There’s already been a lot of speculation about the outcome of Oregon’s 2015 season, despite the fact that the team has had very little time to practice with its full roster. As is customary with the football off-season, the media (FishDuck.com included) does its best to deliver popular and provocative headlines that create conversations among Duck fans.
Some headlines are reasonable, like how the Ducks receiving corps could be one of the best in school history. Some are unreasonable, like expecting Oregon to bring home back-to-back Heisman Trophies. Most are somewhere in between.
As fans, we’re always encouraged to remain optimistic about our team’s future season, but that doesn’t mean we have to be unreasonable. So, for the sake of sanity, here are the top three least outrageous headlines for next season:
1a. Royce Freeman Will Not Win the Heisman Trophy
Look, there are a ton of factors that play into this but here are the two to focus on: Running backs don’t win Heismans, and Oregon doesn’t have featured backs. I know, I know, shocking! But let’s be real. As much as I’d love to watch Rolls Royce bring the Ducks back-to-back Heismans, it’s not going to happen. That would require Oregon to go back on everything that has made it a dominant football program.
The Ducks are feared for being a versatile offense with weapons of all shapes and sizes, and whose constant personnel changes give opposing defensive coordinators night sweats. Oregon is not known for running one back into the ground; save that for Wisconsin. The last year Oregon didn’t have at least two running backs tally 100 carries in a season was 2010, and history isn’t likely to repeat itself in 2015.
Oregon is famous for its running back-by-committee approach, and the only running back to win a Heisman in the last ten years, Mark Ingram, won because the Heisman committee was reluctant to give it to Case Keenum, the Houston QB, who threw for 5,671 yards and 44 TDs in a weak American Athletic Conference.
Not only is it extremely unlikely that any RB will win a Heisman trophy next year, it is even more unlikely that a running back from Oregon would receive the honor. And, no, that is not something that should upset you.
1b. Royce Freeman’s Stats Will Actually Decline in 2015
“Okay, Caleb, first you’re telling me Royce won’t win a Heisman and next you’re telling me he’ll have a worse year than last year? Are you a closeted Husky fan?!” No, easily-offended Oregon fan, I’m not. In fact, you too should be happy to hear this headline! Freeman rushed 252 times last year for 1,365 yards, more than doubling Thomas Tyner‘s marks of 113 carries and 573 yards.
However, those numbers come with an asterisk. Tyner missed four games last year due to injury, and he was substantially less than 100% for the majority of the 2014 season. In short, Freeman was great, there’s no doubt about that, but Tyner is by no means a second option. Not too long ago Tyner was the top recruit for the Ducks, and, in fact, Tyner showed enormous promise following his freshman season as the second RB behind Byron Marshall.
Now that Marshall has seemingly converted permanently to a slot receiver, it’s not improbable that Tyner and Freeman split carries next season, with the possibility for Tyner to even overtake Freeman later on in the season. Again, this is no knock on Freeman’s ability, but instead a reinstatement of some of the praise that Tyner seemed to lose after an injury-prone sophomore campaign.
- Vernon Adams, Jr. Struggles in Summer Ball, Loses Starting Job to Jeff Lockie
Trust me, no one wants to see Vernon Adams start more than I do. The kid is an athletic freak of nature, not unlike past Oregon QBs, and he performed admirably against solid Division 1 opponents despite the very weak EWU team for which he played. Adams’ stat line against Pac-12 opponents in his career is scary good, with the quarterback throwing for 886 yards and 11 touchdowns with zero interceptions in games against Washington and Oregon State.
His ceiling is atmospheric, but there are other factors to take into account. He’s just now beginning to learn a playbook that took Lockie years to master, and also has little to no chemistry with the current members of the team. Lockie has grown up with some of the guys on this current team, and they’ve watched him develop from a perpetual bench warmer to the potential starter.
Although, as athletes, Lockie and Adams are in two separate dimensions, there are still a lot of hurdles Adams will have to overcome to reach even half the level of Lockie’s preparation. That, along with Lockie’s strong showing in the spring game, strongly suggests that the starting job might initially be awarded to Lockie.
- None of Oregon’s Receivers Finish with More Than 800 Yards Receiving
Okay, so maybe this headline isn’t fun or even controversial, but it’s very very likely. It’s not due to lack of talent, that much is abundantly clear. Oregon has receivers seemingly pouring out of its ears, with last year’s top receiver, Marshall, returning. Marshall tallied 1,003 yards last year in his first year since switching from RB to WR, but all signs point to a decrease in production for the senior stud.
Not only does Oregon undergo a change in quarterback in 2015, but the WR position is so deep head coach Mark Helfrich might need to take a page out of John Calipari‘s book and run a platoon system. Seriously, outside of Marshall, there are eight viable candidates for starting time next year. Pharaoh Brown, Bralon Addison and Devon Allen return from injury, Darren Carrington will eventually return from suspension, Dwayne Stanford and Evan Baylis return as solid veteran options, Jalen Brown is an emerging deep threat, and Alex Ofodile is one of the most promising freshman receivers in the nation.
For goodness sake, just look at that sentence. That’s one of the longest sentences I’ve ever had to write, and it was simply because I was trying to describe the state of Oregon’s receiving corps next year. There will be so many options and so many different looks for Helfrich and Scott Frost to throw out next year that it should be almost impossible for a player to top 800 yards next season.
Similarly to Headline 1b., though, this should not be a disappointment. Oregon is arguably the deepest offense in the nation coming into 2015 in terms of skill players, and the numbers should reflect just that toward the end of the season.
Top photo by Craig Strobeck