Sunday, May 30, 2010

Pre-Season Preview: Oregon Ducks

2009 Record: 10-3 (8-1 in Pac-10)
2009 Bowl: Rose Bowl (lost to Ohio State 26 to 17)
Final 2009 AP Ranking: #11
Head Coach: Chip Kelly (10-3 at Oregon, 80-17 at Montana)
Non-Conference Schedule: New Mexico (9/4), at Tennessee (9/11), Portland State (9/18)

2009 Offensive Statistics
Scoring: 36.2 points per game (1st in Pac-10, 8th in Nation)
Rushing Yards/Game: 231 (1st in Pac-10, 6th in Nation)
Passing Yards/Game: 180 (9th in Pac-10)
Total Yards/Game: 412 (2nd in Pac-10) 

2009 Defensive Statistics
Scoring: 23.8 points per game (4th in Pac-10)
Rushing Yards/Game: 128 (6th in Pac-10)
Passing Yards/Game: 207 (4th in Pac-10)
Total Yards/Game: 336 (4th in Pac-10)

2009 Misc Stats
Turnover Margin: +0.15 per game (5th in Pac-10)
Penalties: 61 yards per game (9th in Pac-10)

Returning Starters
Offense: 9
Defense: 9
Kicker/Punter: 1

Top Returning Statistical Leaders
Passing: QB Nate Costa, Sr (20 of 33 for 197 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT)
Rushing: RB LaMichael James, Soph (230 carries for 1546 yds, 14 TD, 6.7 ypc, 118 ypg)
Receiving: WR Jeff Maehl, Sr (53 rec, 696 yds, 6 TD, 4.1 rec/game)
Tackles: FS John Boyett, Soph (90)
Sacks: DE Kenny Rowe, Sr (11.5)
Interceptions: CB Talmadge Jackson, Sr (4)

2010 Pre-Season Rankings
Lindy's: #15
Mark Schlabach: #4
Rivals: #3
Scout: #11
Sporting News: #11
Sports Illustrated: #6
Athlon Sports: #9

2010 Pre-Season Pac-10 Prediction:
Athlon Sports: #2

Bowl Prediction:
Athlon Sports: Alamo Bowl (vs. Texas A&M)

Oregon has had a wild ride lately but to their credit they weathered the storm last year and won the conference by posting an 8-1 Pac-10 record. Oregon had one of the best offenses in the Pac-10 last year and were in the Top 10 in the Nation in scoring and rushing. How will they fare in Chip Kelly's 2nd year at the helm? We caught up with David from Addicted To Quack to learn more about Oregon football.

What are the major strengths and biggest weaknesses of the team?

The obvious strength, and what Oregon has been known for since Chip Kelly took over the offense, is that we are going to run the ball.  A lot.  The whole offensive line is back.  LaMichael James and Kenjon Barner are back (and we’ll bring in 5* running back Lache Seastrunk to boot).  But maybe less talked about is how good the defense is.  This isn’t LSU or Florida where there are potential all-Americans at every position, but Oregon was the best defense in the Pac-10 by pretty much every metric last season, and that was with massive injuries to the secondary. Losing Will Tukuafu and Blake Ferras on the defensive line will hurt, but those are the only two major losses on defense (the secondary is more than deep enough that we won’t feel the loss of TJ Ward), and new DE Dion Jordan tore up spring camp.  This is a team that returns almost every  starter from a Rose Bowl team. Its pretty loaded.

The major weakness of this team at this point is the quarterback position. With Jeremiah Masoli suspended for the season, either senior Nate Costa (who won the job a couple of years ago before an ACL injury) or sophomore Darron Thomas will get the job. Neither of those QBs have a ton of game experience, but both are very talented. Costa is probably safer, but Thomas is more talented and the higher risk/reward type player. Regardless, our ability to run the read option will be somewhat compromised. That said, Masoli did not have the strongest and most consistent arm, and the hope is that we can make up for whatever is lost with Masoli’s running ability with an improved passing game.

Looking at the schedule who will be the first major test?

