game last year under DeBoer.

A Duck defender trips up Fresno State star running back Ronnie Rivers in a one-on-one matchup out in space along the sideline.

I expect DeBoer’s offensive scheme to produce a powerful Husky offense that becomes one of the top producing units in the Pac-12. The Dawgs just got a lot harder to kick around, and that trend will continue in the years to come under Coach DeBoer. Duck fans, are you concerned? Share your thoughts in the FORUM WITH DECORUM!

Portland, Oregon
Top Photo by UW Athletics YouTube

Natalie Liebhaber, the Volunteer Editor for this article, works in the financial technology industry in SLC, Utah.

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