Stein Surprises: Oregon Unveils a NEW/OLD Zone-Read?

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck Analysis

Is Oregon going to continue using the Zone-Read as part of the Oregon Offense? That was a question I wrestled with this last summer as I studied up on what new Offensive Coordinator, Will Stein, liked to run. The fans were told that most of the Kenny Dillingham offense would remain, and we would see Stein’s own wrinkles into game-plans and even in the plays themselves. I took some time from my fun with Nine Casino to examine the Stein offense for differences from the past plays–to see any changes for myself.

Well, we just got a dandy that dropped my jaw last Saturday versus Hawaii…

As many of you recall, I created 50 instructional videos during the Chip Kelly era at Oregon, and those videos created a dozen years ago have been viewed over two million times, and are still being watched every hour of the day on average. A characteristic of the Chip Kelly Zone-Read was creating a Bubble-Screen option to the Inside Zone Read, or the Mid-Level Zone Read, as the component of stretching the opposing defenses horizontally, thus initiating mistakes or breakdowns would create explosion plays.

The stress of an Outside Zone-Read in one direction, with the threat of a QB run and Bubble Screen on the opposite perimeter required perfect discipline by a defense. Yet when well executed, defensive techniques could not always hold up to this offensive attack on both sidelines simultaneously. Those prior offenses had very mobile and athletic offensive linemen who could move quickly in both directions. Are we seeing a return to that offensive philosophy to match our current offensive line?

A Zone Read attack with both Chip Kelly and Kenny Dillingham elements! (Screenshot from Pac-12 Network Video)

The Stein Zone-Read unveiled had elements of tried-and-true philosophies at work. You had offensive linemen doing the outside kick-step to the right that would help the running back in a classic Outside Zone-Read, along with a crossing tight end in a slice block that would assist the Bubble threat (Light Blue circle) or the quarterback pulling the ball (Orange dotted line) to run if the read-defender, (Red circle above) were to chase the running back. (Dotted yellow line above) 

Stein has established a Triple-Threat, that while is similar in concept to what CK implemented with the ol’ Outside Zone-Read, is implemented with his wrinkle of utilizing Tight Ends instead of Wide Receivers. Let’s see it in action!

I have to admit–I like the thinking behind having TEs blocking the smaller defensive backs, with the element of attacking both extreme sidelines with the Outside Zone-Read and the Bubble Screen. This takes us back to the tactic of completely stretching a defense to create mistakes, generate backside gaps for jump-cuts, and much more open field for great athletes to show-their-shimmy. It is a nice blend of the new thinking with prior proven concepts that will be great fun to watch for as the season progresses.

Will Stein likes to stretch the defense virtually with the Bird-Bombs, and now by turning to a proven winning play of the past–he now stretches the defense another direction. The mental stress alone on a defense can create errors, and the fatigue element can add to that stress in the second half of a game.

Perhaps another element in this equation is how the 2023 offensive line is a bit lighter than last year, yet can obviously move in space? This new play design can capitalize on the O-Line strengths? Share your thoughts in the only free Oregon message board where civility still reigns because….

“Oh, how we love to ponder about Our Beloved Ducks!

Charles Fischer  (Mr. FishDuck)
Eugene, Oregon
Top Screenshot from Pac-12 Network Video

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