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The Moorhead Offense: Are You Confident or Concerned?

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After years of uninspiring offense under Marcus Arroyo, Oregon Ducks fans were ready for change. Something. Anything. Just as long is it was different. It has been a year since their wish was granted and Joe Moorhead was hired to take his shot at returning the Ducks to their high-flying offensive glory days. Moorhead looked to diversify a stale Oregon ...

 

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You raise three good questions with your article today Joshua. 

 

1)  "But where's the fun in 'wait and see?'"

2)  "Do you like the painting?"

3)  "What was the real cause of the offensive crash last season?"

 

For No. 1 the answer is, there is no fun in "wait and see". 

For No. 2 the answer is, "no I did not like the painting". 

For No. 3 the answer is, "are you suggesting the offense crash may not have totally been the result of Shough regressing ??" To me it is a little strange that Shough could not recover but did Moorhead change the offense after the first three games to cause it to crash ??   

 

Help me out here Duck fans. 

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BDF, I don't think Shough regressed I just think that he lost confidence. Once that happened he started second guessing his decisions. I know the coach was always a very vocal supporter of him to the press but I wonder if Shough didn't feel the same? We'll never know.

 

As far as the offense goes, I still believe that coach hired JM for a reason, he needs to give his input and just let JM work. The pistol is a joke 90% of the time! Let's get to an offense the looks more like Alabama and Clemson. We have the pieces on offense and defense to be an all around stout team!

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Let's see if I remember the crash we had an under performing defense that couldn't stop the run, we had our #1RB hurt, we had an offensive line that didn't seem to improve, we had our best deep threat WR miss games along with a multitude of other players due to covid 19 and we had the youngest team in the country.

I don't know what happened with Shough but all the things above had something to do with what happened to our offense last yr. 

I don't see how anyone can make a informed oppinion at this time one way or another.

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I think there are questions, but the answer we want is still possible. Moorhead did amazing things at Fordham, at the FCS level. He also killed it at Penn State, but he had Saquon and a very serviceable qb.

 

At Oregon he doesn't have a generational RB, good qb combination. The question is can he develop the offense he wants with the talent he has walked into at Oregon? I think he can, but he needs to have better production at the qb and rb positions. We will see if he develops the qb this season, and gets better production at rb. Maybe he gets rid of the predictable run up the gut?

 

This is really the big question. This season we will see if he can develop a qb. I don't think the verdict will be definitive with a bunch of new qb's, but he needs to show he can lead a qb towards progressive development and adequate production. Seeing Shough struggle raises questions, but, to me, most of those questions were on Shough. If we see another highly rated qb struggle then maybe my observations were wrong.

 

The other question is about the level of football he has been successful at. Is he the next Chip Kelly at Oregon, or just another OC who struggles. Chip came from a lower division and killed it, can Moorhead. I think he can, and showed good enough innovation to convince me he can continue to have success. 

 

I look forward to seeing my questions better answered by a full season of practice and installation of Moorhead's offense. I think he can make something out of the qb talent he has at his disposal. He can also get better production out of the RB, with a qb who sees a wide open RB coming out of the backfield. I also think he can out scheme the teams we will be facing. Those issues are still questions, and it will be fun to see the answers develop over the season ahead.

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I am reluctant to judge our DUCKS by the 2020 season. So much out of whack, hold outs, injured players and the big COVID 19. This year should be a reset to a bit of normalcy and we will see how our players and coaches perform.

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I would ask these three questions:

 

1) Has Joe Moorhead been successful at every other stop in his career?

2) Does Mario make poor hiring decisions?

3) Was the 2020 so-called season indicative of anything?

 

I would answer yes, no and no and not be worried about what's to come.

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11 hours ago, BigDucksFan said:

What was the real cause of the offensive crash last season?

 

This is the million dollar question and, for a variety of reasons, cannot yet be answered with confidence.  I can think of a couple items that contributed to the problems.  And, I think we can watch for some early indicators for signs of improvement.

 

1. Inconsistent OL play.  Very difficult to scheme and execute an offense when the coaching staff cannot depend on competent OL play.  Key factor for next season will be the coaches' ability to identify the top-five OL and play them consistently.  Based on recruiting rankings and number of OL on the roster, I do not believe talent should be a concern.  Another year of OL struggles would raise serious questions about the OL coach.

 

2. Injuries at RB.  Travis Dye and CHL were forced to play too big a role last season.  Fumbles (Dye) and lack of explosiveness (CHL) held back the offense.  Key for next season will be evidence of a true RB competition that results in the best players contributing on the field.  I'm not convinced that always happened last season.

