2009 CFN Oregon Preview
Oregon QB Jeremiah Masoli
Oregon QB Jeremiah Masoli
Posted Jul 8, 2009

CollegeFootballNews.com 2009 Preview - Oregon Duck Preview

Oregon Ducks

Preview 2009

By Richard Cirminiello

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

Head coach: Chip Kelly
1st year
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 23, Def. 24, ST 3
Lettermen Lost: 25
Ten Best Duck Players
RB LeGarrette Blount, Sr.
2. CB Walter Thurmond, Sr.
3. QB Jeremiah Masoli, Jr.
4. DE Will Tukuafu, Sr.
5. TE Ed Dickson, Sr.
6. LB Spencer Paysinger, Jr.
7. LB Casey Matthews, Jr.
8. FS T.J. Ward, Sr.
9. WR Jeff Maehl, Jr.
10. C Jordan Holmes, Jr. 

2009 Schedule
CFN Prediction:

2009 Record: 0-0

9/3 at Boise State
9/12 Purdue
9/19 Utah
9/26 California
10/3 Washington State
10/10 at UCLA
10/24 at Washington
10/31 USC
11/7 at Stanford
11/14 Arizona State
11/21 at Arizona
12/3 Oregon State

2008 Schedule
CFN Prediction
: 9-3

2008 Record: 9-

8/30 Washington W 44-10
9/6 Utah State W 66-24
9/13 at Purdue W 32-26 2OT
9/20 Boise State L 37-32
9/27 at Wash State W 63-14
10/4 at USC L 44-10
10/11 UCLA W 31-24
10/25 at Arizona St W 54-20
11/1 at California L 26-16
11/8 Stanford W 35-28
11/15 Arizona W 55-45
11/29 at Oregon St W 65-38
Holiday Bowl
12/30 Oklahoma St W 42-31

The coach is gone, but the beat will go on.

After 116 victories and 14 mostly underrated seasons as the Oregon head coach, Mike Bellotti stepped aside in March in a nearly seamless transition that promoted offensive coordinator Chip Kelly. The Ducks did it right. Kelly was already the coach-in-waiting and the popular architect of a slick offense, and Bellotti won’t be far away now that he’s the school’s new athletic director. The long-time coach will certainly be missed, but you get the feeling that the program remains in good hands.

Oregon wasn’t supposed to win 10 games, including an exclamation point Holiday Bowl victory, in 2008. It did. And thanks to the momentum generated by a four-game, season-ending winning streak and a slew of points, the Ducks will begin this season ranked and in the hunt for a league championship. The spread-option should be rocking again with folk hero Jeremiah Masoli back at quarterback and LeGarrette Blount manning one of the nation’s most productive ground games. However, spitting out 40 points a game will come with some new challenges. The retooled offensive line is a unit in transition, and the attack might miss not having Kelly’s undivided attention. Oh, the offense will be plenty potent, but it’ll need to be in order to compensate for a defense that yields a lot of big plays and has issues of its own up front.

Kelly has taken the baton from Bellotti and is poised to keep Oregon among the Pac-10 elite, but can he elevate the program beyond where his predecessor took it? He’ll get his first chance this fall with a team that has enough talent to knock mighty USC from its perch and enough holes to finish the season in El Paso at the Sun Bowl.

What to watch for on offense: LeGarrette Blount’s career as a solo artist. Sure, he’s going to get help, but not as much as last season, when Jeremiah Johnson got the majority of the carries. At 6-2 and 229 yards, Blount is built for a feature role, something he’s craved since transferring from East Mississippi Community College. In a part-time role, he still managed to rush for more than 1,000 yards and a school-record 17 touchdowns. With an expanded role and more touches, he’s capable of having a monster final year in Eugene.

