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Coach’s Corner: Scouting Oregon State

Ryan Nall is very good at running the football, while Air Raid things are happening in Corvallis.

Oregon v Oregon State Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images

Way back in 2013, I was a couple games into my first season as Offensive Coordinator at the high school where I currently work. We were playing pretty well, sitting at 2-0, scoring seventy points over the course of those two games on the strength of about 500 yards passing. We were pretty confident about getting to 3-0, considering the school up next on the schedule was 0-2 and riding an 18-game losing streak that stretched through their 0-11 campaign the previous year.

Of course, I’m not going to bring that game up if we ended up winning. That would be pretty boring. We came out flat, and after two long runs for touchdowns and a pick-six found ourselves in a 28-0 hole at the end of the first quarter. We ended up clawing all the way back to 28-23 before running out of time and, annoyingly, the difference was probably a punt that we blocked into the end zone. Instead of us falling on it for a touchdown, the other team managed to cover it for a safety. Five point differential on that play, and we lost by five. Go figure.

Oregon v Oregon State
Ryan Nall finds the end zone during the Beavers’ Civil War victory in 2016.
Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images

Anyway, the clichéd moral of the story is that anything can happen on a Friday night and/or Saturday afternoon. Oregon State is not good, but they have some players who can make some things happen on a football field when given a chance. We’ll focus our scouting report on, in my opinion, the best threat OSU has to offer, Ryan Nall, who should have a legitimate shot to play on Sundays. We’ll also take a look at a few passing concepts that should seem very familiar to anyone who has paid attention to our offense over the last five years.

Roll the tape.

OSU Offensive Formation: Ace Open. They shifted the tight end from an H-back look to an inline tight end, but didn’t bump the receiver at the bottom of the screen off the line. Good thing they were running the ball, otherwise he’s ineligible.

The Play: Buck Sweep. Old school football at its finest. The center and backside tackle are going to pull and trap/lead up for Nall. The center, #52 Sumner Houston, has a really tricky block here, as the end slides down to the inside and slow plays a potential zone read. Houston catches enough of his shoulder to seal him down inside. It’s not the prettiest block in the world, with Houston’s limbs flailing all over the place, but it gets the job done. Blake Brandel’s block from the left tackle spot is much more textbook. He squares his guy up cleanly and kicks him out.

On the backside, both the tight end and left guard hinge block down to fill for the pullers, and both blocks are pretty solid. Playside, however, is another matter entirely. How both the right guard and right tackle managed to hold the same guy and have neither one get called for it is pretty astounding. CSU’s interior lineman splits the double team pretty easily and has his head and shoulders past both linemen, and then all of a sudden his forward momentum just stops. I know they could call holding on every play, but that one seems pretty blatant.

Nall takes a delay step to the right to set up the timing of the pull, then takes the handoff heading toward the six-hole. He has to avoid some clutter in the backfield, but then has a nice lane into the secondary after reading the pulling tackle’s block and cutting inside. CSU’s safety ends up making the tackle, but not until Nall has earned a first down. And if I’m OSU, I like my chances of Nall shedding a safety’s tackle and making a big play.

Something that Oregon State has hurt the Cougar defense with in recent years is the Jet sweep. A receiver comes in motion across the formation, takes a quick handoff and flies around the edge, usually for a big chunk of yardage. OSU is still running that, but they don’t have Brandin Cooks anymore so it’s a bit less scary. However, motion catches the eyes of defenders, and now they have Ryan Nall to hit you while your eyes are in the wrong place.

OSU Offensive Formation: Flex Left Zap. We actually run this with our high school guys, and that’s what we call it. Zap is the motion tag. (Z)-receiver (A)cross (P)lay.

The Play: Power G. Hey, remember that time thirty seconds ago when I said Nall against a safety is probably a pretty good match-up for OSU?

The blocking scheme here is very similar to the buck sweep. Two are pulling, though in this case it’s the backside guard and the H-back coming across the formation. The center, playside guard and playside tackle block down, walling off the inside defenders. Backside guard pins the end outside and the H-back slides up through the hole and kicks out the outside backer. The Jet sweep look helps set up the blocks on the ‘backers. Nall delays as the motion clears, then follows his lead blockers up into the hole and into the secondary. The safety that filled the hole on the sweep tries to do the same, but Nall just outruns the angle and ignores the little bit of contact there. The receiver takes care of the last defender with a reasonable shot to catch him, and Nall sniffs the end zone.

Next up is the second entry in our long-running series entitled Everybody Air Raids. Just a couple quick hitters here, to preview the Air Raid principles that OSU has shown. There are routes, of course, that are common to both Air Raid teams and the heathens, but OSU is running some concepts that are hallmarks of the Air Raid.

Late 92 Mesh H-Wheel

I broke down Mesh/Wheel in a little more depth last year, so check that out for a full explanation of how we run it.

OSU’s version is pretty similar. They’re obviously not in the red zone, so their Mesh is run a little deeper, and it’s a post by their outside receiver instead of a slant. Their receivers aren’t quite as adept at the mesh as they end up almost stacked—instead of on the inside shoulders of the zone defenders—when they settle. But schematically, it’s like looking in a mirror. Jake Luton, unfortunately, just misses the wheel to Trevon Bradford.

Ace X-Shallow

BA broke down Shallow in the Air Raid Playbook, so you can go in-depth there.

OSU throws a little wrinkle in the combo to the top side, exchanging the routes by those two receivers. The inside receiver usually runs the dig, and the outside receiver runs a vertical, but OSU flips that. Just a different look. The shallow, like usual, comes wide open, and that’s Jordan Villamin, who is not slow. The back could have run for a couple miles on the swing too.

Late 92 Mesh F-Wheel

And, of course, when you have a back like Ryan Nall, throwing the ball to him is good too. It’s Mesh/Wheel again, but this is the version that hits the back coming out of the backfield. It’s good against C.1 and C.2 Man, since the corner will trail the mesh and you’ll have a linebacker locked up on your running back. Just have to hit the wheel route in the window before the safety gets there. Luton does, and then Nall does Ryan Nall things and gets a bunch of yards after contact.

The key to Oregon State’s offense right now is Ryan Nall. He popped one for ninety yards against us last year, so this isn’t a huge secret to our fans, players, or our coaching staff. But it bears repeating. And truly the best way to take Nall out of the game is to get up early and force OSU to throw the ball. In other words, the exact opposite of what happened last year.

Let’s not do last year again. After this past week, I’m not sure I could handle another massive comeback.