The Oregon State Beavers are one of the most effective rushing teams in the Pac-12, utilizing a combination of inside zone, outside zone, misdirection, and option running plays to confuse and attack defenses. One of their most common run plays, beyond their basic inside and outside zone calls, is the pin-pull sweep. It involves one lineman down blocking to “pin” the defender, and another lineman pulling to the outside to lead block. A one-man pin-pull scheme would look something like this:
Oregon State will run pin-pull twice within the same play, utilizing two “pin” blocks while two linemen “pull” to lead block for the running back. While it’s less common (and slightly tougher to execute), a double pin-pull scheme is still fairly prevalent at both the FBS and NFL levels.
Many teams at the high school, college, and pro levels will run a pin-pull sweep, but Oregon State’s is unique in many regards due to the linemen’s responsibilities within the scheme. While most teams will utilize their guards as the “pullers” in this scheme, the Beavers most often rely on the center and backside tackle to get in front and lead block for their running backs.
Look at this example from Oregon State’s game against the Cal Golden Bears, as they’ll run their pin-pull scheme to start off the second half. The Beavers have 10 personnel on the field, with trips to the left and a single receiver right. Quarterback Darell Garretson (#10) is in the shotgun with Ryan Nall (#34) to his right. Cal counters with 4-2-5 nickel personnel, and have a over front to the offensive right side.
Oregon State will pull their right tackle and center around to the left of the formation to lead block, while the right guard and left guard will both down block to their right to pin the two defensive tackles away from the play.
Beyond the pullers being the backside tackle and the center, this would be a pretty normal pin-pull design for an offense. However, the Beavers add two wrinkles that make this play successful.
For one, they leave the backside defensive end unblocked, which could be a problem in a pin-pull scheme, as the offensive linemen take time to get into their blocks and the running back hesitates at the beginning of the run to give them time. However, the Beavers will fake a read-option play to hold backside DE Cameron Saffle (#51), with Garretson opening to Saffle and pretending to read whether to hand the ball off or keep it himself. This adequately takes care of Saffle, as he holds his ground on the edge and takes himself out of contention to make a tackle playside.
The other wrinkle is from the playside offensive tackle, Sean Harlow (#77), the only OL not involved in the pin-pull part of the play. He will chip the playside DE, DeVante Wilson (#95), before leaving him unblocked and moving up to the backside linebacker, Devante Downs (#1). Rather than both pullers turning the corner and going to the second level, then, center Gavin Andrews (#62) will execute a trap block on Wilson, leaving just right tackle Blake Brandel (#73) to lead block in front.
The two wrinkles work exactly as designed, as Saffle remains backside, Harlow chips Wilson and blocks Downs out of the play, Andrews then traps Wilson, and Brandel takes care of playside linebacker Raymond Davidson III (#31). The result? Running back Ryan Nall (#34) takes it to the house behind a perfectly blocked play upfront.
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Oregon State dominated Cal with this play in their 2016 matchup, but I want to look at them in a different game run this play as well. We’ll go back to their 2015 matchup against the Oregon Ducks for another look at this play (though they ran it a number of other times in 2016, notably against Cal, Washington, and Oregon).
In this play the Beavers have a shotgun 12 personnel look on the field, with pro formations to each side and Nall once again in at running back. Oregon is in a 4-3 under front, with seven men in the box and a linebacker dropped to the offensive right side.
Because the Beavers have a tight end to the left of the formation, the responsibilities on the offensive left shift slightly from the previous example. The left tackle will down block on the 4i technique in front of him, leaving the playside tight end to chip the defensive end before getting inside and climbing to the backside off ball linebacker. The center will then take on the vacated playside DE as before, and the pulling right tackle will still get the first linebacker around the edge.
It’s a new formation, but the play is still successful, as Nall takes the handoff and gets to the edge because of the blocking inside. Add a well executed block by the playside wide receiver on the cornerback and it’s a gain of 12 yards and a first down.
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I really like this play from Oregon State for a couple of reasons. First off, they showed in these two examples that it can be run from different formations with different personnel packages. Thepinners and pullers remained the same, but the setup playside between the tight end and left tackle shifted for a seamless transition to maintain a successful run play. Secondly, it’s such a creative and deceptive design with a number of intricacies that create advantageous matchups all over the OL. The fake read-option to hold the defensive end, the playside TE/OT climbing to the linebacker to set up the center’s trap block, and the backside tackle as one of the pullers rather than a guard are all creative, deceptive .
Overall, it’s an incredibly well-designed play in an extremely efficient rushing attack. Expect the Beavers to continue to rely on the ground game moving into 2017, as they return both of their top rushers from 2016 who combined for 1,474 yards on the ground. Combine that with a relatively underwhelming QB competition, the Beavers should be running the ball in 2017. A lot.