2009 Oregon Preview - Offense
Oregon TE Ed Dickson
Oregon TE Ed Dickson
Posted Jul 8, 2009

CollegeFootballNews.com 2009 Preview - Oregon Duck Offense

Oregon Ducks

Preview 2009 - Offense

- 2009 Oregon Preview | 2009 Oregon Offense
- 2009 Oregon Defense | 2009 Oregon Depth Chart
- 2008 Oregon Preview | 2007 Oregon Preview | 2006 Oregon Preview 

What you need to know: Oregon led the Pac-10 in scoring last season at just under 42 points a game, fine-tuning the spread-option as the season progressed. And now the rest of the league will have to deal with a quarterback, who’s just beginning to reach his peak and is an ideal fit for the system. Jeremiah Masoli took everyone by surprise midway through the 2008 season, carving up defenses with his hard running and improved passing. With a full offseason as the undisputed starter, he figures to be even more productive this fall. The junior will be surrounded by sure-fire all-stars in RB LeGarrette Blount and TE Ed Dickson. However, if the Ducks are going to pick up where they left off in the Holiday Bowl, the wide receivers need to become more consistent and the reshaped offensive line must gel. The front wall is losing more starts than any team in the league, and is still waiting for an anchor to emerge.

Returning Leaders
Passing: Jeremiah Masoli
136-239, 1,744 yds, 13 TD, 5 INT
Rushing: LeGarrette Blount
137 carries, 1,002 yds, 17 TD
Receiving: Jeff Maehl
39 catches, 421 yds, 5 TD

Star of the offense: Senior RB LeGarrette Blount
Player who has to step up and become a star: Junior LT Bo Thran
Unsung star on the rise: Junior WR Jamere Holland
Best pro prospect: Blount
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Blount, 2) QB Jeremiah Masoli, 3) TE Ed Dickson
Strength of the offense: Running Game, Tight Ends
Weakness of the offense: Wide Receiver, Passing Efficiency


Projected Starter: If you saw the rise of Jeremiah Masoli coming before it happened, you might want to consider a career change, Nostradamus. In one of the biggest rags-to-riches stories of the decade, the 5-11, 214-pound junior became an improbable shooting star in the spread option attack. Buried on the depth chart at the beginning of the season, he wound up going 136-of-239 for 1,744 yards, 13 touchdowns, and five interceptions. More important, he rumbled for 718 yards and 10 scores on 127 carries, lowering the boom on everything that got in his way. If he can improve his accuracy and decision-making,      

Projected Top Reserves: Now that Justin Roper has transferred to Montana, there’s a vacancy behind Masoli just waiting to be filled. At least for the time being, 6-3, 200-pound sophomore Darron Thomas has an edge, but it’s a tenuous one at best. Predictably raw at this stage of his career, he was pressed into action as a rookie and nearly rallied the Ducks to a win over Boise State. The quarterback of the future in Eugene, he has the dual-threat potential of a young Dennis Dixon.

And then there’s 6-1, 215-pound junior Nate Costa, the perennial man to beat, who just hasn’t been able to stay healthy. Knee surgeries have curtailed his last two seasons, and he was brought along slowly during the spring. Injuries aside, he’s a really nice fit for the offense, moving well outside the pocket and throwing the ball with pinpoint accuracy. He also brings a coach’s intellect into the huddle and during film sessions.     

Watch Out For… Thomas to be redshirted if Costa can finally stay off the trainer’s table. It’s the most ideal plan for the program if it’s feasible. Thomas can use the season of work and study, which he lost unexpectedly last season. Costa is much further along and should be No. 2, but he’s not much of an insurance policy if that knee starts acting up.   
Strength: Scrambling. The passing game was just okay last season, but when the quarterbacks, specifically Masoli, break containment, it’s wise to hide the women and children. By design, they’ll all pick up first downs with their feet, and Masoli is like having an agile fullback ripping through the secondary when he breaks containment.    
Weakness: The backup situation. Roper leaving the program hurts more than you might think. Hey, if Masoli can stay healthy for 13 games, there are no worries, but what happens if he dislocates a shoulder barreling over a safety? Thomas is still a year away from being ready and Costa hasn’t taken a snap in almost three years.
Outlook: Masoli is a budding rock star on the verge of taking his brand well beyond the Pacific Northwest. Last year’s late-season heroics were just the start of things for the former City College of San Francisco phenom. If the offseason is any indication, he’s poised for even bigger and better results, but he must stay on the field. If the Ducks have to look down the bench, they might not be pleased with the results.  
Rating: 8

Running Backs

Projected Starters: Senior LeGarrette Blount proved capable of sharing with others in his first year out of East Mississippi Community College, rushing for 1002 yards and 17 touchdowns, while splitting carries. Now that Jeremiah Johnson is gone, he’ll get a bigger spotlight and more than last year’s 137 carries. At 6-2 and 229 pounds, he’s a powerful runner, but will also run past defenders and has shocking agility and change-of-direction for such a big back. If the rebuilt line cooperates, he’s capable of delivering one of the best seasons by a back in program history.   

