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2015 Oregon Ducks Preview

This site did not get hacked. We really are running an Oregon preview.

With Oregon being the team that the majority of Husker Nation covets… what with their explosive offense, head coach in-waiting Scott Frost, and those fancy pants non-adidas uniforms, there’s no denying the Ducks are the cat’s pajamas so it makes perfect sense to give a glimpse of just how much greener the grass grows in Eugene.

Plus, there’s that whole thing about the Ducks being Mike Riley’s Oklahoma, K-State, Colorado, Miami, and Wisconsin rolled into one AND Oregon just happens to be the marquee non-conference match up for the next two years. And let’s not forget about this season’s common opponent Michigan State.

So, in an effort to help Husker Nation to decide if we should start quaking in our collective boots about next season, we enlisted the help of Jason Selby, a junior at the University of Oregon and a contributor to FishDuck.com, the go-to site for Oregon sports. (Think HuskerMax without the doomsday vibe in the message boards.)

Jason was kind enough to write a preview for us. Our only word of warning is read it at your own risk. If you think the Ducks are going to have a drop off following the end of the Marcus Mariota era, guess again. Like the Huskers of yore, they don’t have to rebuild. They just reload with fresh young talent.

Take it away Jason…

If you asked for my opinion on the Ducks offense coming into this season immediately after the brutal loss to Ohio State in the College Football Championship Game, I would have been concerned.  Losing Marcus Mariota made everything seem difficult again – fans were happy for him, but worried about the team.  Questions about who the quarterback was going to be formed a thick cloud over what was still a very talented offense to be.

The Spring Game on May 2 helped answer a lot of questions.  Long-time Mariota backup Jeff Lockie commanded the offense, throwing for 223 yards and three TD’s.  When asked after the game about Lockie’s performance, head coach Mark Heflrich said, “He played well.  As far as being ‘the guy,’ he has done everything right.  He has had an awesome spring.” Former Eastern Washington star QB Vernon Adams Jr. has graduated from his alma mater with a year of eligibility remaining, and is now officially a Duck. We’ll see how long Lockie can hold up at the top of the depth chart.
(UPDATE: Vernon Adams Jr. has been named Oregon’s week one starter.)

Jeff Lockie
With that #8 guy now in the NFL, Oregon’s offense could be helmed by longtime understudy Jeff Lockie. (Photo Credit – Kevin Cline)

Adams has been off limits to media and will remain so until he sees action on the field, which is in line with Oregon’s policy that no first year players (even if they’ve have years of experience) are allowed to speak to the press until they play. While his play making ability during fall camp has been impressive, Adams is self-admittedly behind Lockie when it comes to mastering Oregon’s complex playbook.

The Ducks get a dynamic scoring threat in Bralon Addison back from an ACL injury that caused him to miss the entire 2014 season.  Along with Addison, the Ducks have Byron Marshall, Devon Allen (hopeful to return from an ACL injury), Darren Carrington (suspended from the Championship game because of a positive marijuana test), Dwayne Stanford, and a slew of freshman talent that are sure to find roles in the offense throughout the season.

Heading into fall camp, Oregon’s high flying receiving corps was expected to complimented by a heavy run based attack but that plan hit a snag when it was announced that 5 star running back Thomas Tyner would be out for the season following a shoulder injury.

With Tyner out, sophomore Royce Freeman looks to retain his title of Oregon’s feature back which he rightfully earned after Tyner was out for a stretch during 2014. Freeman had an incredible freshman campaign (Pac-12 Offensive Freshman of the Year) that saw him run for 1,365 yards, and 18 TDs.

Royce Freeman
Sophomore running back Royce Freeman will again shoulder the load for the Ducks’ ground game. (Photo Credit – Craig Strobeck)

In a recent interview with FishDuck.com writer Daniel Kantor, Ducks linebacker Rodney Hardrick praised the Pac-12 freshman of the year: “He reminds me of some guys we played last season, not going to name any names.  He is such a great athlete; it is exciting to play against him every day.”

Look for red shirt freshman Tony Brooks-James to be Freeman’s top back up with Kani Benoit and possibly receiver Byron Marshall rounding out Oregon’s rotation of running backs by committee.

Even with Oregon’s 1b running back out for the season, the amount of talent that this offense has is enough to make coaches in the Pac-12 dizzy.

Oregon Defense

 Last season, the Ducks gave up close to 430 yards per game, including a total of 2,481 yards on the ground.  However, the defense finished at No.31 in the country with 23.6 points per game.  With an offense that averaged over 46 points per game, the defense just needed to survive in order to win.

The disparity caused by the actual amount of yards given up, compared to the amount of points allowed, is due to the opportunities that the defense created for itself.  Much like Florida State did in the Rose Bowl, teams marched down the field on the Ducks, but made one mistake, leading to a very costly turnover.

This year’s defense will have to deal with replacing massive defensive end Arik Armstead, who was drafted with the No.17 pick by the San Francisco 49ers.  Very talented senior DeForest Buckner, along with 5-star recruit Canton Kaumatule look to solidify a defensive line that underachieved on many levels last season.

