With a maximum four-year career in NCAAF, player turnover year-to-year creates questions under the best of circumstances. It gets even tougher when players have stellar seasons and then bolt for the NFL as soon as they are draft-eligible.
The NCAA defines a returning starter as a player who started a minimum of five games in 2012 – or started in a prior year but missed the season due to injury. According to ESPN, the 10-year average of returning starters in the PAC-12 is 14.9 per team. The number is higher for 2013, 15.6 per team, up from to 14.4 in 2012.
Our Ducks return 15 starters, eight on offense and seven on defense. This lands Oregon right in the thick of things for returning starters in the Pac-12. Washington leads with 20 returners, while Utah bottoms out at 12 (see below).
Returning starters not only make coaches happy, but pollsters as well. USC returned 19 starters last season, which was a strong argument for their No. 1 preseason ranking by the AP. On the other hand, Arizona State returned the fewest in 2012 at 10 and finished the season with an 8-5 record.
Though not deemed a “starter,” the biggest shoes Oregon football filled this offseason was on the sidelines as ex-head coach Chip Kelly took his talents to the NFL.
Oregon may not lead in returning starters, but fifteen returning starters, Mark Helfrich assuming the controls of an offense he helped build, and Marcus Mariota with an extra year of experience sounds like a BCS-bound recipe to me.