Will Stein’s Oregon Offense: Play-Action Shallow-Cross

Coach Eric Boles Analysis

This season, as it did throughout 2022, the Oregon Ducks offense will look to have an extremely efficient rushing attack and a complimentary passing game. One way in which Coach Will Stein’s unit will accomplish this goal is through the use of play-action, and in this article, we’re going to take a closer look at the Play-Action Shallow-Cross.

We’ve touched on it before, but Coach Stein’s system asks the slot receiver to be involved in the run game a little more than the Ducks have done in the past. Because of that, play-action in which the slot motions into the backfield as if he’s getting the ball will be fairly effective against opposing defenses — the Play-Action Shallow-Cross takes full advantage.

Before the snap, the slot motions into the backfield as a second running back. After the snap, he meshes with the quarterback as though he’s getting the ball and runs what is basically a screen-type route. His route is really just to keep the defense honest. That being said, this play could set up a throwback screen somewhere down the road.

After the mesh, the QB is going to half-roll out of the pocket and choose between a few options. The two wide receiver run 10-yard crossing routes. The Shallow-Cross concept is similar to the mesh concept in that it targets second level defenders to create natural rubs. Because the QB is rolling left in this example, the WR coming across the formation from the right is his first read.

The second passing option for the QB is the RB. The RB slices as if he’s going to be the backside blocker on split zone before heading for the flat.

In the clip above, you’ll notice just how much the play-action affects the defense. There was really no need to work any rubs by the receivers, as the second level defenders step down to defend the run. The WR finds a hole in the coverage and sits, another similarity to mesh, for an easy touchdown — in this case, a two-point conversion.

If the Oregon running backs have the same level of success or better this season as they did last, plays like the Play-Action Shallow-Cross are going to be incredibly difficult for defenses to stop.

Coach Eric Boles
Newark, Ohio
Top Photo Credit: Nancy Paiva

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