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Football: Offensive Developmental Player Film Review

Reviewing the 2023 game film of the Ducks’ potential future playmakers

Vrbo Fiesta Bowl - Liberty v Oregon Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

You can find my film review of Oregon’s defensive players here.

Highly successful college football coaches aren’t only concerned with the players on their two-deep who regularly rotate in while the outcome of a game is in question. The best programs are always looking for opportunities to develop players who will be in the rotation at some point in the future.

In this article, I present my findings from reviewing the garbage time footage of Oregon’s offense this season that features developmental players. These players are usually in their first two years in the program and do not see regular playing time until the outcome of the game has already been decided.

Readers should note that, even with the number of garbage time snaps Oregon’s offense played this season, the plays I charted for this project are not a representative sample of competitive play. By the time developmental players are on the field the outcome of the game is decided and play calling has been adjusted by both teams to reflect this.

As such, though I graded each player’s performance on every play I charted, I do not have the kind of information I would need to make a prediction about how these players would perform as starters. Rather, this footage is useful to gauge a player’s potential should they develop fully, as well as to inform off season roster management decisions made by the coaching staff.

The first player who left the field in garbage time for the Ducks offense in 2023 was quarterback Bo Nix, usually followed very quickly by receiver Troy Franklin. The coaching staff would typically have backup Ty Thompson (who has since transferred to Tulane) play one or two drives with the offensive starters. This meant a significant number of garbage time snaps for the offense weren’t charted.

Third string quarterback Austin Novosad was a true freshman in 2023 and is set to compete with UCLA transfer Dante Moore to be the primary backup to Dillon Gabriel in 2024. Novosad completed 9 of 11 passes for 52 yards with 0 touchdowns and 0 interceptions. He was never sacked, and had no recorded rushing attempts (even on scrambles). Most of his plays were hand offs and screen passes when Oregon was running out the clock. He showed a lot of growing pains, which is only to be expected for a true freshman. There were also definite signs of potential that could be unlocked. Below are examples of both.

Reminder: you can right click the video the alter the playback speed:

  1. (0:00) Novosad’s inexperience shows here in his first college game. The Portland State defensive end crashes in toward running back #27 Jayden Limar, so the proper read is to pull the ball and throw it to #18 Kenyon Sadiq who is about to run past the linebacker assigned to cover him. Fortunately, the crashing end gets confused in the backfield and Limar makes the first down off of the double team of #70 Pickard and #52 Iuli.
  2. (0:11) The timing here is thrown off a bit by an errant snap, but Novosad needs to came off of his first read to see #17 Kyler Kasper wide open due to a coverage bust. Failing that, he could still try to throw this ball at Sadiq’s outside shoulder to shield him from the defender waiting in zone coverage.
  3. (0:18) Novosad cannot generate enough power on the run to complete this pass to an open receiver. There is a defender pursuing him, but enough time to get his feet underneath him to make the throw before he gets hit.
  4. (0:28) This play shows what Novosad can do with his feet underneath him. He calmly waits for his receiver to come open, then releases an accurate throw down the middle to #86 Darrian Anderson. Also note the effective pass blocking by center #70 Pickard and #73 Rogers at right tackle. There is a bit of a mix up in protection when #27 Limar starts to leak out as a receiver rather than picking up late pressure.

The Ducks had two young running backs who rotated into games during garbage time: #27 Jayden Limar and #24 Dante Dowdell. Dowdell has since transferred to Nebraska, meaning Limar is the only returning player to compete with incoming freshman Da’Juan Riggs and transfer Jay Harris for playing time. Based on his film from last season, I think Limar will see the field during meaningful play behind Jordan James and Noah Whittington this fall. Here are some reasons why:

