Out from the Box: Mariota & Oregon’s Offense

Because Oregon faces Stanford soon, the Ducks again boast one of the nation’s most prolific offenses. Under new head coach (and former unpleasant coordinator) Mark Helfrich, the Oregon offense remains predicated upon Nick Kelly’s spread-to-run system. The supporting of that system is arithmetic. By principle, the defense always has one unblocked defender – the ball carrier’s counterpart. Once the quarterback hands from the defense gains an additional unblocked defensive player, gaining a two-man advantage against the offense.

The Ducks look for to minimize that arithmetic advantage with all the quarterback reading one of those unblocked defenders. With one defender neutralized from the quarterback, the defense now just has one unblocked defender against Oregon’s base inside zone, outdoors zone and power run plays. The Ducks utilize multiple broad receivers to clear other defenders out of the tackle box, providing Oregon better numbers to run the football.

It is no surprise defenses seek to regain that arithmetic. Defenses use two common tactics. One is to get a defensive back that looks like he could be covering a slot receiver in fact sneak inside that receiver to try out the run. The second is to bring the safety down aggressively against operate action.

The strategy at the rear of the Ducks’ offense flows from punishing a defense that desires to use these strategies. If a protection tries to cheat a slot defensive player against the run, Oregon will toss wide receiver screens. If a safety is going to aggressively attack the operate, Oregon will throw play action passes behind those vacated defenders.

While the basic principles for the 2013 Ducks remain the same, however , the implementation is somewhat different. Oregon is more of a pass-first unit then previously under Kelly. Part of this really is that the Ducks have not been since consistent on their inside zone perform. But a far bigger element has been the emergence of Marcus Mariota as one of the top draft potential clients for 2014.

Mariota has all of the physical tools, but what makes your pet particularly effective is his decision-making. As Kelly makes clear, the key aspect to a quarterback in his spread system is not his running ability (though that certainly helps) but decision-making. That is because the quarterback must quickly decide where the football is going on nearly every play, whether it is a operate or pass. Mariota excels on this aspect, which is what makes him the ideal trigger-man for the Oregon offense.

The particular Ducks’ passing game is best when it stretches a defense away play action. This is also where Mariota is at his best. A single Oregon staple is a backside slim post off inside zone.


Defenses often play include 1 or cover 4 against Oregon to combat the Ducks’ spread. Oregon counts on the safety coming upon in run support, where Oregon can hit the skinny post behind the vacated area.

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Oregon then takes this concept one step further, combining a skinny submit with a bubble screen.

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Following the fake, Mariota reads the backside corner. If he plays the bubble Mariota will toss the post. If he plays back he can quickly deliver the bubble screen, providing Oregon easy yards.

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These principles, combined with naked bootleg flood routes, constitute some of the core passing plays for the Oregon offense. Mariota generally makes the correct read and then utilizes a quick, compact release to deliver the football before the defense can react.

Oregon asks as much of Mariota’s decision-making in the run game. Virtually every Duck run play involves Mariota making the proper read and identifying when to give or keep. The particular Ducks also design plays to feature Mariota’s running ability. For instance, one base Oregon play is a sweep read . The Ducks pull their playside guard and center. Mariota says the interior defensive linemen. This allows Oregon to pull its linemen and get outdoors without having to block one defensive deal with who is quickly out of the play as soon as Oregon beats outside contain.


Below, however , Oregon alters the play to get Mariota on the edge. The Ducks false sweep read, but have the linemen pull the opposite method to lead Mariota around end.

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It is therefore not too much to say that Oregon is a quarterback-centered criminal offense more so than any time in its current history.

Projecting Mariota to the NFL is the perpetual problem with spread quarterbacks. If Mariota includes a weakness it is that he struggles at times with accuracy. This is more apparent with drop back pass plays with tight coverage. That is not to say he does not have success in the dropback game, but he is sometimes much less crisp. He will need to improve his ball placement to thrive at the next level.

That is not to say that Mariota must play in the pure spread offense to succeed. This simply seems sub-optimal to play Mariota in a traditional drop back criminal offense, which will lead to a longer learning contour. With his quick decision-making and discharge, Mariota should thrive in the cross spread offenses that now can be found throughout the NFL. This will feature Mariota on play action and pirated passes where he can make quick decisions without requiring him to frequently carry the football.

As to this year, Oregon’s offense will likely go as far as Mariota can take them. One thing to watch is how Mariota throws the football if a defense is able to take away Oregon’s run game without devoting additional defenders. This will require designed for Mariota to exploit drop back opportunities and allow him to demonstrate his flexibility for the NFL.

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