 

3. QB Play.  Did Shough regress or did some good luck early in the season finally turn towards the end?  There was definitely some good fortune early on...get ready to cringe if you re-watch some of the dropped interceptions in the Stanford game.  I've also read that opposing DCs adjusted defensive schemes later in the year (based on earlier film review) and Shough failed to adjust.  I think that spiraled and both QB and QB coaches lost confidence late in the season.  Key for 2021...evidence of consistent execution and ability to sustain drives.

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I'm feeling optimistic... I wish I had the links but I have read in a few places now that Moorhead struggled with installation via Zoom. As a high school teacher who has been distance teaching for almost a year now I can safely say that Zoom is incredibly deceptive as to how much anyone actually learns from this platform. Now, I obviously don't know the level of engagement and participation from players but Zoom just invites distractions and I am absolutely sure that the off-season was no where near as productive in terms of installing the offense as it should have been.

 

Moorhead's results were certainly a mixed bag in 2020 but there was a lot of interesting potential. Keep in mind that it wasn't just a new quarterback but also an entirely new offensive line in terms of starters. Each game had some flashes of intrigue as to how this offense is supposed to look moving forward.

 

Shough seemed to get anxious and too happy with just trying to run the ball rather than waiting for passing routes to develop. This worked well in the beginning of the year where defenses didn't seem to expect Oregon to have any quarterback runs. Though once they picked up that Shough would actually tuck and run the ball they closed in and were more disciplined against the quarterback run. Then Shough just didn't stretch the field with many vertical passes to force the defense to play the entire field.

 

There are changes that will need to be made... though I feel optimistic that those changes will happen. Especially with some talented youngsters coming into the program that are hungry for an opportunity to prove themselves and see the field.

 

Is the Spring Game here yet?

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Anyone heard when it will be?

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I am of the opinion that an elite QB/RB can compensate for an inadequate offensive coordinator but an inadequate QB/RB cannot make up for a brilliant offensive mind. You can toss in the OL too 😉 

 

Please see exhibit A - the NFL. 

 

I'll form a judgement of Moorehead when we know we have elite talent at either position (which we didn't last year and may or may not have it this year). 

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That said, at the collegiate level, there is still a lot of QB development so the lack of QB development could be pinned on the QB coach who I think is Moorehead. 

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4 hours ago, David Marsh said:

I'm feeling optimistic... I wish I had the links but I have read in a few places now that Moorhead struggled with installation via Zoom.

 

Is the Spring Game here yet?

 

 I would say this especially true when you haven't developed an in person relationship with students, players. There is nothing like looking somebody straight in the eye from 3' away to know if something is getting through, what creates meaning. Are the players leaning in, hopefully, or somewhere else, hard to know when you are a zoom away.

 

I feel for teachers, students, coaches and athletes, and look forward to a new day. I have extreme empathy for parents too, as I experienced this first hand. I suppose the role of parent is like the one of fan, where you just wonder what is going on, why, why, why! I also, like you, look forward to the spring game, and beyond!

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I'm taking a wait and see attitude with Moorhead's offense.  We saw some good things and some bad things last year but there was just so much weirdness related to the pandemic that affected the team/season, it's hard to get a bead on what sort of progress was made offensively.  

 

What I know for sure:

  • Whomever the QB starter is needs to perform right out of the gate.
  • OL is still lacking a lot of game experience, they need to take a leap forward this year.
  • The Pistol has been responsible for so many killed possessions that it really has to go.  I think it's an awkward scheme within the RPO at best.
  • DL needs to show improvement after a step back last year.
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Last year was a total throw-away, in my opinion.


Moorhead is a good offensive mind, and he'll have had over a year with the program. We have increased our talent from last year (and, other than QB and OL, from two years ago) and have objectively (based on recruiting grades) good talent across the board.

 

I'm quite confident that we'll have one of the top offenses in the Pac-12 this season.

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Someone mentioned the turnovers. I do remember them killing us 

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Definitely concerned about the offense and the QB development.  I didn't see too much of a difference in the offense under Moorhead.  Some cute trickery off play action and running the QB were added but still way too much power pistol for me. 

 

We've got weapons galore at wideout this year and we should be throwing the ball a ton.  If the coaches are intent to run the football first and foremost with the pistol then pair the RB with the most explosive athlete at QB who scares the D with his legs.  I really hope Moorhead has complete autonomy.  

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6 hours ago, Duck 1972 said:

Let's see if I remember the crash we had an under performing defense that couldn't stop the run, we had our #1RB hurt, we had an offensive line that didn't seem to improve, we had our best deep threat WR miss games along with a multitude of other players due to covid 19 and we had the youngest team in the country.