  1. (0:00) This counter play works perfectly as all three linebackers flow away from the strong side where #17 Kenyon Sadiq has gotten inside the defensive end. Limar shows off his balance and acceleration as he cuts back through the hole. Note also the solid run blocking by the line, especially #52 Iuli, #70 Pickard, and at right tackle #78 Wilson
  2. (0:08) There isn’t much room this time as #81 Kelly can’t keep his defender out of the hole, but Limar shows the strength to keep his feet and push the pile for a successful play.
  3. (0:17) The whole line, including younger players #72 Laloulu and #52 Iuli, washes down Utah’s defense as #81 Kelly leads Limar through the hole with a slice block. Limar lets his blockers do their work, and falls forward an extra 2 yards for good measure.
  4. (0:25) Limar was routinely used in the passing game. On this play, his pre-snap motion leaves the defender assigned to him in man coverage flat footed when he cuts back across the formation. He skillfully navigates the traffic and secures the catch before heading downfield. The pass protection is adequate, take note of #70 Pickard at center and #73 Rogers at right tackle.

Oregon brought in transfer Casey Kelly from Mississippi last off season to provide depth at tight end behind starters #3 Ferguson and #88 Herbert, as well as allow the use of 13-personnel in specific situations. Kelly has since transferred again, this time to East Carolina, but freshman #18 Kenyon Sadiq saw a significant number of snaps in garbage time. He played undersized for the position last season being listed at 235 lbs., but was a willing blocker and showcased impressive playmaking ability in the open field. Some examples:

  1. (0:00) The Portland State safety aggressively attacks the pass to the flat. This leaves #14 Justius Lowe open for a touchdown, had he been part of the progression. By all rights this should be stopped for a 2-3 yard gain, but Sadiq’s speed and balance lets him get the first down and more (he was ruled out of bounds just before he crossed the goal line).
  2. (0:10) This is the same play from a different formation. The Buffaloes’ safety is in a worse position tracking Sadiq’s motion across the formation, but does well to have a chance to dive at his ankles. Once again, Sadiq high steps out of the diving tackle for big yardage.
  3. (0:18) Sadiq had his struggles with run blocking early in the season. In particular, he had 5 blocking failures on my tally sheet in the Portland State game, but only 4 the rest of the way. It is still early in the year against Stanford in this clip. Sadiq dips his head trying to engage his man and gets “ole’d” by the Cardinal defender. Note the effective blocks by the three developmental linemen on the right side.
  4. (0:29) Later in the season we see notable improvement with blocking technique. Here Sadiq shows good form and sticks to his man on the perimeter. If it weren’t for the Cal safety knocking Holden backwards, this screen is probably a third and long conversion.

The Ducks generally only rotated four players at wide receiver this year during meaningful play and kept both #5 Traeshon Holden and #2 Gary Bryant Junior on the field well into garbage time. Veteran depth players Kris Hutson and Josh Delgado have transferred out, as has freshman Ashton Cozart. This leaves several backup roles up for grabs heading into 2024.

Unfortunately receiver is the position where I had, by far, the least amount of film to work with. The most commonly targeted wideout in garbage time was #86 Darrian Anderson, who is a walk-on rewarded with playing time for his hard work on the scout team. Only three developmental receivers saw live game action: #17 Kyler Kasper, #99 Jurrion Dickey, and #14 Justius Lowe. Between them, Kasper had 2 catches, Dickey 1, and Lowe 0. Below are all three successful targets, along with a third illustrative clip of how Kasper was used:

  1. (0:00) Kasper’s impressive catch radius meant he was most often targeted with jump balls when isolated against a smaller defender. This ball needs to be higher to be out of the defender’s reach, but at least the Ducks got an interference flag.
  2. (0:15) This is Kasper’s first catch of the season, and it is already week 12. He runs a crisp route, uses his large frame to shield the ball from the defender, and completes the catch through contact.
  3. (0:23) Kasper does well just to catch this ball, though since he was behind the line of scrimmage it would have been better to simply bat it down. With a Liberty defender lined up outside of Sadiq, the screen pass was doomed from the start. Even though the defensive end and inside linebacker both play the run, the correct decision here is to hand off to Limar.
  4. (0:32) It took until the bowl game, but Dickey finally recorded a catch. This is a proper RPO read by Novosad when Sadiq’s motion and the play action clear away the defenders.

