EUGENE — Seven months ago, in a prosy corridor underneath San Antonio’s Alamodome, a double doors of Oregon’s locker room solemnly opened.
Out walked a brew of administrators, staffers and successful Ducks donors. After witnessing Oregon exhaust a record-tying 31-point halftime lead, their demeanour was that of a common thousand-yard stare.
Plenty of eyes are on a Ducks once again as they start practices for a 2016 deteriorate Monday.
Nineteen months after personification for a College Football Playoff inhabitant championship, a closest Oregon is approaching to get to this year’s playoff is a participation of jaunty executive Rob Mullens, who this tumble will offer his initial deteriorate on a preference committee.
It’s not indispensably a hit on a Ducks; opposed to be in college football’s chronicle of a final 4 is a grub that allows few, if any, missteps over a camber of a 12-game unchanging season. New in 2016, however, are questions of either UO’s foothold in a Pac-12 North is loosening.
In May, Las Vegas bookmakers pegged Oregon for an over-under of 8 victories. Two months later, a Pac-12 check of media picked Oregon to finish third in a division, behind reigning champ Stanford, which, like Oregon, is acid for a new starting quarterback, and opposition Washington.
Those projections and a shrill drumbeat of hype surrounding a young, talent-laden Huskies, has irritated many in a UO group who take emanate with a idea that Oregon competence be usurped in a Pac-12 pecking sequence by a purple-and-gold opposition — one that hasn’t beaten UO given 2004.
There’s usually one approach to infer it — on a field. The multiplication pretension will still run by Eugene, as a Ducks horde both a Cardinal and Huskies during Autzen Stadium this fall.
To invert some forecasts of a step-back season, Oregon contingency residence a caveats that dawdle in each UO deteriorate preview. The hedges are due in partial to Oregon’s fall in a Alamo Bowl, that scarcely blotted out all a movement from UO’s six-game winning strain that led into a play and positioned it as one of a country’s hottest teams.
From that roster, a Ducks lapse a size of descent talent to furnish a top-10 scoring offense for a ninth uninterrupted season. They total some-more firepower on signing day, as well. The burst balls corralled by beginner receiver Dillon Mitchell in May’s open diversion were a provoke for fans devising how defenses will try to cover him, Darren Carrington, Olympic hurdler Devon Allen and parsimonious finish Pharaoh Brown, who is healthy after sitting out 2015 due to injury. And that’s before holding into care a other options during receiver and a hazard of Royce Freeman, who reset Oregon’s single-season rushing record a year ago with 1,836 yards, and now is 1,881 yards divided from gnawing LaMichael James’ career mark, too.
And yet … what about a quarterback competition?
NCAA potency personality and one-year send Vernon Adams Jr. is gone. Jeff Lockie and Taylor Alie, a usually quarterbacks with diversion knowledge during Oregon, were kindly ushered out of a foe this spring. That leaves a competition for a starter to Dakota Prukop, another connoisseur send from a Big Sky Conference, and freshmen Travis Jonsen and Terry Wilson. Each warranted regard during open practices, and a leader will be surrounded by a resources of talent. But a struggles of Lockie and Alie final season, when Adams was hurt, valid that Oregon’s QB pursuit isn’t as plug-and-play as some believe.
Coach Mark Helfrich, who is 33-8 in 3 seasons UO, is assimilated again by a nation’s longest-tenured staff.
But … what about a new faces in pivotal roles?
Two first-time coordinators are in assign of Oregon’s offense and defense. Together, along with Helfrich, they will try to poke a Ducks behind toward calmer waters after a boom-or-bust float of final season, where unawareness on invulnerability and during quarterback left UO with a slim domain of blunder in a 9-4 deteriorate — a initial though during slightest 10 victories given 2007.
Matt Lubick’s spin during a controls of Oregon’s video-game offense follows the Dec depart of Scott Frost to Central Florida. Well-regarded via his career for his communication and detail-oriented nature, Lubick has betrothed few tweaks to Oregon’s signature uptempo attack. Lubick will continue to manager receivers, as he has with a Ducks given 2013, while new sinecure David Yost will be tasked with building quarterbacks, a position of biggest scrutiny.
On defense, a changes Oregon has done given it trudged off a Alamodome territory have been major, if not wholly wholesale.
If Oregon’s offense performs adult to a potential, a invulnerability contingency usually be serviceable, not otherworldly, to win.
But … after ranking 100th or worse, out of 127 teams, in 6 categories a year ago, can a invulnerability recover a disruptive reputation?
One of those statistics was points per game, of that UO authorised a school-record 37.5 points in Don Pellum’s second deteriorate as coordinator. It resulted in a longtime UO partner usurpation a demotion to coaching linebackers dual days after UO’s three-overtime Alamo Bowl loss. Erik Chinander, a immature outward linebackers manager praised for his recruiting skills, followed his tighten crony Frost to Central Florida though a rest of Oregon’s defensive staff earnings in John Neal (secondary) and Ron Aiken (line). Their plea is meshing their total 4 decades of knowledge during Oregon with a prophesy of their new boss, Brady Hoke.
The comfort turn Hoke has with his colleagues is identical to that of using a invulnerability full-time for a initial time: He’s hung around both for a prolonged time, though never utterly been this tighten before.
Hoke has famous Oregon coaches, including Pellum, given coaching during Oregon State in a early 1990s, and crossed paths recruiting a West Coast with Helfrich during several points. His knowledge as conduct manager during Ball State, San Diego State and Michigan is something Helfrich remarkable was attractive; Helfrich can daub into it when questions arise.
Out of that laxity emerges a invulnerability that UO hopes will demeanour code new in many respects. Hoke’s switch to a 4-3, that Oregon hasn’t run given 2008, is a curtsy to his credentials coaching assertive defensive lines and is his gamble on how to hint a turnaround. Spring practices became a lab, of sorts.
Players practiced to a scheme, that creates new responsibilities essentially for linemen and linebackers. Meanwhile, coaches looked during a abyss draft with uninformed eyes after a depart of 6 starters — 5 seniors, and Charles Nelson, who will concentration on offense in 2016.
The Ducks could plea for their second discussion pretension in 3 seasons if a breaks go their way. Their report facilities 8 opponents that played in bowls final season.
The caveat, as always, is if.
Oregon starts a hunt for answers Monday morning.
— Andrew Greif