I don't know what happened with Shough but all the things above had something to do with what happened to our offense last yr. 

I don't see how anyone can make a informed oppinion at this time one way or another.

 

I'm with you on this one '72

 

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Here is the bottom line:

The pistol is shooting blanks and it has been for several seasons now.

 

We didn't see Moorhead's offense last season. Instead we saw some amalgamation of it mixed with Jim Mastro's baby....aka the pistol. 

 

As long as we run the pistol with no real bullets (i.e. Derrick Henry type running back) then we will get what we got last year and many seasons before that.

 

If Herbert is not a tell I don't know what is. It's pretty clear now he labored under the pistol just like we have having to watch it for the past 3 seasons. 

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Moorhead has forgotten more football than most of us could ever learn.   He's only unsuccessful if... 

 

1. Mario doesn't let him coach fully

2. He can't translate the wealth of football knowledge he has to our team in a way they can execute on. 

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49 minutes ago, C J said:

The pistol is shooting blanks and it has been for several seasons now.

 

I agree the pistol is a sometimes formation... a lot of teams (including the Clemson, Alabama, and Ohio State) all use the pistol.... SOMETIMES.

 

One of my observations was that as the season went on we actually saw less of the pistol. We saw more out of the shotgun... though still too much pistol for my taste but less is better.

 

My other hope is that with a better receiving corp it will stretch the field better. This will help open up the run game... but in stretching the field it requires both a better receiving corp to catch the ball but also a quarterback who can throw the deep throws and is patient enough to let things develop.

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To answer my own prompt, I'm not too concerned about Moorhead's offense. I really, really liked the wrinkles we saw early on, particularly in the first two weeks. Shough seemed to really struggle going through basic progressions as the season went on, and that coupled with his adequate athleticism hamstrung the offense. 

 

We don't need a superstar at QB for the offense to work, just someone who can make the basic reads and threaten defenses in the option game. It's early, but it looks like we have at least two players on the roster who bring that to the table in 2021, maybe more if Butterfield turns out to be a better athlete than expected.

 

I love the point David brought up about installing the offense via zoom. It's really way too early to panic, as I don't even know how much to take away from Moorhead's seven games given the circumstances. 

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Of the games I got to watch on TV, I liked what I saw last year. Especially the Pac 12 championship game. Lots of plays out of the shotgun with motion before the snap, and good clock management.

 

Whether it's popular or not, I am of the old way of thinking - if you are not confident you can outscore everyone, then play ball control. Milk that clock!

 

People in this forum have said that Kelly knew how to do that, but I would also point to his debacle at Wazzu showing he can get caught up in the scoring frenzy. MC seems more like a ball control guy, and there is no reason why you can't do that with a creative offense. I felt like that was what I saw in the championship game.

 

I also saw last year's game in the Palouse, and I remember the commentator saying Shough was consistently throwing the ball just a tad behind the receivers , and was not going through the progressions before he would tuck and run. I could see what he was saying, and I think that is what led to his decline as the season progressed.

 

If a schmuck like me can see it, so can all the highly-paid defensive coordinators in the league, and they will find ways to take advantage of it.

 

Hopefully one of our QBs will rise to the challenge this season; I think the scheme is fine.

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Brown, Butterfield, Ashford. Thompson, Bailey. There are no excuses for anything other than dynamic QB play improving each year over the next 4 years or more. QBU. Any questions? Go Ducks.

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7 minutes ago, Notalot said:

Brown, Butterfield, Ashford. Thompson, Bailey. There are no excuses for anything other than dynamic QB play improving each year over the next 4 years or more. QBU. Any questions? Go Ducks.

My only question is if it can be LBU in addition!

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44 minutes ago, FishIceCream said:

MC seems more like a ball control guy, and there is no reason why you can't do that with a creative offense. I felt like that was what I saw in the championship game.

Being a ball control offense comes in two forms only... 

 

1) be varied and creative because you MUST move the chains in order to maintain control over the ball. 

 

2) the Stanford approach... Your opponent knows exactly what you are going to do and beat them anyways. The Stanford approach tends to milk the clock out the gate with very little tempo ever. Though they do still need first downs to really milk that clock. 

 

I feel like Cristobal would like to do the Stanford model... But even Stanford can't do the Stanford model anymore. 

 

The big thing I liked out of Moorhead was how many first downs created on first and second down. Oregon was actually one of the best teams during the season at avoiding third down all together. 

 

Also just think about some of those plays coming off turnovers. Oregon got a turnover in or outside the red zone and in a couple plays scored a touchdown. 