Projected Top Reserves: A familiar face, 5-11, 196-pound senior Andre Crenshaw, returns for one more year as a steady, veteran insurance policy. He has plenty of experience, including 110 carries for 551 yards and five touchdowns in 30 games. When Johnson was injured in 2007, he delivered 415 yards and more than five yards a carry, flashing outstanding cutback moves and the ability to make people miss in space.

When he’s not nursing a foot injury, 5-8, 200-pound junior Remene Alston is a dangerous runner capable of chipping away at Crenshaw’s snaps. He runs with power and good pad level, rarely going down on first contact. Before getting hurt last October, he’d motored for 161 yards and a score on just 21 carries, a gaudy average of 7.7 yards a carry.

Everyone is excited to get their first good look at 5-9, 180-pound LaMichael James, who used a redshirt in last year’s debut. One of the fastest Ducks, he’s the type of all-purpose dynamo, who can hurt defenses in a multitude of different ways. There’s usually plenty of space when Oregon lines up, and he’s exactly the type of playmaker, who can exploit those lanes.

Watch Out For
… James to play the role of Johnson once his injured shoulder heals. Yeah, he missed the spring, but few around the program doubt he has the raw ability to have a role in the offense in his first season. The Ducks will look for ways to get the ball in his hands and get him out in space.
Strength: Blount. He has all of the attributes you look for in a feature back, including power, speed, and the ability to wear down defenses. Give the big senior 200 touches and some support up front, and he’s going to turn them into about 1,300 yards and 20 touchdowns on the ground.
Weakness: Pass-catching. There’s not a lot to dislike about the Oregon backs other than Alston’s injury and their inability to get involved in the passing game. Now, it’s certainly not all their fault, but when no backs catches more than eight balls a year ago, it reeks of a missed opportunity. The Ducks ought to consider more screens and dump-offs as another way to get the ball in the hands of the dangerous backs.
Outlook: Now that Blount is the man in the backfield, he’ll be looking to parlay the opportunity into maximum production and a lucrative springboard to the NFL. He’ll be up to the challenge and the ground game will continue to rock. Oregon, however, prefers a committee in the running game, rather than a single workhorse, so there’ll also be an opening for Crenshaw, Alston, and James to get 5-10 carries a game, piling up some impressive numbers as well.    
Rating: 8.5


Projected Starters: Of last year’s top seven receivers, two have graduated and two have recently transferred, leaving the Ducks with a shortage of proven hands. Hoping to take on an expanded role is 6-1, 175-pound junior Jeff Maehl, a converted safety making a smooth transition to slot receiver. He kept getting better in all facets as the season progressed, finishing with 39 receptions for 421 yards and five touchdowns.

While Maehl is the steadier tactician of the wide receivers, 6-1, 188-pound junior Jamere Holland is going to be the field-stretcher and long ball hitter. At least that’s the plan. A mercurial former transfer from USC, he has the triangle numbers to blossom into a star now that there’s an opening on the depth chart. While he only caught four balls for 53 yards in seven games, he played well enough in the spring to emerge as the No.1 threat on the outside.

The third starting receiver was supposed to be Aaron Pflugrad, but he opted to leave the program following spring. Taking his place will be 6-3, 207-pound senior Rory Cavaille, a company man and former walk-on. He won’t frighten opposing defenses and only has six career catches, but he won’t hurt the Ducks either, running crisp routes and catching whatever is thrown his way.

The most heralded and accomplished of the pass-catchers doesn’t even play wide receiver. Senior Ed Dickson begins his final year as one of the nation’s premier tight ends, earning All-Pac-10 second team honors and catching 35 balls for 508 yards and three touchdowns. At 6-5 and 243 pounds, he has the long stride and the 4.6 speed to abuse most linebackers when he gets locked in man coverages.

Projected Top Reserves: Junior Drew Davis was just starting to find a rhythm last year, when he hurt his knee and was lost for the season. If he can recapture the momentum without losing a step, he’ll be a lock to be no worse than the first wide receiver off the bench. A good all-around athlete, he also has the 6-1, 205-pound frame to out muscle defensive backs for the backs.

Once Dickson graduates, the tight end job will be handed to 6-4, 220-pound junior Malachi Lewis. More of an athletic pass-catcher than a run blocker, he has the wheels and the quickness to create match up problems in opposing defensive backfields. An intriguing candidate when the Ducks employ an H-back, he’s capable of a lot more than the two balls he caught in 2008.

Is redshirt freshman Dion Jordan a wide receiver or a tight end? Does it matter? At 6-7 and 218 pounds, he’s going to be a weapon no matter where he lines up. Blessed with an enormous catch radius and the ability to play in the clouds, he’ll have to be worked into the mix somehow, even as he refines his overall game.    

