I have taken the last couple of weeks to absorb the NC game, contemplate my reactions to it, and note what others have written. I must give my wife Lois, credit for once again coaxing me out from under the kitchen table while in a fetal position. She was very gentle in talking me out amid the sobs and my cries of opportunities lost. (She had to do this in 2007 after the Dennis Dixon injury as well) The game didn’t go well for me in terms of the scoreboard and considering that it went completely different compared to what I felt we would see. Sometimes…we eat glass when predicting from a crystal ball, and I’ve wiped that and the egg off my face as I acknowledge that I was quite wrong in how the game would materialize.
I’ve got a few comments overall for two reports, and then actual game breakdown will occur after recruiting when I have the courage to watch the game again. One thing I do know—I disagree significantly with some analysis written up by the “experts” and will disprove the popular convention on a few keys plays in this game. I do think that Nick Aliotti and his defense DESERVES a NC ring, because holding a great offense to twenty points IS a championship effort, and I salute and congratulate Auburn for their victory.
Comparisons have begun as to whether we are another “Virginia Tech” who went to the NC game in ’99 and while being an ongoing champion, have not returned to the NC game. Would Oregon find themselves in the same dilemma since we got worked in the trenches at times in Glendale? Can Oregon build upon this achievement, or is this the pinnacle for the program? Are we destined to subsequent years of having winning, but not championship seasons?
I did some homework and came to a conclusion that was written up as well recently about Oregon’s last five recruiting classes. I used one major football website that does NOT have a NW bias in its final rankings and the results were surprising to me. Our recruiting ranking average over the last five years is only TWENTY FIFTH in the nation! That means that talent-wise we deserve to be in the top 25 of the nation going to a Sun Bowl or Emerald type of bowl, but did we deserve to be in the National Championship game with our talent? Absolutely not! It confirms what I’ve felt throughout the season in that Chip Kelly was coaching this team into overachievement far beyond its talent.
That element of the equation for Oregon football is changing as we had the #13 ranking in recruiting last year, and we have a top-ten recruiting class shaping up for this year as well. Put together two to three more classes of that and we will see what Chip can do with a top-dozen average recruiting ranking versus a top twenty five average talent base. One concern that fans have is upgrading talent on the Offensive Line and a recent internet article addressed that. They listed the top twelve High School Offensive Linemen in the nation based upon different abilities and of the twelve—ten were going to different colleges, but TWO are coming to Oregon! The other O-Linemen joining our recruiting class are players the coaches love and have huge upside; hence the talent in the trenches is escalating upward.
A critical component to Oregon’s attack in the future is continuing to improve at the vertical passing game to open lanes for a balanced running/passing offense. It is my view that THIS recruiting class for Wide Receivers and Tight Ends will be the fastest ever for any one year at Oregon. We have other WRs in the past as fast or faster, but NO recruiting class has this many speed-burners coming to the Ducks as this year. Throwing to them will be QBs with impressive credentials such as Bennett, (already redshirting) and Jerrod Randall, but I don’t believe I have ever seen a more impressive final video of a HS season as what I’ve seen from Marcus Mariotta. It’s hard to imagine anyone being better, and if they are—wow. It also appears that all three of these QBs have more athletic gifts than even the multi-talented Darron Thomas, the current starter. Truly, the Best is Yet to Be at Oregon!
I need to change my attitude about the ‘Natty as this was not our only shot at the ultimate college prize; it is simply another building block to what Coach Kelly is creating. It is exciting to think that our best days as Oregon fans are in front of us? Be still my beating heart!
The Super Bowl will feature the Future Oregon Defense?
Last year we blitzed nearly half of all plays and usually utilized the “Zone Blitzing” concepts created by the Master Defensive Coordinator of the Pittsburg Steelers, Dick LeBeau. You will see some masterful defensive strategies by the Steelers and watch for the variety of Blitzes they employ. We are still young in implementing the Zone Blitzing scheme, and something you’ll see in the NFL is how well they disguise it. When they line up—you have NO idea who is coming, and Oregon is still refining that aspect of our 3-4 Hybrid Defense.
I recall the conversation with Clay Matthews Sr. who told me last spring how what we are doing is similar to the Green Bay defense. Watch how the Packers disguise their defensive formations and then send a torrent of blitzers up the middle. It is hard to pull off because it is easiest for O-Linemen to stack up the middle, but when successful it leaves little wiggle-room for the QB to escape. Note also how they design D-Linemen twists to create a gap on the defense’s right side for the corner to storm through on a short field to the right side. They do that often enough to make teams overcompensate to that side, hence the backside becomes vulnerable.
In the NFC Championship game we heard from the sportscasters how Green Bay only had two down Defensive Linemen for the majority of the game. One was 330 lbs. and the other was just over 300 lbs. then I nodded as our own Defensive Coordinator’s words came to mind from my May interview as Nick told me, “I’d like two big guys down and nine fast guys on defense.” That is what you see with Green Bay, and it could be a glimpse of Oregon Defenses to come.
They have a special player in Clay Matthews jr. who plays as hybrid LB at times, and yet he is a ferocious pass rusher who demands double teams that are frequently futile. The Trojans correctly used his talents, but Green Bay has really put him space to create havoc for offenses. I know that recruit Colt Lyerla would be impossible to stop as a TE in the Red Zone at 6’5” and leaping another five feet in the air for a TD pass. Yet I cannot shake the vision of seeing HIM as the monster intimidator as a hybrid LB/DE for us in a Clay Matthews type of role in our emerging defense. As students of the game we All will be watching and learning to see the directions our new defense will be moving toward. Is this a glorious time to be a Duck or what?
Geez we love our Ducks.