How Oregon Used Inside Zone to Take Down Stanford

Oregon’s first game under new OC Coach Joe Moorhead and QB Tyler Shough did not disappoint. The ducks took on Stanford and it didn’t take long for both coach and QB to get comfortable attacking Stanford’s defense. We saw Moorhead use Shough in the run game with some key reads and RPO’s, which I think was a missing element during Herbert’s tenure as QB. The ducks were versatile in the run game and in the pass, but it was the variations of inside zone read that confused and abused Stanford’s DE’s all night long.

Oregon established the run early with 11 personnel in their pistol formation and steadily opened up a few variations of inside zone read. Physical downhill running was an emphasis early which made Stanford a step behind as soon as Oregon hit them with a few read options and RPO’s. Here’s how Oregon attacked Stanford with inside zone.

Heavy Dose of Inside Zone Put Stanford to Sleep

Split Zone

Oregon showed a lot of split zone early in the game and here is just one look at how they did it. Two keys to this play is that Linebackers must get downihll in a hurry to stop Verdell’s physical running style, and DE’s must squeeze down the LOS and take on Oregon’s Tight End who is kicking out the C gap. Success with this early will set up their other variations of inside zone

Speed option

Oregon got on the scoreboard first by running speed option, but to the defense it looked exactly like inside zone read. This was a great wrinkle and used at the perfect time. Stanford saw inside zone a number of times leading up to this play, so naturally their linebackers were quick to trigger when they saw the O-Line take their zone steps and Shough and Verdell at the mesh.

So what does Oregon do?

Block inside zone read to the right with Shough and Verdell quick set the mesh before running speed option to the left. The success of inside zone set this play up because Stanford came with interior pressure, and the look of the mesh point forced the DE to attack the mesh before shough pitched it to Verdell on the option.

This was a great design that was set up nicely with efficient running between the tackles.

Here’s another look at Oregon running speed option to the right after making the appearance of running inside zone. Watch Oregon’s RT!

Slip RPO

Oregon’s tight end DJ Johnson showed out on Saturday night. He proved that he’s a beast blocking between the tackles and a heck of an athlete out in space. Oregon used him to run inside zone split multiple times with success, so a nice compliment to that is showing the same action and flow but now slipping him into the flat. This is now a run-pass option for the QB as he can either hand the ball off for inside zone, or throw it to the tight end out in the flat. The read key for the QB is the end man on the line of scrimmage.

Shough is reading the C-gap defender who is the OLB standing up just outside the left tackle. At the mesh point, #30 sinks inside just enough for Shough to rip and run as his TE sneaks out into the flat with two receivers blocking in front of him.

This was a walk-in touchdown for the ducks because Oregon now used inside zone (with split flow) as an RPO to get their tight end in the flat.

Why Your Offense Should Base off Inside Zone

I’m a firm believer that high school offenses that are running the spread offense should base their run game off of inside zone read. There are coaches that may disagree with that and I’m sure they have their reasons, but the versatility inside zone poses is enough to gash a defense in the run and the pass. Inside zone blocking can carry over to multiple run schemes (like speed option) and can also lead to effective run pass option and play action pass concepts.

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