Watch Out For… Holland to begin taking flight. He was a little lost at times last season, but that was last season. He looked like a different player in the spring and clearly has the physical tools to become a playmaker in this league. At worst, he’ll be the type of outside receiver, who can use his 4.2 speed to open up the middle of the field and hit the occasional dinger.
Strength: Tight end. The Ducks are loaded at the position. Dickson is an All-America candidate and Lewis would be starting for at least half the programs in the country. The program was so deep at the position, it decided to move NaDerris Ward, a former blue-chip recruit of Georgia, to offensive tackle. 
Weakness: Consistency. This has plagued the Oregon receivers for the past couple of seasons, and isn’t likely to go away now that so many unproven players are being elevated up the depth chart. If the passing game is going to improve, this group needs to collectively cut down on its drops and improve on its fundamentals.
Outlook: The tight ends are fantastic, but the wide receivers still have plenty to prove. It wasn’t always a sharp group last year, which heightens the concern when so many spots need to be filled. Maehl appears to have a steadying influence on the unit, but it’s imperative that Holland develop into more than just the intermittent deep threat.
Rating: 7.5

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: There’s no bigger worry in Eugene these days than the situation on the offensive line, which needs to replace a slew of seniors, including all-leaguers Max Unger and Fenuki Tupou. It’s a process some fear might not be solved before the start of the season. The new anchor at the pivot will be 6-5, 285-pound junior Jordan Holmes, who does have 21 games of experience and started four a year ago. He has undeniable upside, combining good size and strength with the light feet to get out of his stance and into the second level in a hurry. He’s not Unger, but he’s going to be a good one before very long.

Both starting tackles were injured in the spring, but the staff isn’t overly concerned with their health or development. On the left side, versatile 6-5, 303-pound junior Bo Thran appeared in a dozen games last season, earning starts at both left guard and right tackle. He’s on his way back from a knee injury that curtailed his spring, and is determined to continue his development as the pass-protector of Jeremiah Masoli’s blindside.

Over at right tackle will be 6-4, 290-pound junior C.E. Kaiser, a rising star about to get his best opportunity yet to live up to that billing. He fought through injuries to start 10 games a year ago, getting better as the season wore on. He combines tremendous strength with the versatility to play multiple positions, shifting inside or outside as needed.

The anchor at guard will be 6-7, 323-pound sophomore Mark Asper, who will maul his man, especially in tight spaces. A powerful, at times dominating, run blocker, he played in seven games last year, starting the Ducks’ bowl win over Oklahoma State. He’s had a great offseason away from the field, getting a lot stronger and a little quicker with the help of the training staff.

The biggest unknown, by far, will be at left guard, where 6-5, 285-pound redshirt freshman Carson York is slated to take over the starting assignment. One of the top linemen in the Northwest in 2007, he’s an intense drive blocker, who never gives up on a play. Heavily recruited by just about every Pac-10 school, he’ll get to where he needs to be, but will that happen as early as this fall? The Ducks are banking on it.

Projected Top Reserves: One glance at the two-deep shows a serious dearth of veterans on the second team. Oregon needs to stay healthy and develop the backups as quickly as possible. At left tackle, 6-5, 310-pound sophomore Darrion Weems has gotten a lot of first-team reps as Thran rehabbed his injury. A terrific physical specimen, with a high ceiling, he needs his technique and experience to catch up with his size, strength, and overall quickness.

Additional depth at tackle will be provided by redshirt freshman Nick Cody, who some around the program feel will be an all-star someday. At 6-5 and 270 pounds, he clearly needs to add some weight and upper body strength, but has impressed the staff with his lateral quickness and penchant for walling off edge rushers. In time, he’s capable of challenging for a starting job.

Watch Out For… the summer to be less chaotic than the spring. Yeah, the offensive line was horrible in April, but what did you expect? A couple of projected starters were out with injuries and the coaches were tooling around with different combinations. Once everyone is back in August, a degree of stability will be there as well.
Strength: Steve Greatwood. No, he hasn’t had pads on in over a quarter-century, but that doesn’t mean he can’t help in the rebuilding process. A vastly underrated line coach, he’s done a terrific job in the past with these types of dilemmas, providing hope that things won’t be bad here after all.
Weakness: Experience. Only three players, including the backups, have had significant live reps, which pretty much guarantees rough spots in the early stages of the season. No one really knows how these guys are going to perform as a group, especially since chemistry is such an important part of offensive line play. Oh, and if anyone goes down, the depth is going to be sorely tested.
Outlook: It’s far from ideal, but it’s probably not as bad as everyone is making it seem, either. Holmes, Thran, Kaiser, and Asper are quality offensive linemen, who just haven’t had a chance to step out of the shadows of more heralded teammates. Until now. At least one will be All-Pac-10 by December. Depth is a genuine problem, however, so keeping every healthy is even more important than ever.  
Rating: 7.5