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Oregon’s Offense Will Pick Up Where It Left Off

Joshua Whitted Editorials

Kenny Dillingham did wonders for the Oregon offense in 2022. He helped resurrect Bo Nix’s career by developing him into a top-10 quarterback, he reintroduced a high-flying, explosive offense that fans had been desperately craving, and perhaps most importantly, his influence helped Oregon reclaim its identity as an offensive juggernaut.

Dillingham is deservedly now running his own program, and that might make some Oregon fans uneasy. The Ducks had their best offensive season in years, and now the architect behind it is gone just as quickly as he arrived.

Luckily, Dan Lanning made an absolutely terrific hire — one that will ensure the Ducks’ new-look, potent offense is here to stay.

Stein Is Cut From Dillingham’s Cloth

Will Stein and Dillingham’s paths have never formally crossed. But the two are cut from the same cloth, schematically, which is a huge asset for the Ducks in maintaining some sense of offensive continuity.

Much of Dillingham’s success at Oregon came due to his ability to always give his quarterback options. The majority of running plays he called were run-pass options, packaged with a quarterback run read and an option to pass. The beauty of designing plays with at least three reads is that the offense nearly always has a counter for what the defense throws at it. If the defense sells out to stop the handoff, the quarterback can keep it on the read option. If the defense pulls an overhang defender to account for the quarterback, the quarterback can throw it on the perimeter to take advantage of the defense committing an extra player to spy him.

Dillingham and Stein both utilize RPOs.

Dillingham is certainly not alone in designing his running game with RPOs attached; it’s commonplace now in college football. But it was important that Lanning made a hire that utilized multi-read RPOs just as extensively as Dillingham did, as that was a major reason Oregon had the success it did in 2022.

Stein has RPO packages that are just as — if not more — extensive as Dillingham’s. His offense at UTSA was largely successful due to the sheer amount of options that his quarterback had on nearly every play. Stein paired these options with just about every type of running play, too, from standard inside zone, to the counter plays that Dillingham made very successful with Oregon last season.

And just as Nix did, UTSA’s quarterback Frank Harris thrived in this system, making quick, decisive reads, and punishing the defense for overcommitting to the run game.

Stein also uses space and tempo to his advantage, just as Dillingham did a year ago. Stein often spread out defenses by lining his tight ends out wide, which gave Harris easy box counts and essentially allowed him to pre-determine his reads. The use of tempo made it even harder for defenses to disguise their looks, making the reads even easier for Harris.

Stein’s offense at UTSA utilized all of the components of a successful modern-day spread offense. A varied RPO package is essential in today’s game, especially with a number of different rushing schemes to throw at defenses. And space and pace are elements that make life easier on quarterbacks, by simplifying defensive looks and telegraphing their intentions.

Nix and company will be right at home in Stein’s offensive system.

Each of these elements helped Dillingham’s offense take flight at Oregon, and rest assured, Stein will use them to pick up where Dillingham left off.

Will Stein has some big shoes to fill. Kenny Dillingham deserves a boatload of credit for bringing high-scoring football back to the Oregon faithful. But don’t expect an offensive drop-off under Stein. He has the system to ensure that the Ducks will be flying just as high in 2023 and beyond.

Joshua Whited 
Grove City, Ohio
Top Photo by Craig Strobeck

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