Oregon’s new young inexperienced offensive coordinator Will Stein is seen as a rising star in the coaching ranks. Though he has just one year as a co-offensive coordinator and play caller, it was only a matter of time until a Power-5 program gave him a shot. Given his new opportunity, the questions of whether Stein will succeed, and what type of offense he will run bear being examined.
The TemPro offense was born in 2020 out of a marriage of offenses from University Texas San Antonio head coach Jeff Traylor, and Barry Lunney Jr. his offensive coordinator. Both Traylor and Lunney were together on the Arkansas staff in 2017 and 2018 under head coach Chad Morris. When Traylor got the head coaching job at UTSA for the 2020 season, he brought Lunney with him as his offensive coordinator.
Traylor’s offense was a Tempo Spread system while Lunney’s was a Pro Style. The two worked together to form a new offense out of their two systems, and named it the TemPro. Traylor’s Tempo Spread typified by Zone Reads with wide splits of the WRs to spread the defense out, were combined with the Pro Style of Lunney’s system that utilized a tight-end and a half-back who can lead-block.
This is the offense that Stein has been in the last three years at UTSA and what he will be bringing to Oregon as the base of his offense. Coach Kenny Dillingham also used a tight end and half-back for a Pro Style RPO pass and running game, but he offset his running backs. The QB in Pro Style RPO reads the defense looking for a number advantage, he then watches them react to pre snap motion and their movement at the snap. He then will throw to seams or spaces that opened up as the defensive players shifted.
The big takeaway is that the TemPro is that it is multiple! Dillingham was multiple as well. He could go from the Pro Style RPO pass and run game into an empty set with five WRs. Dillingham had his Josh-14 Power I formation with constraint plays off it, and yet he would run a four-WRs set wide with one back, and then run the ball.
Stein, late in the season this year, ran quite a bit of the Pistol formation. Duck fans will let out a collective groan at the thought of that formation returning. Former Ducks coach Mario Cristobal ran the Pistol as the heart of his physical power running game when he started his tenure at Oregon. We saw a bevy of straight-up-the-gut runs with the offense for years, until new offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead appeared to be allowed to dial the Pistol away from being the bread-and-butter formation of the Ducks offense.
Why The Pistol?
The Pistol isn’t a broken formation, it can be quite a weapon. But in the Cristobal Era scheme of the Pistol; the level of QB play and the play calls limited the effect of the Pistol formation at Oregon. With a QB like Bo Nix who can make the right reads, you can really make the Pistol go.
The Pistol allows for a Pro Style power run game where you can pull linemen. If you have a dominant offensive line, the Pistol allows you to physically get after the defense. The QB is set back shallower than in the Shotgun, and the RB is set behind him like in the old school Power-I formation. You employ a tight-end and half-back that becomes a lead blocker. This gives you seven players to block the defenders that are in the box.
In the TemPro, the Power play run, and the Power read option out of the Pistol are something we will see. Duck fans will again see the half-back motioned from the weak side ahead the weak side pulling guard in this Pro Style power run play. This is a true power play that seals off the inside linebacker and kicks out the end. There are two other great running plays set up off the Power play.
If you have a running QB you also have the ability to run the Power read option from the Pistol. This play leaves the end (who gets kicked out in the Power play) unblocked and the QB reads if he crashes down. These two plays start out looking the same with the half-back pre snap motion and blocking scheme, until the half-back passes the end on his way to block the Star. The third play set up off the Power play is the Counter. In the Counter, you Zone-Read the backside end, instead of the play side end. There are many more runs plays from the Pistol, but for now that’s what I feel are the big three base plays.
Bo Nix meshes well with the Pistol’s RPO passing game that also uses play action looks. The QB is looking for a numbers advantage and space with his RPO read. There are many RPO options as simple as a WR screen, slants, cross and out routes, to a more complex play where the WR runs deep and opens a medium crossing route.
Nix can make all the runs and throws to exploit the advantages of the Pistol formation. More importantly he can make all the reads to take the right matchup the defense is giving you.
