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
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.