Is Oregon a true national title contender?
Oregon's De'Anthony Thomas
Oregon's De'Anthony Thomas
Posted Apr 16, 2012

From the Scout publishers, here's the inside info on the key questions this spring.

Spring 2012 - Key Questions


What's happening this spring season? Several FSN publishers provide their insider info on the key questions that matter to the real world of college football. Scroll down for the links to all the spring questions.

Q: Is it the system or the players – is the offense going to be business as usual even without Darron Thomas and LaMichael James?

From Stephen Summers, … We'll have to wait until the Ducks hold their spring game on April 28th to find out. Chip Kelly has closed all practices to the public including media. Offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich told eDuck's Chris Courtney that redshirt sophomore Bryan Bennett and redshirt freshman Marcus Mariota would split the majority of the snaps during the 15-session spring workout with true freshman Jake Rodrigues and senior walk on Dustin Haines splitting the remainder, and the decision isn't likely to be made until the summer.

Our inside source say that Mariota could be something very special as he has exhibited a big time arm with breakaway speed in the open field when he runs. Bennett of course is more experienced after having appeared in eight games last year including a start in the Ducks' 45-2 win over Colorado at Boulder.

Not many other college coaches are going to be shedding tears for the Ducks situation of only having two scholarship running backs in spring ball. Kenjon Barner is an NFL-quality back who was shy of a 1,000-yard season by 61 yards, and that was with just about 100 fewer carries than the 1,800-yard producer LaMichael James.

Added with Barner is arguably the most dangerous player in college football – De'Anthony Thomas, who'll be on the field as a running back, wide receiver and handle kickoff returns.

Last year Thomas showed everybody what he could do with an electrifying 91-yard run from scrimmage touchdown in the 2012 Rose Bowl, and he's destined to do far, far more. Watch that replay again and notice no Badger laid a finger on him, finishing with two carries in the Rose Bowl and two touchdowns.

Even with the talent returning, the Ducks are very thin in the backfield this spring because reserve Tra Carson decided Oregon was too far from home and he left school. So that leaves just Barner and Thomas as the only scholarship backs on the roster.

What's the one big area that needs improving to make the difference between being a Pac-12 title contender and a national title contender?

There isn't any one big area that needs improvement on. After all, the Ducks were in the BCS Championship game after the 2010 season and finished No. 4 last year in the final rankings. They're close.

The Pac-12 is going to a two-team race between Oregon and USC for the Pac-12 title with a good chance for the winner ending up in the BCS championship.

There is no noticeable drop-off in talent at any position this year from last and every position has players with substantial game experience. The question then is about leadership because that's the one thing both had in major portions. Those sources that told us about Mariota also say that both Bennett and Mariota have great leadership traits.

The defense seems to have improved – or at least it has bigger bodies. Arik Armstead made his first appearance in a Duck uniform a few weeks ago, and he's easy to spot – he's bigger than everyone else. At 6-8 and 297 pounds with basketball player agility, he's going to be "all that" and then some.

USC fans can be excused if they are seen crying over the loss of Armstead (and Thomas for that matter), because the Ducks snatched the two best players out of the last two recruiting classes away from the Trojans. Coach Nick Alioti told me he's glad Armstead is a Duck, and he said that with a smile of a fox guarding a hen house.

Oregon's defense was progressing nicely last season, up until it had problems slowing down Russell Wilson and the Wisconsin attack. It's easy to forget that that while the Duck offense piled up yards and points, the defense ensured all those blowout wins.

Consistency on D is the word everyone will want to use in terms of judging how good the team is in 2012, and consistency is the main thing the team is working on this offseason.

What's the biggest insider storyline from this spring that the average fan should know about?

Clearly the biggest story line is the development of the quarterbacks, but with no access to practices, the media has had to make some assumptions and do some fancy guesstimating on what's happening in the battle.

The biggest thing the average fan should keep in mind when reading a newspaper story is that the guy writing the story didn't get a chance to see for himself what was going on with the Ducks on the practice field.

- Is Texas A&M's O going to go Houston?
- Coaching aside, what's missing at Arkansas?
- Does North Carolina have any talent left?
- Is Oregon a true national title contender?
- Is the Marshall O going to be better?

- Really, who is Notre Dame's best QB option?
- What does Michigan have to do to beat Bama?
- How have things changed at Arizona State?
- Is BYU motivated as an independent?
- Does the Oklahoma D have a new attitude?
- Is Southern Miss starting from scratch?
- Is anything improving at Duke?
- Is Cal's Jeff Tedford on any real hot seat?
- Does Wisconsin have a receiving corps?
- Is SMU RB Zach Line back and healthy?
- What's Changing At ASU Under Gus Malzahn?

- Is The Nevin Shapiro Case Affecting Miami?
- How Is UCLA Different So Far Under Jim Mora?
- Will Florida State Finally Turn The Corner?
- Will Rutgers Be Better Without Greg Schiano?
- Will The Alabama Defense Be As Good As 2011?
- Can Boise State Go On Without Kellen Moore?
- Who Are Northwestern's New Offensive Weapons?
- Is Clemson Over The Orange Bowl Disaster?
- Who's The Next Great Illinois D Lineman?
- What's Changing At ASU Under Gus Malzahn?