The Top Three Least Outrageous Headlines for Next Season’s Offense

Last season, Royce Freeman put up incredible numbers for a freshman. Now, he is back and ready to improve upon last year.

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

Royce Freeman

Kevin Cline

Royce Freeman

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

Expect Tyner to make a comeback next season.

Kevin Cline

Expect Thomas Tyner to make a comeback next season.

“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.

  1. Vernon Adams, Jr. Struggles in Summer Ball, Loses Starting Job to Jeff Lockie
Lockie, at least initially, will likely earn the starting spot.

Kevin Cline

Lockie, at least initially, will likely earn the starting spot.

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.

  1. None of Oregon’s Receivers Finish with More Than 800 Yards Receiving
The return of Bralon Addison should be huge.

Kevin Cline

The return of Bralon Addison should be huge.

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

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Caleb Couturie

Caleb Couturie

Caleb is a sophomore at the University of Oregon intending to double major in Journalism and Sports Management. He is the Managing Editor for FishDuck.com, along with being a lifetime Saints and San Francisco Giants fan, as Caleb fell in love with sports at a young age and developed that love into a passion for sports analysis. He is looking forward to cheering on the Ducks throughout his career at Oregon, and is always willing to talk sports with any fellow fan.

  • maddog48

    While I tend to agree with much of what you say, where I take exception is with your description of Eastern Washington University’s football team/program as ” very weak”. Had you done your research, which appears to be a short-coming on this site these days, you would know that EWU has been one of the top FCS teams in recent years. Before you label a team as “very weak” perhaps you should do your research – a shortcoming on Fishduck these days.

    • Caleb

      In terms of FCS you’ve got me, but I was more referring to EWU compared to Division 1 FBS schools (like UW and OSU). It’s all relative. I’m sorry for not communicating that clearly in my writing. I know EWU isn’t weak in their respective conference.

      • Anthony Joseph Gomes

        of those 2 schools you mention EWU beat the beavers twice and the huskies once(though not when adams was QB) and rang up 52 points against the huskies in a loss. thats 3 wins and one close loss. you call that weak?

        • Caleb

          I think Adams played two of the best games of his life against UW and OSU and I think EWU came out with something to prove. That doesn’t mean they can sustain success at the D1 level, especially once D1 teams get deeper into their schedule.

  • George Nash Khier

    Disagree about Adams. Oregon’s offense is based on speed and deception both qualities where Adams has a definite edge over Lockie. Also Adams has played on the big stage, Lockie sometimes looked lackluster last year just in a clean up role. If I was a betting man my money would be on Adams, he will just make the offense work and the players will rally behind him. Locke and Adams will share time but as the season goes on Adams will take over.

    • Caleb

      I agree 100% with everything you said. If you read carefully I try to say Lockie will start initially, with initially being the key word. Once adams gets some experience with the team under his belt he should certainly be the starter, my guess is as early as week 2 against MSU and as late as week 5. BUT, what I will stress as I did in my article is that so much of success comes from experience, something Adams has almost none of with this current team. Adams is the much better quarterback and athlete, he’ll just need some time to adjust.

    • Anthony Joseph Gomes

      lockie looked lackluster? you actually saw lockie play meaningful minutes? lockies resume consists of 3 things: 1. a 157 passing efficiency rating in garbage time…which would have made him the 13th best QB in the NCAA…but i dismiss that as not being terribly useful information…but i definitely would not hold it against him either. 2. his solid performance in the spring game….useful, positive, but not real in game experience with full pressure…and 3. the single poorly thrown ball in the national championship. certainly this did not give a good impression but it was in a must throw situation where everyone knew the pass was coming against one of the best defenses in college football coming into the game cold. i think jeff lockie has been very patient and shown awesome character living 3 years in the shadow of MM which speaks well of him but we have yet to see him tested and until we do he will remain an enigma.

  • Anthony Joseph Gomes

    ive been watching some whole games of vernon adams and not just the highlight reels…here are my observations:

    1. adams receivers had some dropped balls. im convinced that many throws his former receivers missed ours will not.

    2. with the exception of EW #10 cupp his receivers were not good route runners for the most part.

    3. adams has a tendancy to make bad decisions under pressure. a couple pick 6’s ..you never saw mariota throw those. does not always do an optimal job of keeping the ball away from the defense.

    4. his O line sometimes did a horrible job picking up the blitz and the better teams took full advantage of this. i think oregon can do better..i hope they can.

    5. adams definitely had some problems seeing over defensive lineman….that can only get worse at the next level.

    6. EW uses the hurry up offense like oregon does but does not appear to employ the read option. he is always looking to throw the football. never saw him willing to just take off up the gut if the D backs and backers laid too far back. oregon will definitely expect him to do that at the next level if his number gets called.

    conclusion: adams reminds me of a less physical version of jeremiah masoli but with better accuracy and somewhat less football smarts. not sure about the football smarts….hope he proves me wrong about that.

    • Caleb

      I think that’s a very impressive and accurate analysis. My only addition would be that he has a tendency to extend plays and look for the home run instead of taking the easier dump offs- agains something Marcus never struggled with.

  • MAITAIDUCK

    Totally disagree about Adams who was almost in the conversation about being a Heisman canidate. Steve Mcnair is the only other ever to do so. He was working with players around him that weren’t very good and he still performed at a high level. His completion % is one of the few things that is or was better than Marcus as it shows him getting the ball to receivers in stride where often times receivers had the ball under thrown from Marcus. Doesn’t matter that he’s 6 ft tall as we almost lost the RB to a 5 ft 11 QB who is 1 of the best in the NFL right now. Adams is a BALLER period and as far as Dropped Balls you must not of watched the Championship game as receivers dropped quite a few balls that stalled drives that eventually cost us that game. Even with 5 starters injured on offense OS still really didn’t stop our offense. Adams will come in and will win the job more than likely no later than the 2nd half of the MSU Game. He is a very intellegent QB High QB IQ. Also Adams threw for over 10,000 yards in 3 seasons over 6-5 guys so Height will not be a problem because most routes are timing routes so he just needs a window to see that’s all. WOW I’m still wondering what some of these fans need to see to be impressed with what Oregon has done in the past 20 years to see this staff knows what they are doing. They wanted VA over Braxton Miller because he’s a better QB period. Football smarts is maybe like this, you obviously are not a Coach or really don’t know what your talking about. He is obviously way better than Masoli because this guy actually has a chance to play at the next level as a QB and this is the reason he came to Oregon because he clearly see’s this as his best chance to do so. I’ve watched game film of him and your observations of him are totally incorrect.

  • Anthony Joseph Gomes

    i will tell you why nobody from oregon will win the heisman this year. because a duck won it last year and the committee normally does not like to give out the award twice in the same year to the same school. unless that school has loads of money to spend on fluff and publicity and cares about that stuff like U$C, alabama or FSU or one of those.