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ATQ&A Scouting Report: Bye Week Self Examination

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Usually this article will be a scouting preview of the Ducks upcoming opponent, with some ATQ users questions mixed in. But with the bye week, we will be looking at some questions about our Ducks.

Joe Robbins

Welcome to the first edition of the ATQ&A Scouting Report! So what is this weekly article going to be about? Well, usually it will be a scouting/schematic preview of Oregon's upcoming opponent where I discuss some interesting things that team does well or not well, all while mixing in some of your guys questions about the upcoming game. However with no game this Saturday, this first edition is more of a look at the Ducks.

If you have any questions for next week's edition of this article, please either send them to ryandosen82@gmail.com or tweet them to me @ryan_dosen. Now to the questions!*

*Since I decided mid-day Wednesday I was going to do this, there were only a few questions for this first one.

Gorbachav5:

I'd like to know if there's any systematic difference in how we run with Tyner/Marshall vs Freeman.  Obviously Freeman has been more successful - is that because of the way we're using him, is it because of talent, or maybe some other factor (Tyner's injury, for example)

The trajectory of Oregon's backfield has been weird this year. Coming into the year everyone thought some combination of Byron Marshall (who had ran for over 1,000 yards as a sophomore the year before) and Thomas Tyner (coming off of an impressive freshman year) would combine to carry the rushing load for Oregon in 2014, and if needed, Royce Freeman would provide some depth at the position before really becoming the featured back down the road. Funny how things turn out sometimes.

Royce Freeman has emerged as the bell cow of the Oregon backfield, logging more than 18 carries in all but one of the past seven games, while Tyner battled a shoulder injury for a few weeks and Marshall has essentially become a wideout. I gushed enough about Freeman a few days ago, so let's just say he has been incredible.

# of Carries/Yards

Royce Freeman Thomas Tyner Byron Marshall
vs. South Dakota 10/75 11/64 8/90
vs. Michigan St 13/89 13/33 5/9
vs. Wyoming 5/22 11/58 6/80
@ Washington St 20/75 5/20 2/22
vs. Arizona 19/85 10/46 3/12
@ UCLA 18/121 13/58 1/6
vs. Washington 29/169 3/0 5/30
@ California 22/112 Injured 7/57
vs. Stanford 19/98 10/63 1/1
@ Utah 15/99 12/45 1/0
TOTALS 170/945 88/387 39/307
YPC 5.6 4.4 7.9

Green denotes leading rusher

But is there a reason for Freeman's breakout? Or is it just he just the most talented back in a backfield full of talent?

To determine this, I went back and looked at the games against the two best rushing defenses Oregon has played - Stanford (11th in rushing defense) and Michigan State (14th). Just by looking at the stats you can see that Freeman ran pretty well in both games, while Tyner struggled against Michigan State but was able to average 6.3 yards per carry against Stanford. Marshall didnt have much of an impact on the ground against either, but that was mainly due to the fact that he was split out wide most of the game and had limited backfield carries.

Schematically, there isn't much of a difference in the way the offense operates with either Tyner or Freeman in the game - atleast not one I can see. Tyner does seem to have more out on the edge type of runs, while Freeman's runs appear to be more of the read option variety, but there's enough overlap that it is probably just a coincidence.

I think the biggest difference between Freeman and Tyner right now is some combination of talent and Tyner's injury. Tyner is super talented and has been playing well since that injury, but right now Freeman is just on another level. The more you look for differences between the two, the more subtleties you can find. Freeman is fantastic at making one cut and hitting the hole quickly. Tyner is more patient, which can be good at times and bad at others, like when he'll dance behind the line for a split second or two and a lane closes on him.

The last difference is the speed burst. Freeman takes a carry where your average running back picks up 8-12 yards and turns it into a 25-30 yard run. Freeman already has four touchdowns of 25 yards or longer.

But anyway, this is sort of a moot point. Oregon having one running back capable of shredding defenses would be great. The fact that they have two and a half is just gravy.

Blutarsky:

Who has been Oregon’s best WR year-to-date?

I think it has to be Devon Allen. A healthy Keanon Lowe might be the right answer, since Lowe is the best blocking reciever on the team, and had a really nice stretch of four games from Michigan State to Arizona where he caught 16 passes for 248 yards and four touchdowns. But Lowe missed the two games against Washington and Cal, and still seems to be getting back in rhythm since.

Allen is such an asset to the Oregon offense even when he isn't catching passes. The hype coming into the season of the surrounding Allen coupled with his huge game versus Michigan State has done wonders for him. The fact that defenses must respect his speed with a safety over the top of him at all times has continuously opened up stuff underneath for Mariota to find others wide open all year.

Watch how quickly his defender opens up his hips to run with him on this play, only to run into the safety and take them both out of position:

Allen has also become a solid open field blocker too. Maybe his "big brother" Keanon Lowe has been teaching him the ropes or maybe he just has a passion for hand-to-hand combat, but either way Allen has been really good at something that receivers are supposed to hate doing.

  1. 1st clip: Allen cracks back on the linebacker while also bringing his corner in, allowing for Brown to reach the edge
  2. 2nd clip: Allen ruining that Washington DB's day
  3. 3rd clip: Allen making a block on the safety 25 yards down field

*Quick sidenote: is there anything more Oregon than making a highlight reel of a receiver blocking? It's sort of amazing how much we discuss it. I think you'd be hard pressed to find a fanbase that talks about receiver blocking as much as we do

Allen hasn't made any of the big mental mistakes people assumed that "a track guy" would make. There have been a few drops, but nothing out of the ordinary, and he hasn't blown a route that led to an interception or anything like that.

Oh and he can do stuff like this:

So I'm going with Allen. If I were to rank a top five it would be:

  1. Devon Allen
  2. Pharaoh Brown
  3. Byron Marshall
  4. Dwayne Stanford
  5. Keanon Lowe

GrouchoDuck:

This is a bye week and Oregon has never scored a point during bye week, what changes should the coaches make to help the Ducks score this week?

Great question. I will need Kalon to verify this for me but I believe Bye Week is #1 in scoring defense, and also ranks fairly high against both the run and the pass individually. Last I heard, Kiper has four Bye Week defenders with a first round grade for the 2015 NFL Draft. I think Helfrich and Frost are going to have to get very creative with the offensive strategy if the Ducks are going to have a chance. I'm talking reverses, statues of liberties, fake statues of liberties, the annexation of Puerto Rico - the list goes on and on.

But the serious answer to this question is getting the news that Yruretagoyena will be back soon and that Grasu is only missing "a few games." That has to be worth atleast a few points, right?