Why The Deep Shot Balls?
Will Stein has said he wants to take at least two deep shot pass plays per quarter, that’s eight per game. He said that’s the minimum! Cristobal’s offensive never took deep shots at even one third of that pace.
The Pistol lends itself to one-on-one matchups with the outside WRs based on how the defense defends the formation. The Pistol with a tight-end and half-back give you the numbers to block the entire front seven of the defense. This makes the safeties key in coming up in run support to make tackles. Going Cover-1 and bringing a safety up into the box to stop the power run is a common adjustment defenses make.
When a Pistol team gets the defense into Cover-1 that leaves the one deep safety with a long way to go to get over to help on the outside WR. Troy Franklin with his speed, size at 6’3” and hands can thrive getting deep shot balls up the sideline in the Pistol formation. Franklin is a hard matchup one-on-one for a corner and will almost always have a height advantage to go up over the corner and make the catch. Stein wants to take those eight deep shots to WRs like Franklin because he is going to get four big catches a game in those matchups.
Remember I wrote how the deep WR routes up the sideline will open medium crossing routes as well?
Stein is using the Pro style elements of TemPro to yo-yo the defense with power runs, option runs, RPO’s into out into space and deep shot passes up the sideline – attacking every quadrant. He can suck the defense into the middle, and up to stop the power run, then attack in space to the flat, slants or deep up the sideline. The QB might decline throwing that deep shot because the WR on his deep route, cleared a hole for a wide open medium crossing route
It becomes read and take football for the QB. If the defense goes Cover-2 with two deep safeties to take away the deep shot pass plays, he will power-run them and RPO pass to the edges. If the defensive end crashes to shut down the power run, the QB keeps and runs to the outside in space.
Tempo and Multiple
We won’t see the Pistol run with the slow plodding tempo of the Cristobal Era. If Stein can power run a team down the field, he will use tempo to keep them from subbing in. He wants to keep the matchup he has, while not allowing fresh legs, or he is looking to make the defense speed-up its play calls. Conversely Stein will go empty backfield to spread it out and throw the ball around if the defense can’t stop that.
We saw Dillingham do the same, going heavy power run scheme to heavy empty backfield with five WRs. I also suspect Stein will slow the tempo down at the end of the half or end of the game to burn clock and keep the ball away from the other team.
Just as Dillingham was a change from the Cristobal scheme of calling plays with one hand tied behind your back, so will be Stein. We won’t see Cristobal Era of running the RB up the gut into a stacked eight-man box. Duck fans can rest assured we will have a play caller that believes in not only attacking all parts of the field, but attacking the weak spot of the defensive scheme. The philosophy of being multiple in what your offense can do that we saw with Kenny Dillingham will continue under coach Will Stein.
I think Stein coming in with the TemPro will give Nix the opportunity to show he has matured to the point he can play at a high level with two different offensive coordinators in two years. The TemPro Stein is bringing with the Pro Style run and RPO game needs a smart QB, and I feel that Stein will give Nix even more freedom than he had this year under Dillingham. Nix is going to take this opportunity to show all the NFL scouts he can mentally step in and run a Pro Style RPO based power run offense at a high level.
It will be fun to watch the play-breakdowns of Coach Eric Boles in the off-season. Duck fans share your thoughts in the OBD FORUM!
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I was born a Cali kid and my uncle is a USC Alum. Remember going to an SC game when I was like 5 with him. I moved to Oregon in 77 when I was 6 and became a Duck fan long ago. I remember Reggie Ogburn OB days, so it was before the Ducks got good. I’ve been a sports nut since I was a kid.
I went to Tigard High about the same time as linebacker Jeremy Asher did, and I watched him team with Rich Ruhl on the inside of the Gang Green defense.
Lots of Ducks memories, Danny O’Neil’s passing in 1st Rose Bowl, Kenny Wheaton, Joey’s comebacks early in his career and how jacked up he got!
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