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2007 Oregon Preview

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Jul 27, 2007


Preview 2007 Oregon Ducks

Oregon Ducks

Preview 2007

By Richard Cirminiello

- 2007 Oregon Offense Preview | 2007 Oregon Defense Preview
-
2007 Oregon Depth Chart | 2006 CFN Oregon Preview 


At what point is it fair to begin wondering if Oregon peaked five years ago with a memorable 38-16 blowout of Colorado in the Fiesta Bowl?  Since then, even with a good run in 2005, the Ducks have hovered around .500 in conference play, and consistently run out of steam late in the year.  Even worse, they’ve lost 14 of their last 22 games after Halloween, preventing any momentum heading into the following year and ensuring a turbulent off-season. 

Head coach: Mike Bellotti
13th year: 97-48
18th year overall: 118-73-2
Returning Lettermen: 50
Lettermen Lost: 19
Ten Best Duck Players
1. RB Jonathan Stewart, Jr.
2. S Patrick Chung, Jr.
3. OT Max Unger, Jr.
4. CB Jarius Byrd, Soph.
5. WR Jaison Williams, Jr.
6. RB Jeremiah Johnson, Jr.
7. CB Walter Thurmond, Soph.
8. QB Dennis Dixon, Sr.
9. OT Geoff Schwartz, Sr.
10. DE Nick Reed, Jr.

2007 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
7-5

Sept. 1

Houston

Sept. 8

at Michigan

Sept. 15

Fresno State

Sept. 22

at Stanford

Sept. 29

California

Oct. 13

Washington State

Oct. 20

at Washington

Oct. 27

USC

Nov. 3

Arizona State

Nov. 15

at Arizona

Nov. 24

at UCLA

Dec. 1

Oregon State

2006 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
7-5
2005 Results: 7-6

Preview 2005 predicted wins

9/2 Stanford W 48-10
9/9 at Fresno St W 31-24
9/16 Oklahoma W 34-33
9/30 at Arizona St W 48-13
10/7 at California L 45-24
10/14 UCLA W 30-20
10/21 at Wash St L 34-23
10/28 Portland State W 55-12
11/4 Washington W 34-14
11/11 at USC L 35-10
11/18 Arizona L 37-10
11/24 at Oregon State L 30-28
12/21 Las Vegas Bowl
BYU L 38-8

Last year was a microcosm of where the Oregon program seems to be mired these days, starting strong and raising expectations before imploding down the stretch.  The offense lacked execution and consistency, while a punchless defense allowed more than 30 points in each of the final four games, culminating in a downright hideous loss to BYU in the Las Vegas Bowl.  Even the usually even-keeled Mike Bellotti became unhinged after the debacle, further proof that the Ducks are approaching a crossroads.   

Oregon has always been about the offense, so if it’s going to recapture that lost swagger, that’s precisely where it’ll begin.  That means all eyes this fall will be on the development of quarterbacks Dennis Dixon and Brady Leaf who threw as many picks as touchdowns in 2006, and generally regressed in all facets of the game.  Dixon has, by far, the greater upside of the two and is the better fit for the offense, but if his decision-making doesn’t improve, the Ducks can forget about a rapid revival in 2007.  

The last time Oregon lost six games in a season, it responded by going 10-2 the following year.  The potential for a repeat exists if the quarterback situation can be resolved, but with one more middling season, the once-untouchable Bellotti will face a degree of scrutiny he’s never experienced in Eugene.  

What to watch for on offense: When coordinator Gary Crowton left Oregon for LSU in January, Bellotti made a bold move, replacing him with New Hampshire’s Chip Kelly.  Kelly’s been a spread-option devotee for years, but Towson and James Madison don’t play in the Pac-10, so it’ll be interesting to see how well his transition goes.  The first thing he’ll notice is that the offense is facing an identity crisis.  The playbook says no huddle and four wides, but the play of the quarterbacks, plus the receivers’ bouts with the dropsies, screams for a more conventional approach that features Jonathan Stewart, a beast of a back with All-America potential when he’s healthy.      

What to watch for on defense: Oregon likes to attack from time to time, but when it fails to mount consistent pressure on the quarterback, such as last year, the secondary is prone to getting exposed.  The onus is on ends Nick Reed and Dexter Manley to build on last year’s success so the safeties and linebackers don’t have to blitz more than is necessary.  Corners Walter Thurmond and Jairus Byrd took a few lumps as freshmen, but showed more than enough potential to feel good about the future at the position.              

The team will be far better if … it can dramatically cut back on its turnovers.  The Ducks gave the ball away 34 times in 2006, more than any other Pac-10 team, a sure-fire recipe for mediocrity.  If Oregon does hold on to the ball this fall, it probably means the quarterback situation has been resolved.

The Schedule: The Ducks aren’t taking it easy, as a good non-conference schedule includes the home opener against defending Conference USA champion Houston, a road date at Michigan, and hosting an improved Fresno State. They get five home Pac-10 games, including dates with Cal and USC, and there can’t be any complaining about the road slate, going to Stanford, Washington and Arizona along with a tough battle at UCLA. While there aren’t any extended homestands, there’s only one two-game road stretch at Arizona and UCLA late in the year.

Best Offensive Player: Junior RB Jonathan Stewart.  If not for some nagging ankle injuries, which have cut into his production in Eugene, Stewart would be mentioned in the same sentence as other young backs such as Darren McFadden, Steve Slaton and Ray Rice.  He’s a 220-pound, between-the-tackles plow horse, with the balance and extra gear to bounce outside and into the secondary where he’s no match for defensive backs.     

Best Defensive Player: Junior S Patrick Chung.  Part corner and part safety, Chung is an ideal fit to play the hybrid rover position on the Oregon defense.  A sure tackler in run defense, he also has the wheels to get back in pass coverage and the football IQ, after just two years at the position, to know where he needs to be at all times.  

Key player to a successful season: Junior DE Nick Reed. With Darius Sanders gone, Reed has to emerge as the go-to pass rusher who takes the heat off the rest of the line. He’s got good size and a nice first step, but he hasn’t had to be an all-around player. If he’s just a pure pass rusher who can crank out consistent pressure in the backfield, the rest of the line will fall into place.

The season will be a success if ... the Ducks win the Pac-10 title. Considering the offensive playmakers returning, the home games with USC and Cal, and a defense certain to be above average once the defensive line gets things figured out, a trip to Pasadena is a reasonably lofty goal. Even with the way last year ended, Oregon has to keep aiming high.

Key game: Sept. 29 vs. California. If Oregon has any hope of winning the Pac-10 title, it needs to make a big statement early against Cal. With a trip to Stanford the week before, and dates against Washington State and Washington to follow, a win over the Bears could mean a 4-0 conference start before dealing with USC.

2006 Fun Stats: 
- Oregon opponent 1st quarter scoring: 53; Oregon opponents 2nd quarter scoring: 117
- Fumbles: Oregon 27 (lost 14); Opponents 10 (lost 7)
- Sacks: Oregon 30 for 210 yards; Opponents 16 for 85 yards

 

Related Stories
2007 Oregon Preview - Offense
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Jul 27, 2007
2007 Oregon Preview - Defense
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Jul 27, 2007
2007 Oregon Preview - Depth Chart
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Jul 27, 2007








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