Why the Oklahoma Offense Works: Lincoln Riley’s Pro-Raid

The past two weeks have practically flown by it seems. When you spend every spare moment you have breaking down a the Oklahoma offense and then professionally drawing it up (74 time to be exact) the days start to blur together.

I also held off on my full analysis of it until the end because I wanted to know all the details before I gave a big picture summary.

Here’s one of my 5 top findings:

Play Action (The Pop Pass)

Oklahoma has an outstanding play action game.

But let’s talk first about what a play action play is? Most games you go to on Friday nights will have a few play action plays in them. Play action is when you pretend to run the ball but then pass it instead.

Sounds simple right? Just be a great pretender and you can be great at play action!

Quick side note…Bill Walsh believed that the best executed play action play was the most difficult play in football to defend.

Easier said then done because every single movement for the first three steps of the play needs to look exactly like a run play.

That means the offensive line has to fire out at their defenders like it’s run. The Quarterback and Running Backs have to sell the handoff perfectly. That means actually putting the ball in the belly of the running back before pulling it out. It also means receivers and blocking backs starting on the exact same path for their first three steps before releasing on a pass route.

And boy is the Oklahoma offense good at all this.

Even as I watch in slow motion for the lineman and running back keys it is very hard to tell right away when a play action is not a run play.

Because of the BOB or Man on Man pass protection scheme, the guards are taught to sometimes pull around to pick up a rusher. This completely screws with linebacker reads because most LB keys are to attack the run if a Guard pulls.

By the time Baker Mayfield pulls the ball out from the play action (which he sells better then any other QB I’ve seen in a long time) the LB’s are sucked up in the run game and the receiver is behind them.

How can teams stop the Oklahoma Offense Play-Action?

One way is to play man to man coverage so LB’s don’t have to cover  any passing zones.

The problem with this is that Oklahoma has a series of outstanding man beaters and pick plays that put a ton of pressure on defensive backs to stop. And if you sacrifice deep safeties, the talented Oklahoma receivers will get behind you.

I’m very impressed with how effective this “play action” pass protection is executed. Lineman fire out but don’t get downfield. Lineman make the play action look like a zone run or even a gap run.

Even though RPO’s get all the publicity, Oklahoma does not need to rely on them because they can effectively control linebackers with their play action. 

Linebackers who play against Oklahoma have to be disciplined to see backs releasing on the pop pass instead of just keying the line and the backs. These three pieces of information for a linebacker to process are not something easy to do in just fractions of a second.

I have four other observations I share in my $1 Oklahoma Offense course that includes all 74 offensive plays drawn up just like these two here.

I also include the TV game film so you can find each play and watch its execution while you are seeing the play diagrammed.

Check it out here


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