We open up with New Mexico, which may be one of the worst teams in Division 1 football.  But our second game is a road trip to Knoxville, Tennessee.  And while Tennessee may be down, they are still an SEC team with SEC talent, and going into Neyland Stadium in front of 100k+ is never an easy task. Tennessee has a myriad of problems—new coach, new quarterback, etc., and I fully expect the Ducks to go into Neyland and take care of business. But its definitely a game where if you don’t bring it, you’ll get knocked off.

What team on the schedule do you fear the most?

Fear? We’re Oregon.  We don’t fear anybody.  Now, there are teams that are talented enough to beat you. And USC is still the most talented team in this league. Therefore, if I had to put money on somebody beating the Ducks, that road trip down to LA would be my bet. They are loaded at every position, and we haven’t played terribly well there in quite some time. Playing Oregon State in Corvallis is no easy task, either, and they will be aiming for us as we’ve knocked them out of the Rose Bowl two years running.  We respect those teams very much. But we fear no one.

Who is the best player on your team that nobody talks about?

I’m going to give credit to the offensive line right here.  They were a much maligned, jumbled, and inexperienced unit going into last year, which was painfully obvious in the Boise State debacle.  But that group really gelled as the season went on, developing into the best line in the conference.  With this whole unit back, there should be no shortage of holes for LaMichael James to run through.

Who is the best offensive player on the team?

LaMichael James.  Ran for over 1500 yards as a freshman.  Was also one of the fastest sprinters in the Pac-10 this season for the track team.   This team is full of great players.  James is the star.

Who is the most impactful defensive player on the team?

That’s hard to say, because the defensive system is designed so that everyone has to work together.  The best defensive player is probably safety John Boyett, who can make plays all over the field.  But the most impactful is probably Kenny Rowe, pass rush extraordinaire.  11 sacks speaks for itself.  He puts a ton of pressure on the QB and puts everyone else in position to make plays.

What player(s) needs to step up this year in order for the team to reach it's full capability?

It has to be the quarterback.  This offense should once again be amazing, but we have to have consistent play at that position.

Who is the top offensive newcomer that can make an impact this year?

There are two guys that I’ll talk about here, and both could pay huge dividends in the receiving game.  Redshirt freshman Diante Jackson was injured for a lot of spring, but he was maybe our most heralded recruit last season and at 6’2”, is the kind of big target that we missed in our passing game last year.  Also, JUCO transfer Brandon Williams will see a lot of time at tight end.  He’s a big dude at 6’4” and really had a fantastic spring.  Both of those weapons should make the passing game much more dynamic this season.

Who is the top defensive newcomer that can make an impact this year?

I think I mentioned earlier that we lost a couple of guys on the defensive line, and that the returning players are a bit small? Freshman Ricky Heimuli comes in next fall. He is Oregon’s most highly touted D-line recruit since Haloti Ngata, and at 6’4” and nearly 300 pounds, could be the big stuffer up the middle that we’ve been looking for.

Gut feeling on the teams final record at the end of the regular season and what makes this a successful season in your eyes?

This should be another very good season.  Its probably the most talented squad Oregon has ever had. The biggest problem I see is that the schedule doesn’t align as nicely as it did last season, as we have to go to USC, to Berkeley, and to Corvallis. I think we roll through our fairly mediocre non-conference schedule but, realistically, its going to be tough to make it through the conference schedule without probably two losses.  So I say a 10-2 regular season.  In an average Pac-10 year, that’s probably enough to win the league and get Oregon back to Pasadena. 11 wins very possible, but would be quite surprising. In my mind, 10 regular season wins is a success. Less than that is a disappointment with this group.

Thanks again to the Oregon SB Nation website Addicted To Quack. Follow them on twitter @AddictedToQuack.

Next Up: UTEP Miners

2010 Previews
Big East- Cincinnati Bearcats, Pittsburgh Panthers, West Virginia Mountaineers
Big Ten- Michigan WolverinesMinnesota Golden Gophers, Northwestern Wildcats, Purdue Boilermakers
Conference USA- Houston Cougars
MAC- Temple Owls
Mountain West- Utah Utes
Pac-10- Washington Huskies, USC Trojans
Sun Belt- Troy Trojans


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