The Oregon Ducks have made their speed a hallmark and used it and a devastating spread attack to climb to among the top few teams in the country. However, OSU has its own speed demons. Wheaton cruised past the Black Mamba, De’Anthony Thomas at the recent Twilight meet in the 100 meters, and Brandin Cooks is even faster. So is OSU getting the most out of this speed? Do the OSU schemes that the past two years are only averaging winning 1/3 of our games really put the players in their best position to win?
I don’t think so. I like the fact that Woods is a great ball catcher and can be used for short passes and strikes from the backfield. It seems like the plan for Woods is the right one. I’m also sure it helps to have the receivers spreading the field to help Woods or “Downtown” Brown on delayed draws for example. But I do wonder if using Wheaton and Cooks only for fly sweeps is the only way to use those two in the running game. I think we may need more short crossing routes that are set up with good blocking or cut offs by refs or whatever to get the ball into our speediest players hands more often. Too often the attempted passes to Wheaton or Cooks are 15+ yards downfield. Sounds good, but the blocking doesn’t always hold up and the likelihood of interceptions climbs the longer you wait.
I’m not saying cut that out of the game, but be leary of fairly moderate to deep balls over the middle. I also would like to see OSU work on a hook and ladder play where we culd start off with a throw to Wheaton or Cooks and then as they cross each other the ball could be flipped to the other. It seems like OSU rarely gets too creative even when they have the speed to make it effective. When OSU does a reverse on kickoffs with the unexpected ditch off to a streaking Wheaton I have seen that play go for a lot of yards. Nothing says you can’t try something like that if it is there during normal play either. Maybe even line one of them in RB formation at times.
The main point is we have to get the ball into the hands of our skill players any way possible. Wheaton or Cooks either just getting one or two catches a game is not going to earn OSU any wins. So we have to find ways to get them the ball and then spring them loose. If De’Anthony is going to rush for 1300-1500 yards this year it just seems like Wheaton and Cooks, who have better speed, need to be nearly as impactful. That job is up to Mike Riley, Langsdorf and staff. Riley is most comfortable in his traditional sets but opposing teams have been preparing for them for 12 years now. He has to have a few more tricks up his sleeve and get the opponent off balance and caught on their heels.
OSU may not have speed everywhere but hardly anybody does. The speed is at the skill positions and the coaching must find the ways to maximize it. Chip Kelly does the best job in the nation at that. Mike Riley is still figuring it out. We should have a good tandem at RB this year, but Mannion has to sell some of his fake handoffs better and look off the intended receiver. Deception is a key part of the puzzle as Oregon has proven. The game isn’t about just running routes and trying to beat your man and then delivering the throw. It is about all the things you do before that to get that guy open and not often suspected as the intended recipient. Unpredictability is important. Remember that Langsdorf.