Oregon Preview 2006 - Further Analysis
Oregon Ducks
Posted Aug 8, 2006

Oregon Ducks Preview 2006 - Oregon Further Analysis

1st and Ten – Now, he’s ready…hopefully – The script seemed to fit just perfectly for the Oregon offense last season.  Senior Kellen Clemens would usher in the ‘new’ spread scheme that Gary Crowton brought to Eugene.  He would throw for 3,400+ yards, rush for 400 and lead the Oregon offense to 35 point games every week.  Dennis Dixon would sit behind Clemens, learn the system and take over in 2006.  Dixon was, and is, the perfect fit for an offense that stretches opposing defenses every which way possible.  So, sit and learn, pick up some ‘garbage’ time and prep for next year.  Well, what is it that they say about the best laid plans?  Clemens injured his ankle at Arizona, Dixon took over and, well, the Ducks kept winning (until the Holiday Bowl).  But, while the offense puts points on the board, Dixon rode the typical first year starter ‘wave’.  In fact, Brady Leaf was instrumental in victories over Arizona and Cal, taking over for Dixon as he struggled at times to remain consistent.  For Dixon, on one play, oh my gosh, did you see him turn the corner?  The next, he didn’t really try to throw that through three guys, did he?  As a Duck fan, you can find some solace in Vince Young’s career at Texas, perhaps the one player Dixon compares closest in ability and size.  Young was the same way for the first year and a half as a starter, escape the pass rush with his long stride and speed for a key first down; then, he’d throw a ball as he was being tackled for an interception.  But, Young ‘got it’ late in his second year, putting both pieces together – pass and run – and Texas never looked back.  Dixon has that ability – he can buy himself some time to throw with his speed and escapability, but now he has to find consistency in his decision making in all phases of this offense – passing game, option game and run reads.  This offense is heavily predicated on making the right read at the right time and that’s the part that Dixon must master this season.  But, watch him this year, when it clicks, you’ll know.  And, that’s when the Duck offense will go to another level.  The plan did go awry after Clemens got hurt, but then again, changing plans is what life is all about, right?

2nd and Seven – Inside or Outside, versatility is thy name – The Duck defensive line lost one of the best defensive linemen in the country when Haloti Ngata decided to take his game to the League.  His loss leaves a gaping hole, figuratively and literally in the Duck defensive line, one that must be filled ably by September 2nd when Stanford comes to Eugene.  The saving grace for the Ducks is that Matt Toeaina returns for his senior year.  But, the question is what position does Toeaina play – DE or DT?  Although he’s 300 pounds, he has the quickness to play end and get pressure on the edge, but when he steps inside, he can slant, stunt and whip guards with his strength and quickness.  Offensive linemen just can’t reach him on zone runs and he’s a beast on the pass rush up the middle.  But, with Devan Long also departed, the Ducks need to find someone who can get a pass rush off the corner.  If one of the juco transfers can fill that role at DE, then Toeaina can stay inside and disrupt the middle of the opposing offensive line.

3rd and Three – Ready for the world – Although Duck nation might argue that they never get respect, the ‘nation of bandwagon’ is soon to descend on Eugene, fawning over a young man who is about be the RB flavor du jour in college football – Jonathan Stewart.  The sophomore didn’t get a great deal of playing time behind Terrence Whitehead, but in his limited time, he gave everyone wearing the green, yellow and black at least one reason to look forward to 2006.  Shoot, he’s still carrying Houston Cougar defenders trying to tackle him.  The sophomore has a unique blend of power and speed and in this spread offense, if he gets a seam, there’ll be some scared defensive backs looking to get out of the way.  Making it worse for Oregon’s opposing defenses, Stewart’s offensive line returns five starters from last year.  Uh oh.  By the end of the season, if healthy, Jonathan Stewart will be a household name.  Anywhere in the nation.

4th and One – “Everybody Wang Chung tonight” – The Ducks secondary seemed to get better each and every week last season.  CB Aaron Gipson was one of the most improved cover corners over the past two years of his career and led the nation in interceptions with seven last season.  Justin Phinisee was just as strong on the other side and picked up first team All-Pac-10 honors.  But, both of them have exhausted their eligibility and the question of who steps in to replace them is the perhaps the most important one for this defense in 2006.  Rover Patrick Chung may ultimately move over to man one of the corner positions, after having a stellar freshman campaign.  He had 91 tackles last season and was a pleasant surprise in the secondary alongside J.D Nelson, Gipson and Phinisee.  Nelson will continue to roam the middle and be a general menace for ‘ball carriers’ trying to cross his face, but the Ducks will need another big year from Chung, in particular, to slow down the potent Pac-10 passing games.

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