Mario Cristobal ushered in a new (and successful) “power run” era of Oregon football, but new OC Joe Moorhead will help M.C. make the jump from successful to elite.
It has been reported that Oregon football has hired former Mississippi State Head Coach, Joe Moorhead, to be their next Offensive Coordinator, and I think Ducks fans should be stoked on that news.
Prior to his short stint in Starkville, JoMo helped improve a Penn State offense that led by Trace McSorely and Saquon Barkley. That production is made that much more impressive for Duck fans when coupled with the fact that he fixed all of the failings of his predecessor at State Penn, the new Washington OC Joe Donovan.
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Moorhead runs an offense that utilizes a pretty structured RPO (Run-Pass-Option, for the uninitiated) that empowers the quarterback to make in-play reads and decisions.
From an outside perspective, it didn’t look like Arroyo and Cristobal empowered Herbie to make decisions on the fly or perform a true read option (up until the Rose Bowl). If defenses knew that Herb would never keep the ball, than every run play was as good as running a designed HB dive from under center. That staleness and predictability was a huge reason why the past two years saw some long, painful offensive droughts.
I hope Coach JoMo gets a long Spring and Fall camp with QB1, RoboShough, and the rest of the QB room to help bring them into an offensive world in which they have great power, along with great responsibility, to create on their own.
For better and for worse, Cristobal is all about power. Arroyo had his flaws, but I think that MC’s love affair with the power run has been more of a factor in the lack of diversity in run playcalls over the last year than many might be willing to admit.
But JoMo runs the ball just a bit differently.
In an interview with SBNation about his Penn State offense, Moorhead talked about his philosophy with running the football:
“I would say 85 to 90 percent of the runs we called had a second phase or a tag,” Moorhead says. The complexity varied, but “rarely do we just call a run and just hand it off without having the quarterback read somebody at the first, second, or third level.”
Maybe Mario has already shown a willingness to mix up his run philosphy by hiring a guy like Moorhead, but even if he hasn’t, the ability to call a run play that has different layers to it will be freeing in it’s own right.
I’m on record as a stark defender of Marcus Arroyo.
Sure, he was far from a Chip Kelly-like innovative offensive mind, but Arroyo suffered the slings and arrows of public scapegoating at time when he didn’t always deserve it. And even with my status as the captain of Team Arroyo, I can absolutely admit that his departure, coupled with JoMo’s arrival, has me pretty excited.
Moorhead was a hot name coming out of State College, and I don’t even think his firing from Miss. St. after two seasons should be much of a red flag for Oregon fans, either. He was at a tremendously under-resourced program that plays in the SEC West (the best division in all of college football) and just wasn’t given a fair shot at succeeding overall.
All of that being said, I will be curious to see if Cristobal’s presence will be at odds with Moorhead’s RPO as often as it was with Arroyo’s Pistol.
Luckily for JoMo, Run-Pass-Option has the word “RUN” built right into it, which will make Mario happy. Hopefully it can serve as a trojan horse to sneak in more explosive stretch plays.
At least it can be more dynamic than Cristobal & Arroyo’s Marriage Story-like relationship.
Cristobal’s power identity is absolutely good for Oregon football, but Moorhead will inject just a bit more creativity that will help elevate the Ducks into the next tier of college football.