La Rue: New Oregon Offensive Scheme, Familiar Weapons will Give Defenses Fits

Deep and talented Duck running backs and wide receivers expected to carry the unit

Posted on September 25, 2020

Izzy La Rue
  By Izzy La Rue of Dash Sports TV for SportsPac12

The one constant from last year’s Rose Bowl winning team for Oregon is the group of returning skill players on offense. The Ducks retain their running back corps intact, and lose only one wideout in Juwan Johnson plus tight end Jake Breeland in the receiving corps.

Johnson III |

Even after losing those key threats, Oregon remains loaded with veteran wide receivers Johnny Johnson III, Mycah Pittman, Jaylon Redd and tight end Spencer Webb. The four combined for 2,229 receiving yards, with Johnson III and Redd nearly reaching 1,000 yards last season.

Of course, the loss of Justin Herbert to the NFL, where he has already made a splash with the Chargers, can’t be discounted.

The new starter at quarterback is yet to be determined, but the Ducks appear to be in good shape there as well, with sophomore Tyler Shough, coveted Boston College transfer Anthony Brown, and highly recruited freshman Jake Butterfield vying for the starting job.

That’s just the passing side of Oregon’s offense. The three-headed monster of CJ Verdell, Travis Dye and Cyrus Habibi-Likio at running back make a formidable ground attack.

Verdell is coming off  back-to-back 1,000+ rushing yard seasons, Dye had 658 rushing yards last season and averaged 6.2 yards per carry, and—last but not least—Habibi-Likio rushed for 337 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Those running backs were a huge part of Oregon’s success last year, largely because head coach Mario Cristobal chose to staff the ground game by committee.

Featuring one elite running back is often the way to go to for an offense, but a running attack by committee enables a team to keep its backs healthier and fresh by splitting carries, and keeps defenses honest, with each back bringing something different to the table.

Verdell |

Verdell is the obvious RB1 expected to get most of the carries and yards. Dye is a shifty rusher who will make tacklers miss and shines catching passes out of the backfield as well. Habibi-Likio is a power back who specializes in punching the ball in near the goal line, though he showed off his break-away skills last season.

All three are seasoned juniors used to playing together who have accepted their respective roles. They figure to combine for even more yards per game in this pandemic-shortened campaign.

Whichever quarterback takes the reins of this offense will have plenty of weapons at his disposal. And if the signal caller should happen to founder early, the run game is capable of shouldering the load.

If the new starting quarterback is up to the task, his bevy of experienced receivers will become even more dangerous. The Ducks went 7-0 in games where Pittman played; Johnson III pulled in seven touchdowns with his longest a 73-yarder, and Redd caught seven touchdown passes as well.

Oregon fielded a Top 5 offense in the Pac-12 last season, leading the Conference in rushing yards with 2,819 en route to 6,063 yards of total offense, ranking them in the Top 20 nationally.

However, the Duck offense won’t be without its challenges, having lost Penei Sewell and the rest of the starting line to the NFL Draft and graduation. The new starters are experienced, but they will have to perform at a higher level to give the new quarterback a fighting chance.


Cristobal is counting on new Offensive Coordinator Joe Moorhead to iron out the wrinkles and implement a new scheme to the advantage of the new starters. Run-Pass-Options (RPOs) are the mainstay of Moorhead’s running game, and Oregon’s wide receivers are going to love it, with the quarterback looking to read the defense and hand off the ball or pass.

Not only will the RPO scheme be good for the receivers and running backs, but it should also keeping defenses guessing by having to respect an abundance of speedy athletes in both facets.

Oregon fans have good reason to be excited about the offense this season, even with the loss of Herbert and Sewell. The Ducks return so many weapons, it will be difficult for Pac-12 defenses to contain them all.

You can watch La Rue’s Duck Dash Sports Talk Show on Dash Sports TV, and watch his other shows on Duck TV.

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