Oregon had a good mix of veteran backups and developmental players who would rotate in for the offensive line during garbage time. At the tackle positions, juniors #75 Faaope Laloulu and #71 George Silva lined up exclusively on the left, while redshirt freshman #73 Kawika Rogers saw almost all the garbage time snaps on the right. True freshman #78 Gernorris Wilson was in for 8 snaps at right tackle against Portland State then never saw the field again.

With both starters returning along with Laloulu and Silva, I don’t expect Rogers to see any meaningful snaps next season unless an emergency occurs. It will be interesting to see if Wilson rotates in more frequently during garbage time this fall in his second year on campus.

Some of the tackles’ best work is illustrated in the previous clips, so the following concentrates on illustrative examples of what both young players need to work on in the off season:

  1. (0:00) This is the closest thing to an error I have in Wilson’s tiny sample. He is off balance and cannot react when the defender dips under his outside shoulder. Fortunately he gets just enough of his man to slow him up so he does not affect the play.
  2. (0:07) Rogers saw significantly more snaps than any other developmental player on the line this past season, but also had easily the highest error rate on my tally sheet. Here, he lunges out of his stance with his head down so the defensive linemen side steps him and trips up James to prevent a big play.
  3. (0:16) Just like the starters, the developmental line generally had lower error rates on passing plays than on run blocking. Here however, Rogers retreats too far and allows his man a path to the QB. The rusher hits Thompson’s arm and causes an interception.
  4. (0:32) This is a bit of an odd play, but Rogers actually does a nice job here. His assignment is to cut off the linebackers on the backside, but they run themselves out of the play. The inside linebacker playside is Sadiq’s assignment, but if Rogers doesn’t chip him the play might not have time to develop properly. Unfortunately Dowdell trips in the hole and only falls forward for a modest gain.

There is more intrigue on the interior as starting center Jackson Powers-Johnson (NFL) and starting right guard Steven Jones (graduation) are no longer with the team. Three developmental linemen saw action on the interior in 2023: #72 Iapani Laloulu at center and right guard, #70 Charlie Pickard at center and right guard, with #52 Dave Iuli solely at left guard.

Laloulu struggled with accurate snaps in game 1, but started at center in the Fiesta Bowl and performed admirably. Iuli was first off the bench at left guard, so he may have a chance to compete with veteran transfer Matthew Bedford for the vacant right guard position. This would leave Pickard as the backup center (where he saw the most snaps this past season), as well as being able to play guard in an emergency. I expect veteran backups #50 Nishad Strother and #54 Junior Angilau to remain depth players.

As with the tackles many of the interior line’s best plays were, not coincidentally, also highlights for the ball handlers. The following clips mostly illustrate areas of improvement for off season work:

  1. (0:00) This high snap was typical for Laloulu in week 1, but he rectified this over the course of the season. Zone blocking, like on this play, requires linemen to have significant experience working together in order to to learn how to properly hand off blocks and release to the second level. Here Laloulu leaves the defensive linemen to Pickard, who has good leverage. But to reach the linebacker Laloulu then has to go around Pickard’s block and he cannot get there in time.
  2. (0:09) Pickard is at center here between Iuli to his left and Laloulu to his right. The pass protection is excellent (including Rogers at right tackle), neutralizing the most immediate threats from the blitz. There is plenty of open field for Thompson to throw to and Holden makes a house call, but this is not his compilation…
  3. (0:21) Another zone play here, and again inexperience shows. Pickard is driven backwards and the back has to alter his path. There is still a chance for this run to work as one of the Rainbow Warriors’ linebackers has run himself out of the play. But Laloulu disengages from the defensive end too soon in his hurry to get to his assigned backer, and Rogers has to let him go to avoid a holding penalty.
  4. (0:32) Iuli graded out reasonably well on my tally sheet, but the most common negatives were issues when he needed to block in space such as on this play. As he pulls around, he lunges off balance rather than keeping his weight over his feet, which lets the Cal defender work around him to make the tackle.

You can find my film review of Oregon’s defensive players here.