 

There is some beautiful stuff in that Moorhead playbook that is just itching to come out. I do believe though that the ball control offense has no place on the field until the 4th quarter. I'm tired of seeing Oregon letting opponents back into the game in the 3rd quarter as they try (and usually fail) to milk the clock. Score some more points and put the other team away and then milk the clock. 

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Are you kidding?  I don’t have to read or see any more from JM.  That dude is better than two guys that are head coaches who demonstrated they are really elite coordinators.  Sarkesian and Kiffin.  Moorhead will always be his best as an OC.  He is probably as good as Chip.  
 

Our boys are in good hands.  They’ll be in better hands if one Mario Cristobal lets his OC deliver his (Moorhead’s) brand of MC’s physicality.  That is the only X factor in this.

 

I really wish I was savvy enough to have known how to coach (when I was young).  I could take some regulars in this forum, and some of the writers and win a Natty for us myself.  And it would have been a joy to turn some our fears and concerns into some butt kicking , statement making , and tough grind out type wins and victory campaigns.

 

Lets hope Mario Cristobal prays for and garners wisdom some of us display in this forum.  Until then, let’s enjoy our journey with him. 

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2 hours ago, Joshua Whitted said:

To answer my own prompt, I'm not too concerned about Moorhead's offense. I really, really liked the wrinkles we saw early on, particularly in the first two weeks. Shough seemed to really struggle going through basic progressions as the season went on, and that coupled with his adequate athleticism hamstrung the offense. 

 

We don't need a superstar at QB for the offense to work, just someone who can make the basic reads and threaten defenses in the option game. It's early, but it looks like we have at least two players on the roster who bring that to the table in 2021, maybe more if Butterfield turns out to be a better athlete than expected.

 

I love the point David brought up about installing the offense via zoom. It's really way too early to panic, as I don't even know how much to take away from Moorhead's seven games given the circumstances. 


 

Two things I see.

 

First, the way we run the Pistol lends itself to failure.  Moorhead installed his wrinkle, but  it is obvious MC is just bent on telling everybody in the world what he is doing and dares them to stop it.

 

Shough has limitations either JM or MC chose to ignore.  Shough isn’t a deep threat passer UNLESS he releases his pass within two seconds.  His arm simply isn’t strong enough.  Ironically, Arroyo recognized that, and designed schemes to exploit Shough’s strengths (go back and look at Shough’s two Spring Game highlights-he was a beast).  
 

My conclusion is that Mario Cristobal handcuffs his coordinator.  His version of the Pistol is for preserving 28 point leads.  It is not suitable for any level of football (pee wee included) the way he wants to run it.  So as things stand TODAY, Mario Cristobal’s ultimate success is in the hands of his ego.  I would venture High a School coach can beat him if they have equal talent to work with.  
 

I hate to sound so negative, but the Snake utilized three styles of offense, got criticized, left, and the Vegas Bowl was a clear introduction to what Cristobal is willing to do with what arguably was the best talent he has had to date (this year he has some raw talent that can do major damage if they’re developed properly, but 2017 was a CFP team if JH stayed healthy all year).  
 

The future of Oregon Football rests on Mario Cristobal’s willingness to change. 

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There's a big question mark whether the coaches can actually develop QBs. They didn't max out Herbert's talent and Shough was a blue chip recruit in his third year with the program and got worse as the season progressed.  If Shough tears it up at TT then that will be an indication of poor coaching. 

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Dup

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Dup

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Way to much talent for this offense not to be gaining easily over 400 yards a game. This team if Mooreheads offense is legit and I've seen run with some crispness and it should be a high scoring offense with the right coaching. Cannot believe I'd ever be saying this about any Oregon offenses. How times have changed. This should pay dividends and plus they'll have hopefully a full season including Spring Summer and fall. Then things should be starting to play pretty good. So if everybody at each position plays the way we expect this should be a pretty darn good team and maybe great.

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I'm a little nervous here.  Play calling was better but still seemed suspect at times.   I assumed the lack of TE and TE depth was the problem, but when the TE's were good one game, they'd go away from it the next.  Perhaps part of the problem is Mario wanting a smash mouth downhill team in the pistol, when we just haven't had the players to do this.   I think if Moorehead was able to circumvent this mentality we might have had a better team last season.

 

Hoping Dollars gets more carries in the year ahead.  Hate to lose him to the portal.

 

  

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On 3/8/2021 at 10:14 PM, FishIceCream said:

My only question is if it can be LBU in addition!

There are no excuses in the LB room either. There is more than enough talent. Can they get coached up, continue to improve and win championships?
 

I’ll believe we have become LBU when they produce more than Graham, Wilcox, Dye, Mallard, Mitchell, Boyd and other Ducks greats. Time to walk the walk.

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