2010 Oregon Preview
Oregon RB LaMichael James
It's been a rocky and controversial offseason for Oregon since losing the Rose Bowl to Ohio State, and star RB LaMichael James was a big part of the storm. Even so, this still might be the best team in the solid Pac 10 if a few key pieces fall into place. Check out the CFN 2010 Oregon Preview.
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- By Richard Cirminiello
The offseason could have been worse, Duck fans. You could be USC today.
Head coach: Chip Kelly
Second year: 10-3
Off. 24, Def. 20, ST 2
Lettermen Lost: 19
Ten Best Oregon Players
1. RB LaMichael James, Soph.
2. LB Casey Matthews, Sr.
3. DE Kenny Rowe, Sr.
4. LB Spencer Paysinger, Sr.
5. FS John Boyett, Soph.
6. WR Jeff Maehl, Sr.
7. LT Bo Thran, Sr.
8. C Jordan Holmes, Sr.
9. DT Brandon Bair, Sr.
10. ROV Eddie Pleasant, Jr.
Sept. 4 New Mexico
Sept. 11 at Tennessee
Sept. 18 Portland State
Sept. 25 at Arizona St
Oct. 2 Stanford
Oct. 9 at Washington St
Oct. 16 OPEN DATE
Oct. 21 UCLA
Oct. 30 at USC
Nov. 6 Washington
Nov. 13 at California
Nov. 20 OPEN DATE
Nov. 26 Arizona
Dec. 4 at Oregon State
You have to look real hard to find the silver linings at Oregon since the beginning of the year. From the Rose Bowl loss to Ohio State to the numerous and nagging off-field problems, the glow of last season's Pac-10 championship is just a flicker these days. Of course, had anyone other than former star QB Jeremiah Masoli committed an infraction, there wouldn't be so much hand-wringing going on in Eugene. Now that he's been dismissed, however, the Ducks have spent much of the spring and summer swatting away questions about a lack of institutional control and a lack of a frontrunner in the race to succeed No. 8.
Ever since his days at New Hampshire, Chip Kelly has done magnificent work with his quarterbacks. Dennis Dixon wasn't on anyone's Heisman short list until the coach had relocated to the West Coast. And few expected the 5-11 Masoli to develop a cult following when he left City College of San Francisco.
So, whether it's last-chance senior Nate Costa or hot-shot sophomore Darron Thomas, there's still plenty of hope that the Ducks will be fine under center. Whoever gets the ball will also have access to ample talent, like electrifying RB LaMichael James, steady WR Jeff Maehl, and the best offensive line you've never heard about. The spread should be fine, but fine might not cut it if the defense has any problems overcoming concerns up front and in the secondary.
Few schools are looking forward to the start of the season more than Oregon. Making headlines on the field is what the coaching staff prefers. Before beginning defense of their Pac-10 title, though, the Ducks must solve a quarterback quandary, which won't get bumped to the back page by anything in August.
What to watch for on offense: The battle to replace Jeremiah Masoli at quarterback. Comparatively speaking, nothing else will even produce a blip on the radar in Eugene this summer. Will the Ducks hand the ball to Nate Costa, the senior who's overcome multiple knee surgeries to be in this hunt? Or will they begin the Darron Thomas era, turning loose the precocious sophomore, with the skill set to fit perfectly in Chip Kelly's spread? There isn't a more interesting or more competitive battle in the Pac-10, if not the country.
What to watch for on defense: The opening at cornerback opposite Talmadge Jackson. This could be the key to the defense maintaining last year's high standard of play. Oregon lost three talented defensive backs to graduation, leaving the secondary thin and inexperienced. How thin and inexperienced? True freshman Terrance Mitchell had the edge coming out of spring, which was good for the rookie, but a concern for the D. Although not appearing on the most current two-deep, there's hope that some of the more seasoned players, namely sophomore Cliff Harris, can raise the level of the pass defense before the opener.
The team will be far better if… the run defense can stiffen against physical opponents. When the Ducks struggled a year ago, it was typically because opponents, like Stanford and Ohio State, were the grinding it out between the tackles. Despite some concerns on the interior of the line, Oregon has to find a way, with the help of the linebackers and safeties, to prevent the other team from playing keep-away with the ball.
The Schedule: Not only do the Ducks have five Pac 10 road games, but they get to go away to face USC, Cal, and in the Civil War against Oregon State. Throw in a trip to Tennessee, and considering the team wasn't nearly as strong away from Autzen as it was on it, this isn't a national title-caliber schedule. It's an interesting see-saw slate with alternating home and road games with not two of either in a row. There's no excuse for not going unbeaten at home (and easily) against New Mexico, Portland State, Stanford, UCLA, Washington and Arizona, and the road game at Washington State has to be a lock and Arizona State is winnable, so there's no reason to not expect the Ducks in the hunt for a BCS game all year long.
Best offensive player: Sophomore LaMichael James. At the beginning of 2009, James was a backup with plenty of promise. And then LeGarrette Blount became unhinged in the opener, ensuring James' life would never be the same again. He responded to the unexpected promotion by rushing for 1,546 yards and 14 touchdowns on 230 carries, adding 17 catches for 168 yards. He went for 100 yards nine times to earn Freshman All-American honors and a spot on the All-Pac-10 second team. A dynamite open-field runner, he's a great fit for an offense that creates plenty of wide seams for the backs to navigate.
Best defensive player: Senior LB Casey Matthews. Oregon's man in the middle at linebacker, he's a skilled technician and an outstanding run defender. The son, grandson, nephew, and brother of current and former NFL players, he has the pedigree and the athleticism to follow in their professional footsteps. Playing with controlled intensity, he tied with Spencer Paysinger for second with 81 tackles to go along with 4.5 tackles for loss, three sacks, and six pass breakups.
Key players to a successful season: The quarterback. The competition between senior Nate Costa and sophomore Darron Thomas is getting all kinds of attention, but it's for good reason. It's the quarterback who really makes this system go, making good reads as a runner and a passer, and spreading the ball out to a number of different skill players. While no one is expecting a reincarnation of Jeremiah Masoli or Dennis Dixon, one of the two contenders still must do his part to keep this iron horse from leaving the tracks.
The season will be a success if ... the Ducks win nine games for a fourth consecutive year and do no worse than the Holiday Bowl. While another season-ending trip to Pasadena is certainly within reach, Oregon still has to show it can maintain all of its offensive firepower without one of its stars in the backfield. Plus, the schedule will be very challenging, including trips to Tennessee, USC, Cal, and Oregon State, and visits from Stanford, Washington, and Arizona.
Key game: Dec. 4 at Oregon State. Could the Civil War determine who plays in the Rose Bowl for a third consecutive year? Uh-huh. Both schools are on the short list of Pac-10 contenders, which means this annual meeting might once again have more than just local bragging rights hanging in the balance. In the game-within-the-game, LaMichael James vs. Jacquizz Rodgers will be one of the best running back duels of the season.
2009 Fun Stats:
- Rushing yards per game: Oregon 231.7 – Opponents 128.7
- Interceptions: Oregon 14 – Opponents 7
- Sacks: Oregon 36 - Opponents 13
- 2010 Oregon Preview |
2010 Oregon Defense |
Oregon Depth Chart
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