DeForest Buckner
DeForest Buckner probably doesn’t get a lot of run, DeForest, run heckles. (Photo Credit – Kevin Cline)

Losing All-American defensive back Ifo Ekpre-Olomu will be tough for this team to overcome.  Guys have been stepping up from all over, and it’s still unclear who will steal the show.  Charles Nelson, who many got to know for his play making ability as a freshman wide receiver last year, has made the switch to defensive back to help the depleted unit.

Charles Nelson
Charles Nelson-  Oregon’s version of DPE. (Photo Credit – Kevin Cline)

The defensive woes last year came from the inconsistent play of the linebackers.  This was made very evident in the thrashing that Buckeyes running back Ezekiel Elliott handed out to the tune of 246 yards, and three TD’s.  Returning linebackers Joe Walker, Danny Mattingly, Tyson Coleman, Christian French, and the aforementioned Hardrick must work on securing more tackles and giving up less big plays.

Joe Walker
Oregon linebacker Joe Walker. Not to be confused with Nebraska’s Joe Walker. (Photo Credit – Kevin Cline)

Much like the offense, the defense has the players it needs to be successful – it’s all about finding the right combination.  In an interview with Chantel Jennings of ESPN.com, defensive coordinator Don Pellum said, “We lost some terrific players, but I think overall in terms of depth and experience, we are far ahead of where we were a year ago.”

I’m Buying the Ducks in 2015

 I am betting big on the Ducks this year.  I expect the Ducks to reel in 11 wins during the regular season, with the most difficult match up being at Michigan State week 2.  A late season match up against USC comes at the perfect time, as the Ducks will look to cement its top dog status in the Pac-12.

The immense amount of talent that this team has will certainly be exciting to watch.  It will be interesting watching the offense operate without Marcus Mariota, but there comes a time where every program must move on.  This will be another exciting year for the Oregon Ducks.

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Old Guys Attempt NFL Combine, Flail Miserably

With the NFL Combine happening this weekend, I came up with hair-brained idea to find out how mere mortals would stack up against this year’s Husker invitees Ameer Abdullah, Kenny Bell, and Randy Gregory.

One of the best parts about living in Los Angeles is that fellow idiots are only a text message away. It didn’t take much convincing to get my friends Brent and Ray from the hilarious Ray’s N’ Brent Podcast to meet up bright and early on a Saturday morning knowing the only outcome would be self-induced internet embarrassment and shame.

Not long after Kenny Bell broke off a 4.42 40 yard dash at the combine, we met at the 50 yard line of one of the most hallowed football fields in all of Los Angeles- Van Nuys High. You may know it better as Ridgemont High.

Yes, it is that Ridgemont High. Unfortunately the doors were locked so we couldn’t sneak in and sniff Phoebe Cates’ locker.

Brent Todd Ray
It was an honor to stand on the very field where Charles Jefferson single-handedly destroyed Lincoln High.

Van Nuys High Wolves
True Story: After Fast Times at Ridgemont High was filmed at Van Nuys High, the school’s mascot remained the Wolves in honor of Ridgemont’s mascot.

Ray, Todd, Brent
Tale of the tape: Ray was a Randy Gregory like 6’4″ 240, your humble author was a doughy Kenny Bell at 6’1″ and 212, and Brent came in at 5’9″ and a stout 255 (aka Ameer Abdullah plus 4 bowling balls).

Our agenda for the day was the same as many prospects working out at the combine. After checking to see how we measured up/how much we’d let ourselves go, we set out to do the 40 yard dash, 20 yard shuttle run, 3 cone drill, standing broad jump, vertical leap and in lieu of decapitating ourselves trying to bench 225lbs, a push up contest would be our grand finale.

And we got it all on video.

If you’d like to rock the 8-bit Husker style, Nebraska Red Zone can hook it up. And be sure to listen to Ray and Brent’s post combine analysis and smack talk on their show.

Going from the couch to the combine is not a move many fitness experts would ever recommend. Writing this a day later, my shoulder is still sore from failing to stick a landing in the vertical leap, some side fat is feeling the pain of being stretched in a direction it shouldn’t have been and there’s a hitch in the ol’ get-a-long thanks to  shanking one too many attempts at a 20 yard field goal.

Finishing the day within two seconds of Ameer in the 40 yard dash felt pretty good but any shred of glory got washed away as I did some math while hobbling off the field.

A two second margin of victory in a 40 yard footrace means that Ameer would win by nearly 20 yards.

His top performances in the vertical and the broad jump are even more ridiculous. In our tryout tape, we jumped from the edge of the sand because we didn’t know if we could even make it to the sand. And we used the soccer goal as our vertical measuring stick because none of us could even graze the bottom of the goal post’s crossbar, we are not who to ask if you want to increase your vertical jumping.

With actual, real training (and maybe 15 years rolled off the odometer) could it be possible to even hang at the combine?

Maybe. But then there’s that whole also-having-to-excel-at-playing-football thing that gets thrown in the mix as well. Not even The Ocho has room in their schedule for pro shuttle runners.

Ultimately, the jaw dropping numbers you see put up at the combine are the result of a decade or so worth of focused, hard work. And that’s on top of a no doubt strong foundation of natural talent.

Each and every single one of those guys who make it that far all had a coach at some point who gave them the hustle beats talent when talent doesn’t hustle speech and realized talent that hustles could be unstoppable. You just gotta commit and do the work.

We’ll go ahead and end there.

I’m running late for my nap.

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