The Oregon Duck Offense: Will Stein’s Top 5 Play Designs in First Season

Coach Eric Boles Analysis

The Oregon Ducks will end the 2023 regular season as the nation’s No. 2 offense, according to ESPN — and offense that racked up 527 yards of offense and 44 points per game. A huge part of this success has been the play designs of first year offensive coordinator, Coach Will Stein. He picked up where Coach Kenny Dillingham left off and added to the Ducks offense.

The first play on this list is a short yardage play that they used in their Pac-12 opener. The Ducks first and foremost want to be physical at the line of scrimmage — this is an identity that started under Coach Mario Cristobal and continues under Coach Dan Lanning. And though physicality is where they start, Coach Stein is a big RPO guy, and he’s uses them to add an extra layer to many of his run plays.

In the clip above, Oregon runs an Inside Zone play from 13-personnel (1 RB, 3 TE). Bo Nix is tasked with reading the backside linebacker here and he gets the give read. But you’ll notice that Trent Ferguson sneaks into the flat as another option. Troy Franklin gets a nice block, which is legal because the ball would be received behind the line of scrimmage. Though, all of that is moot because Noah Whittington punches it in for a TD.

Another short yardage play used by the Ducks this season was the QB Outside Zone. This is a play used to get a numbers advantage — with the QB as the ball carrier, the offense picks up an extra blocker. In the clip above, the offense needs two yards, and Bucky Irving gets enough of a block as the extra blocker to allow Nix to pick up the first down.

The TE Screen is a play run often by some of the best offenses in the NFL. It would make sense that an offense with a pro-style/west coast passing attack would implement such a play.

That’s not the end of it though, as Oregon dresses it up well to initially look like a different play. You’ll notice in the clip above that Oregon begins with motion, and the defense has to respect Gary Bryant coming across the formation. After the snap, Oregon shows play-action and pulls a guard, again forcing the defense to respect another aspect of their offense.

Behind the curtains of all of this window dressing, Patrick Herbert and the offensive line sneak out and score a huge touchdown.

You heard it all season long: Bo Nix is a check-down merchant. As if staying on schedule by taking what the defense gives you is wrong. Well, sometimes those check-downs are actually part of the play. Here on the HB Swing, Oregon runs four vertical receivers to occupy the defenses’ coverage. Because all of the defenders drop with the verts, Bucky Irving is left with a ton of space to work with, and he uses it to score.

Though the Pac-12 Championship didn’t go the way the Ducks wanted, there are some nuggets that can be pulled from the game. One is the Sprint Out Counter. Oregon is a fan of the Sprint Out in the red-zone. When you have a play you use a lot, you need a constraint — that’s what this play is.

Everything starts out as though Nix is going to roll-out, but then the ball goes to Jordan James on the counter. This is an old Gus Malzahn design, and the Ducks ran it perfectly for a James touchdown.

Coach Stein did a lot of good things in his debut season with the Ducks, and it’ll be exciting to see what he has in store for the future of the Oregon offense.

Coach Eric Boles
Columbus, Ohio
Top Photo Credit: Craig Strobeck

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