There’s one thing I need to say before I start this post. There is no athletic team on the face of this green earth that I despise more than the Ducks. The arrogance and indecency brought forth by their fans and players is unbearable. You would think they would be perennial Rose Bowl winners with a few National Championships sprinkled throughout given the way they carry themselves…Try one Rose Bowl victory…in 1917. That’s WWI people! Anyways, this is supposed to be a preview not a history lesson so let me get back to the present and we’ll take a look at who will be on the field for the “always-personable” Chip Kelly.
2010 Record: 12-1 (9-0)
The Ducks are going to be good this year. Very good. It hurts me to say it but the human highlighters should continue their winning ways as they have for the greater part of the past decade. After losing a heart-breaking National championship game to Auburn on a last second field goal, the green and yellow look to return to a BCS bowl game for the third season in a row.
Their no huddle spread-option attack that put up incredible numbers last season (530.7 YPG, 47 PPG), returns many key players including Hesiman trophy 2nd runner-up LaMichael James. The junior from Texarkana, TX led the country in rushing with 1,731 yards, 21 touchdowns, and an average of 5.9 yards-per-carry. His backup isn’t too shabby either. Kenjon Barner rushed for 551 yards and 6 touchdowns making the duo one of the best 1-2 punches in the country. The brain behind the well-oiled machine of Kelly’s offense is Darron Thomas. A threat in the air, as well as on the ground, Thomas is a master of the misdirection and option. You will frequently find the defense guessing at who has the ball. One area of question is at receiver, where the Ducks lost Jeff Maehl and D.J. Davis, who combined for 1,546 yards and 15 touchdowns last year. The only returning starter is senior Lavasier Tuinei. Also look for sophomores Josh Huff and Daryle Hawkins to fill the void and stretch the defense. The O-line returns 2 starters, and has to fill the center position, which is a key part of an offense like Kelly’s.
As for the defense, it lost many key players in it’s front seven. The lone returning starter on the defensive line is DE Terrell Turner, but don’t expect it an issue. The Ducks rotated nine players last season so there isn’t any lack of experience. The linebackers lost three-year starters Casey Matthews and Spencer Paysinger, but there are players waiting in the wings to step up. Michael Clay looks to be on his way at weak-side linebacker, whereas returning starter Josh Kaddu will continue to be on the strong-side. The secondary is by far the most experienced unit of the defense with the return of All-American cornerback Cliff Harris. Alongside him at safety will be John Boyett who was second on the team in tackles a year ago with 78.
The newcomers to the team this year are very impressive. Colt Lyerla and DeAnthony Thomas lead the class and figure to vie for solid minutes from the start. Lyerla played linebacker and running back in high school but plans to see time at tight end. As for Thomas, he was all over the field, playing cornerback, running back, and wide receiver for Crenshaw High School in Los Angeles. Right now he looks to be the third string running back behind James and Barner.
Oregon will be tested right out of the blocks as they face off against #4 ranked LSU in Cowboys Stadium on September 3rd. This should be a great test of how the Ducks compare against the best in the country. On a side note, they will be without Cliff Harris due to a speeding infraction that occurred in June. If the ducks can get past the Tigers in week one and take care of Stanford and company in the Pac-12, they should be in the conference championship game looking at another Rose Bowl or National Championship berth. Another thing to watch is the ruling of the Willie Lyles recruiting investigation. With all the issues happening off the field, it will be interesting to see if the distractions affect their play…which I would not mind one bit.
My Prediction: 11-1 (9-0), Rose Bowl