Oregon Football Week 1: Sizing up the Red Wolves
The Opponent: Arkansas State Red Wolves
10-3, 8-0, Sunbelt Conference Champions, GoDaddy.com bowl losers (38-20 vs Illinois)
The first meeting in the two team’s history will kick off at 7:36 pm Autzen Stadium Saturday. It will be the 2012 season opener for both teams.
The OTHER forecast:
A slight breeze from the north expected, with highs nearing 80. However, even though pregame might still feel like summer, the low for the day is 46, so be sure to bring that (Green) sweatshirt with you!
What They do:
With a new coaching staff and players on this team, who knows?
Malzahn has been noted for his speed and tempo-based offensive acumen at every job he has had. Whether or not his schemes will be effective against an Oregon defense that is used to matching up against speed, might be a tough task in his first season. Starting in Arkansas as a high school coach, before ultimately transitioning into the college ranks, Malzhan served as the offensive coordinator at Auburn during the 2010 BCS Championship game against Oregon, and also last season, before accepting the head job in his home state of Arkansas.
Inheriting a 10-win team from last year, including senior quarterback Ryan Aplin, should bode well for the new head man. The reigning Sun Belt Offensive player of the year was named to the Davey O’Brien and Manning award watch lists for this season after completing 63.9 of his passes for a school record of over 3,500 yards and 19 TDs, also pacing the team in rushing with nearly 600 yards and 10 more touchdowns coming on the ground.
The three year starter needs just 290 yards passing to surpass Cleo Lemon as the most productive in school history.
With Malzahn came a host of transferring talent such as RB/KR David Oku from Tennessee to help in the backfield, and Michael Dyer from Auburn. Although Dyer is no longer with the team, the roster includes at least two other capable backs in Sirgregory Thornton and Frankie Jackson.
Wide receiver Dwayne Frampton had the most productive season in Red Wolves history a year ago. Arkansas State boasts some incredible size at the receiver position. Likely to step up in his place this season will likely be the 6’4″ 210 lb. rSR Taylor Stockemer (48 rec, 756 yards 7 TDs), 6’3″ 215 lb. SR Josh Jarboe (54 rec, 730 yards 2 TDs), and 6’4″ 215 lb. Allen Muse (16 rec, 154 yards, 2 TDs)
Expect an option based, run heavy attack from the Red Wolves early on. If they can get a few positive plays, watch out for deep play-action passes or any number of “trick” plays such as flea-flicker or halfback passes to try and surprise the Ducks and steal some momentum. Should they fail to score or gain many first downs within their first few possessions, this one could get ugly. Ryan Aplin is clearly a talented quarterback and will have some proven targets to throw to, but will their plays have time to develop in the face of the Oregon pass rush?
This will be the debut of the Oregon offense featuring Marcus Mariota and Bryan Bennett instead of the record-setting Darron Thomas; and Kenjon Barner, De’Anthony Thomas, and Byron Marshall toting the rock instead of current 49er LaMichael James. But there is so much more to watch from the Ducks in this one.
It will also likely be the debut of several newcomers stepping into new roles. Specifically, receivers like Keenan Lowe, Bralon Addison, and BJ Kelley will likely make their first catches of their careers. Colt Lyerla, Pharoah Brown, Evan Bayliss, or exactly which of the tight ends step up will also be an interesting battle. The offensive line rotation will be fun to watch, as the young and deep pool of talent is certain to get plenty of reps as the depth chart continues to get refined.
On defense, Oregon is expected by many to field one the most complete units in years. Look for our Ducks to be flying to the football, and pay close attention to how fast the Oregon defenders close in on the Ark St. ball-carriers. Anywhere you look on the field, Oregon’s roster might prove to be overwhelming for an upstart program like Arkansas St in their first year under a new coach.
The Arkansas State Red Wolves are an interesting team, and it will be worth keeping tabs on them to see how they fare against other opponents this season, particularly vs Nebraska.
They return arguably the best quarterback in their history to go along with some SEC level talent in Oku, and an energetic new coaching staff. Expect coach Malzahn to come in with confidence and have his team ready to play, and perhaps a few tricks in store for the Ducks.
Arkansas State will move the ball and score in this game, but it won’t come easy, especially against the ones. Look for the Oregon starting two-deep to simply overmatch Arkansas State on both sides of the ball. Their defensive line will struggle to get any sort of penetration, and their offensive line will struggle to muster much of a push.
If the score predictably begins to swing in Oregon’s favor, particularly the second half will provide the backups with some much needed game reps. Oregon rolls up over 300 yards on the ground, and limit the Red Wolves to under 100.
Oregon – 52
Arkansas State – 16