What to watch for on defense: The linebackers. Very quietly, this is going to be one of the strongest and most dependable units on the entire team. In juniors Spencer Paysinger and Casey Matthews, the Ducks have a pair of athletic, highly-instinctive defenders, who laid the groundwork last year for all-star consideration. And sophomore Eddie Pleasant, while young, looks capable of replacing Jerome Boyd at strongside without skipping a beat. Together, they form a unit that’s going to make a ton of plays and be everywhere their needed for the D this fall.

The team will be far better if… the offense starts this season like it finished last season. In their only three losses of 2008, the Ducks were shut down on offense, getting held in check by Boise State when it mattered and scoring just 26 points combined versus Cal and USC. In the final four games, however, Oregon averaged around 50 points and went 4-0. When the spread-option is cranking, this is a very difficult program to out score.

The Schedule: The non-conference schedule is as interesting as any played by a major BCS contender playing the two teams, Boise State and Utah, that went unbeaten before the bowl season while Purdue, who came within a missed field goal of winning last year's matchup in West Lafayette, comes to Eugene. The game against the Broncos is on the blue field in Boise and will be a statement game, one way or another, for the Broncos. After the season opener there are four straight home games including the Pac 10 opener against California. And then the league slate gets rocky with three road games in four weeks with the one home game against USC. However, all three of those road trips are against teams that didn't go to a bowl game last year. Two of the last three games are at home with a week off before hosting Oregon in the Civil War.

Best offensive player: Junior QB Jeremiah Masoli. Has too much of the green and yellow Kool-Aid been consumed? We’ll see this year. Yeah, Masoli only has a limited body of work, but did you watch him in October, November, and December? It’s not about the numbers, which were staggering down the stretch. No, in a very short period of time, he became a transformational figure in Eugene, supercharging the offense and putting the team on his shoulders. Oh, and he was basically spitballing his way through on guts and physical ability. Now that he has a better grasp of the offense, there’s no telling how good he can be. 

Best defensive player: Senior CB Walter Thurmond. While the numbers from last year weren’t up to his usual standard, Thurmond remains one of the nation’s top all-around cornerbacks. Nicked up throughout the 2008 season, he only had 66 tackles, five interceptions, and 13 passes defended, modest compared to the previous two years. When completely healthy, like now, he’ll blanket the other team’s best receiver and do a bang-up job in run support. This is the same future NFL Draft choice, who had more than 100 tackles and 18 pass breakups as a sophomore.

Key players to a successful season: The newly-formed offensive line. The Ducks may have an underrated D for the second straight year, but it’s not going to be the catalyst for a drive to another Top 25 finish. No, that’s the job of the high-powered spread-option offense. And the only thing, barring an injury, that’s going to slow down that 40-point-a-game attack is if the rebuilt front wall spends the 2009 season getting schooled by other teams. Oregon lost a ton of experience and a couple of special blockers to graduation, meaning it’s up to a crew of anonymous linemen to, well, stay that way. If you’re hearing Bo Thran, Carson York, Jordan Holmes, Mark Asper, or C.E. Kaiser too much this fall, it’s probably not a favorable sign.

The season will be a success if ... the Ducks’ 10th win of the season comes in the Holiday Bowl. Oregon is a good, solid Pac-10 program, but with the league having just one January bowl tie-in, San Diego becomes the next best thing to Pasadena. Don’t discount the impact of the program’s rugged non-conference schedule when setting the bar. Besides playing the rest of the league teams, Oregon must also travel to Boise and entertain Utah and Purdue.

Key game: Oct. 31 vs. USC. Boy, that opening night trip to Boise is going to be pretty telling as well, but it’s not going to have a lick to do with the Pac-10 race. The visit from the defending champion Trojans, however, sure will. Like every decent team in the conference, the Ducks have their sights set on dethroning USC and playing in the Rose Bowl. Pulling that off will require an upset of this magnitude. In front of a national TV audience. On Halloween night. Boo.

2008 Fun Stats:
- First quarter scoring: Oregon 153 - Opponents 62
- Sacks: Oregon 40 for 235 yards - Opponents 20 for 121 yards
- Rushing touchdowns: Oregon 47 - Opponents 18

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