“They are very, very athletic.” – Arizona Coach Rich Rodriguez, describing the Oregon Ducks, who had just de-clawed his Arizona Wildcats, 51-13 in the 2014 Pac-12 Championship Game.
Rich Rod got that one right, and it’s something for whoever matches up against the Ducks in the first-ever College Football Playoff to think about. If you read the comments section to get the feel for fan reactions across the country, you will see that while some fans – even from as unlikely fan bases as Alabama – are respectful, the idea that the Ducks aren’t worth much more than plucking the down for fluffy pillows persists. (Scroll down to some of the lower comments — the top ones are mostly positive. Ironically, the most negative seem to come from the Florida State folk, including a member of the sheriff’s office, who should probably be out making arrests.)
Some of the nay-saying against the Ducks is just trollful, wishful thinking, but there are those who just haven’t woken up. Even going into the game, comments indicated that the majority of Arizona fans thought their Wildcats had the upper hand.
Lost in the negative thinking about the Ducks is exactly the point that Rich Rod brought up. The Ducks are very, very athletic, and not just on the football field. Two players in particular – whose athletic prowess is not limited to just football – gave the Wildcats fits. Devon Allen, only a redshirt freshman and already a two-time national hurdles champion, had five receptions for 46 yards and an athletic touchdown. Basketball star turned punt returner Johnathan Loyd added two receptions for 13 yards and kept giving the Ducks field position with four punt returns for 61 yards – almost as an afterthought to leading his team to the Sweet Sixteen in the 2013 NCAA Basketball Tournament. That’s a total of 120 yards of ball movement on offense and punt returns, better than half of what Arizona got on those parameters from its entire team. From a track guy and a basketball guy! That’s not just good football, it’s top level athleticism.
But it doesn’t end there. Duck defensive lineman Arik Armstead (top photo) had a go at basketball and made the Ducks’ travel squad before deciding to concentrate on football. For those who still think Oregon is “too small,” that’s 6′ 8″ and 290 pounds of athleticism on the defensive line right there. And you have to believe that 6’2″, 305 pound Doug Brenner has a little athleticism in his genes. His sister, Liz Brenner, has lettered at Oregon in softball and basketball, and has lettered AND made All-American at track & field (javelin) and volleyball.
And then there’s Marcus Mariota … Athletic … very, very athletic.
Top photo by Kevin Cline