Recently, I’ve been reading up on Duck foes for the upcoming football season.
Oregon has what looks like a challenging and intriguing schedule laid out for their 2013 season. They face Tennessee at Autzen stadium, and go on the road to Virginia, Washington and Stanford. There is also a schedule-capping 117th Civil War game, where the Ducks will look to extend their winning streak to six.
Despite the head coaching change, most of the crystal ball types are forecasting based on personnel, and what little could be gleaned during brief glimpses at the spring game, that the Oregon offense should again be an obvious strength of the team. It could be argued (…perhaps by teams like Arizona) that the Duck defense will again be a familiar formidable force and may play an even bigger role in team success for 2013.
When scouting the individual team rosters each opponent presents unique challenges. From Tennessee to Arizona, Oregon will face a gauntlet filled with top-level athletes and coaching staffs, not to mention rabid fan bases, who no doubt will be pointing to the Ducks game as a huge opportunity.
Coaches desperate for a spark might just pull out that double reverse pass, or surprise onside kick. Opposing stadiums will be that much louder. Rival fans will likely carry an added intensity after shot-gunning those few ”extra” beers in the parking lot because of the big game implications.
Many teams nationally are now tweaking their uniforms and bringing in elements of Oregon’s successful spread option offense. Of course, those things are only a part of the successful equation in Eugene. What makes Oregon so good is the combination of having skilled players on the field and maximizing their talents within a system tailored to their abilities.
When looking at the offense threats of Oregon’s coming opponents, waiting will be a Duck roster of players ready to counter virtually anything you can throw at them. Add to that the skill of defensive players that the Ducks have faced everyday in practice. And the defense has the advantage of running against these schemes for the better part of a decade now, not to mention having the unique nucleus of coaches that have spent 20 years or more together at Oregon.
The Ducks have carved out roles for the specific types of athletes best designed to fit their system. With an ever improving recruiting reach, Oregon is now at a point where they can target specific skill sets and sign top talent that is able to immediately make a meaningful impact on the field.
Glancing at the Oregon roster, there is plenty for opposing coaches to worry about. The Ducks have some serious size, speed, and skill on both sides of the ball. Of the 85 man roster, who stands out specifically? Who would the average person least like to go against in a tackling drill?
I present the 2013 Oregon Football “All-dark Alley Team:”
(The list of current Ducks that you would least like to enrage in a dark alley)
#44 DeForest Buckner – 6’7″ 265 lb. Sophomore
He is not the tallest or heaviest Duck, but Buckner has a distinct towering presence on the field. Breaking onto the field initially on special teams as a freshman last season, #44 has progressed into a solid rotation player on the defensive line, showcasing good quickness and strength against largely older and more experienced players. He has been mentioned as a standout during spring practice and seems primed for a bigger role this year.
#92 Wade Keliikipi – 6’3″ 300 lb. Senior
While Wade is not as big as fellow senior Ricky Havili-Heimuli, who is 6’4″ and 321 lbs., Keliikipi is exceptionally violent on first impact, and seems to have a non-stop motor for a player his size. He has notoriously played through a variety of lower leg injuries over the past few seasons, but can be dominant when healthy. His game goes beyond the classic interior clogger role of a defensive tackle, he plays with good leverage and has surprising speed to pursue ball carriers when he is able to shed blockers.
#75 Jake Fisher – 6’6″ 294 lb. Junior
Jake Fisher made a bit of Oregon history after he came off the bench as a true freshman against LSU when senior Ramsen Goldpashein suffered a season-ending injury. Fisher not only played the rest of the season, but he was effective and, at times, dominant. The hulking offensive tackle turned in an impressive sophomore campaign that included a touchdown on a De’ Anthony Thomas fumble after the near 300 pounder rumbled 40 yards downfield. Effective as a run blocker or in pass protection, with another solid showing this season, Fisher has the measurables and production to play his way into the upper rounds of next years NFL draft.
#15 Colt Lyerla – 6’5″ 246 lb. Junior
“Colt Lyerla is a BEAST!” Just ask Jerry Allen, or one of the many Kansas State Wildcat defenders that clung to Lyerla as he dragged them across the Fiesta Bowl field. If you have watched him in games, or on you tube jumping out of pools or into lifted truck beds, it is clear that Lyerla has got some rare physical abilities. Now in his third year in Oregon’s system, Colt will be key to the Ducks offense next year not only in catching passes or fighting for extra yards, but he has been downright dominant as a blocker and looked pretty good as a jumbo tailback/quarterback carrier last season.
#9 Arik Armstead – 6’8″ 297 lb. Sophomore
Arik Armstead came to Oregon as one of the more highly regarded recruits in recent history, and he joined a stout defensive line class that included the starting lineup against Cal of Armstead, Buckner, and Alex Balducci. One of the largest overall players in Oregon football history, Armstead figures to take another step forward after a full year to adjust to the college game. After an off season that included a trip to the Sweet Sixteen with the Oregon basketball team, early indications from spring reports suggest that he is growing into his immense potential.
#71 Everett Benyard III – 6’7″ 307 lb. Senior
After redshirting his freshman year, Benyard III had seen his role expand more each season and played in 14 games in 2011 before being injured in 2012. Now as a senior, Everett will likely be called on to thrash defenders at both tackle and guard next season.
#84 Stetzon Bair – 6’9″ 270 ib. Freshman
Duck fans at this point know very little about Bair other than he has a really cool older brother, and an even cooler name. Like his older brother Brandon, Stetzon may need still some seasoning before becoming a prominent force for the Ducks. He makes this list however, because at six-foot-nine, he might just be the tallest Oregon football player of all time.
Almost made the list: