LaMichael James, unbalanced sets, and Chip Kelly’s gashing of Stanford

It’s up over at the Grantland Blog:

That Oregon coach Chip Kelly has a plethora of spread and read concepts in his offense is by now well-known. And Saturday evening against Stanford was no different. Kelly has often remarked that it sometimes takes him a couple of series to tease out how the opponent wants to defend him. At that point, his up-tempo offense usually explodes.

Against Stanford, Kelly repeatedly went to his basic zone-read run game but with three receivers to one side and a tight end to that same side — an unbalanced set. Because Kelly forces the defense to cover his three receivers with three defenders, or else his quarterback is instructed to throw a bubble screen to one receiver while the other two block, he forces the defense to make decisions in how it will defend the inside runs.


Read the whole thing. Highlight of the play after the jump.

  • Thanks for replaying all of my nightmares in fiendish detail. Like breaking down a horror movie (see–here, the “four vertical” pattern of Norman Bates stabbing his victims is the cutting edge of horror villains.) 

    Anyway, what was your read on Stanford? The consensus ranges between “resigned disappointment” to near “FIRE THEM ALL” among Stanford fans. Personally I reserve my ire for the special teams coach, but another subject for another day…

  • Guest

    The thing that really makes this play work is the center’s uncalled hold on the defender who would otherwise have been in that gap. It’s quite clear in the video: #17 beats the center with a swim move directly into James’s running lane, and then is wrapped up with both arms and held back.

  • Dave

    Forgive me if this is a stupid question, but it appears that the TE (6) is covered by the Receiver (2).  Does this make the Left Tackle eligible on this play?

  • Pitchwalker

    Definitely a hold by the center but Stanford held in this game too, you can bet on it.  Pretty good analysis by Grantland.  He talks about the back side linebacker as the “read man” but he makes the comment that this line backer comes hard off the ball but has no shot to catch James going away from him.  Good point but it is not the back side LBs job to chase.  In the situation the linebacker is “exchanging” on a blitz with the back side DE and the back side DE reads the TE zone blocking away from him and he fights to close the B gap while chasing from the back side.  Once the QB reads the exchange and sees that the back side LB stayed home in the C gap, the correct read is to hand the ball off which he does.  Oregon’s o line gets off the ball so hard and fast that once the zone blocking develops there are cut back lanes and holes all over the defensive front.  Both inside line backers were out of position but they were out of position because of the text book zone block by the Ducks o line.  Watch the right tackle and the TE double team the DE as he tries to fight across their faces then the tackle hands the DE off to the TE and gets up on the LB.  Text book, I will be showing this to our high school o line.  Good clip, Good blog.

  • Trkaehler

    The right tackle is uncovered, so isn’t this formation illegal? 

  • mdburnell

    The 2 receiver is on the line covering the RT (although he is certainly pushing it, he’s pretty far back).

    This would be a left tackle eligible formation, I have no doubt Chip Kelly had a play installed to take advantage of it but never really needed. I imagine we’ll see them line up in this a few games down the line and run some sort of backside screen to the tackle or even go tackle over and put the TE on the backside and sneak him out.

    This would be an incredible goal line/2PT formation. Do a little run action and slip the backside T out.

  • As long as the TE does not go up field for a pass, this formation is legal. As for the eligibility of the left tackle, I believe since his number is considered ineligible, he must report in as an eligible receiver if the coach uses him for any passing routes. However, don’t quote me on that, I’m not quite sure about the rules.

  • Anonymous

    In college there is no reporting rule (that’s an NFL thing). In college, so long as you’re wearing an ineligible jersey (50-79) you cannot go out for a pass.  Further, correct me if I’m wrong but on normal (i.e. non-punting downs/formations) I believe the offense must have five guys who are wearing ineligible jerseys.

    All this came up during the A-11 craze, but these rules were put in way back when to stop some of the funkier tackle-eligible type plays (rightly or wrongly), back in the ’60s and ’70s.

  • 4.0 Point Stance

    The end man is always eligible. For a great example of this, see the swinging gate play Oregon ran on the two point conversion, which involved a throwback to the center. Since the center was the far right man on the formation, he was the end and thus an eligible receiver.

  • 4.0 Point Stance

    Whoops I see Chris answered this. On further review, he’s right. Since Oregon’s long snapper wears 38, the number eligibility issue didn’t come up on the 2 pt play. Presumably that’s not true of the left tackle in the clip above

  • David Kilpatrick-White

    Chris you’re spot on with the rules for eligible WRs….guys college officials may some things, but pretty sure they’d notice if Oregon lined up illegally 12 times in a game…

    Chris total side not: hoping you can recommend video/book of Air Raid guys teach “Six” or 4-verticals, we are re-drawing our passing game and need to research some things.

  • Mr.Murder

    Stanford had four guys on the interior that most major programs would not have for third string. Almost anyone could run on that provided they stay patient enough. Love watching them play and rooting for the Cardinal, they have to play team ball, but they were clearly overmatched to the point that simple formationing and some motion left them playing uphill all game.

    Love watching Luck tell team mates to “forget about it” after a mistake. He tries to have fun and is fiercely competitive at the same time. It is a special thing to see in a player of that caliber.

  • jerry

    the one thing I noticed was that stanford was taking poor angles not just on this play but all night

  • Dhenshaw83

    I like how none of these comments see what Chris was trying to post about…

    Love the post and Chip Kelly

  • Daniel Andrews

    Overloaded trips formation, it is a designed cutback play similar if not supposed to be a counter dive play.  4 on 3 blocking to the right starting with 2 double teams of the down linemen on defense.  This is a constraint play to counter a reaction to a constraint play.   True zone read would have left EMOL unblocked and unworried about the Safety.  That safety is on a smoke blitz and same result would likely have happened.  Stanford had poor numbers because the play call rotates the deep safety back to the trips side while the DE was supposed to crash inside to take dive.  If Stanford doesn’t blitz the play doesn’t work most likely.

  • Stan

    Against this defense, I think the speed option weak is even better.

  • Coach Pirate

    I agree it was the wrong read but athletes negate gape resp. they were 3 on 4 to the left but able to make plays because #21  was able to out athlete  the defense.

  • Chris, could you write something about the “Swinging Gate” ? It looks like an interesting and effective formation with a varieties of plays and I see quite some teams are using it. I would like to know more about it. Thanks!