Offense. Defense. Special teams. While Oregon may not be Alabama or Ohio State in terms of tradition, prestige, or heritage, the Oregon football program has a rich history filled with star-studded teams and immense talent in all three phases of the game.
Among the long list of former Oregon football players, a handful stand out atop the school’s record books, cemented in legendary status. While some of the records set in different eras may appear untouchable, such as Tom Graham’s 206-tackle season back in 1969, others are well within reach of current Ducks.
Last summer, I posted an article covering the modern players who had a shot to break school records in 2012 or over their careers. This is an updated version as we head into the 2013 season.
The first record to look at is the all-time passing mark. Currently, this figure sits at 8,343 yards by Bill Musgrave, who started all four years of his career under center. Fortunately for Marcus Mariota, he too got the starting nod as a freshman.
In 2012, the “Flyin’ Hawaiian” posted a conference freshman record with 32 passing touchdowns and 2,677 yards while leading the team to a 12-1 record. Should he stay for all four years of his career and remain healthy, he would only need 1,889 yards per season over the next three seasons to eclipse Musgrave’s total.
Even if he departs for the NFL a year early, which is a definite possibility given his success a year ago, Mariota will need 2,833 yards per season, a figure that is definitely within reach, especially considering the amount the Ducks ran the ball and sidelined Mariota thanks to big leads in 2012. Let’s just hope he doesn’t bolt for the NFL two years early!
In terms of rushing, LaMichael James and Kenjon Barner absolutely exploded after Chip Kelly took over as head coach in 2009. The two finished their respective careers as No. 1 and No. 2 all-time in rushing in school history, and James even surpassed the 5,000 yard mark.
There may not be anyone currently on the roster (at least anyone we’ve seen play yet) who will be able to match these numbers. Even De’Anthony Thomas would need 1,900 yards over each of the next two seasons, and there is a good chance that he may leave early for the NFL. Incoming freshman Thomas Tyner was one of the top running back recruits in the country this year. An athletic freak, Tyner could definitely make a push for James’ record throughout his career as a Duck. He would need to average 1,271 yards over a four-year career, or 1,694 yards over a three-year career to do so.
While De’Anthony Thomas might not be able to break the rushing record, he could definitely break the scoring record, a title that James also holds. James scored 348 points for the Ducks in three years, while the Black Mamba has posted 218 points of his own in two years. Those remaining 130 points are certainly attainable for Thomas – even this year alone – especially with an increased role likely coming his way on offense.
Samie Parker and Bob Newland dominate the school’s receiving records, but let’s not forget that Josh Huff has been around for a while. He would need to have a huge year, recording 96 receptions for more than 1,500 yards, but as Oregon’s No. 1 receiver, it is plausible to think that Huff could match Parker’s career numbers. To put it in perspective, nationally, 11 players hauled in at least 96 passes in 2012, and three eclipsed 1,500 yards, so it is not an impossible feat.
On the defensive side of the ball, the records appear further out of reach. Back in the early 1950s, all-around stud George Shaw, the only Duck to ever be selected first overall in the NFL draft, posted 18 interceptions in his career.
Currently, three players on the Ducks (Boseko Lokombo, Avery Patterson, and Ifo Ekpre-Olomu) have four career interceptions, while safety Erick Dargan has five. Lokombo and Patterson likely will not match Shaw’s number with only one year of eligibility remaining.
Ekpre-Olomu would need seven interceptions in each of the next two years to match the record (assuming we have him for two more years), while Dargan would need to average 6.5 picks per year in 2013 and 2014. While this would be a tall order for either player, it is not unreasonable to think that they could accomplish it. Ekpre-Olomu could also set a precedent in terms of forced fumbles, after forcing six last year alone.
In terms of tackles, Tom Graham pretty much took everyone else out of contention with his 433 career stops back in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Among his incredible accomplishments was a 41-tackle performance in the final game of his career.
Heading into last season, four-year starter John Boyett was at least within reasonable range of Graham’s career mark. However, this season there is not really any one player who could achieve this mark any time soon. Perhaps younger studs or an incoming freshman could do it over four years, but for now, it seems arbitrary to make that kind of projection.
In fact, the Ducks’ leading active career tackler is senior Avery Patterson, who has 118. He would need more than 300 tackles in 2013 to match Graham’s number, a virtually impossible accomplishment.
The all-time sacks record may be a bit more feasible, though still a long shot. Nick Reed set the high mark with 29.5 sacks over his career. This season, Taylor Hart comes in with 12.5 career sacks. Though it would be a truly outstanding accomplishment, Hart would need 17 sacks to meet this number.
A truly underrated player, Hart has the talent to have that kind of season. To put it in perspective, the national leader in sacks over the past three or four seasons has been around 16 sacks, so he would need an outstanding year. Though it would be tough with Nick Aliotti regularly substituting players in on his front seven, Hart has a high ceiling.
As far as the kicking game goes – one of the few areas in which the Ducks have struggled over the last few years — Jared Siegel sits atop the school’s position standings with 323 career points. However, Matt Wogan, a highly-touted incoming freshman, has a chance to take over kicking duties right away, and should he be “the man” for a healthy four years, he would need only 81 points per year to beat Siegel, a feasible possibility even in an aggressive Oregon offense that usually goes for it on fourth down.
Many across the nation sell the Oregon football team short, acknowledging only its modern high-powered offense. However, the Ducks have long succeeded in all three phases of the game, and have a rich history to prove it.
Past Ducks such as Shaw, Graham, and Musgrave all shined during their time in Eugene. Nonetheless, these modern Ducks will not let their records stand forever.
Given the talent of the 2013 Oregon team, it is not unreasonable to think that we will soon be seeing a handful of new names atop the school’s record books as the Ducks push for another conference championship this season.
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