NFL Draft Helps Usher In New Era At Oregon

Photo by Kevin Cline

Jordan’s multi-faceted game will be missed

By next Sunday night, as many as five former Ducks could find themselves on planes, headed off to the next venture in life, with the NFL staring them in the face.

Back in Eugene, spring ball 2013 will soon be a wrap, ushering in the quiet period until we officially kick off fall camp in August.

The 2012 senior class – led by Dion Jordan, Kenjon Barner, Kiko Alonso and Michael Clay – will forever be remembered as the most successful class to ever break a huddle in Autzen.  (The huddle, of course, applies to the defensive players only).  Their postseason tally included four BCS games, with two BCS wins.  They were winner of three conference titles, and endless memories.  There was a title game and snooze-fest blowouts.  They embodied efficiency and tenacity.  They provided a blueprint for success.

With the loss of those young men, as well as the force behind their success in Chip Kelly, it truly is the beginning of a new era for Oregon, with so much still to gain and yet so much to lose.  A national title is still the ultimate goal, but this feels like something different.  Sure, that goal is still attainable.  With the talent Oregon has, nothing is out of the question.  These pieces of the Kelly era are moving onto bigger things, and one can’t help but wonder where the program heads from here.

Major penalties from sanctions don’t appear to be too likely at this point.  We won’t know for sure, obviously, until the final rule comes down, but for the first time since Chip left things feel safer in Eugene.  It feels as if the fate of the program will be settled on the field, where it should, instead

Photo by Kevin Cline

Thomas will help Oregon transition under Helfrich

of a courtroom.  It will depend more on Scott Frost’s play calling than Willie Lyle’s testimony.  More emphasis will be placed on Marcus Mariota’s ability to figure out Stanford’s defense than on Helfrich’s ability to recruit with severely limited scholarships.

For a program that has steadily built itself through innovation, perseverance, and hard work, nothing would be more fulfilling than reaching the holy grail of college sports.  That’s the ultimate goal for every player across the country that straps on the pads.  For the Ducks, if that goal is reached in the near future, it will be met with rolled-eyes and skepticism around the country.  Oregon cheated, they’ll say.  Many schools do – it goes with the territory of big money football.  That doesn’t mean they don’t deserve what they will earn.  Alabama has cheated before.  Auburn has cheated.  Florida has cheated.  All of them have won titles; all have persevered.

Oregon will do the same.  They will be fine.  They have good people in place, good talent and a good backing.

The future is bright, no matter how different things will look come September.

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Joel Gunderson

Joel Gunderson

Joel Gunderson grew up in a small town, where the only thing he did for fun was worship the Oregon Ducks. He later moved to Eugene, where he studied journalism at the U of O. After working in radio, he married the woman of his dreams and settled down. Joel now spends his days studying Journalism and the fine world of grammar, all the while worshiping the ground that Charles "Chip" Kelly walks on! Follow him on twitter @gundy85

  • robert Stroup

    Alabama and Florida have persevered. It doesn’t seem like Auburn belongs in that same category, however. People can overcome what seems like a little smoke, but there’s a conflagration on the plains.

  • hokieduck

    “Cheated?” Cheating, by definition, requires the intent to violate the letter of the law in order to gain an advantage.

    The NCAA was unequivocal in its assessment of the major violations it found to have been incurred by Oregon coaches and staff. First, there was no institutional lack of control. Second, there was no unethical conduct. Third, there was no attempt on the part of any coach or employee to knowingly violate the rules in order to gain an advantage.

    I do not call that “cheating.” Violating rules, yes. Deserves to be punished, yes. Cheating, which again implies a knowing attempt to bend or break rules in order to gain an unfair advantage, no. Did Chip, et al, push the envelope as hard as they thought legally they could? Yes, of course, that is their job. Were they wrong in their interpretation of the 1987 rule regarding recruiting? Yes. But to call them cheaters does a disservice to the entire football program and university.