Fentress Follies and Fearless FishDuck Predictions

Fentress FP2

As it is time to reveal my 2016 Oregon football predictions – and the reasoning behind them – I look back to the last two weeks and marvel at how some notable sports journalists got called out here on FishDuck.com.

Senior Editor Mike Merrell eviscerated Stewart Mandel of Fox Sports and then skewered Todd McShay of ESPN a few days later. Yours truly called out John Canzano of The Oregonian two weeks ago, and now I take issue with Aaron Fentress of Comcast Sports NW in his assertions about the path of upcoming season for our beloved Ducks, while offering up my own intrepid predictions.

Royce Freeman

Gary Breedlove

Royce Freeman

One difference? I’ve always liked Fentress, and I enjoy his sense of humor and yes, his charm on camera. I have little regard for the other aforementioned journalists, and like you, enjoyed how Mike revealed the incompetence of two of them.

In the case of Fentress – I could overlook his massive errors if he were a hack (like me), but when he gets paid to know Oregon football and is actually labeled as an insider by Comcast? Then the declaration of my CPA friend, the aforementioned Mike Merrell, surely applies:

“Such nonsense cannot go unpunished.”

What did Aaron say that was so objectionable? After our disastrous bowl game last season, he wrote that Oregon fans need to get used to this; nine-win seasons are the new norm and Duck fans will have to adjust (I’m paraphrasing).

On television recently, the discussion was about whether Royce Freeman had a good shot at the Heisman, and Fentress asserted that “it was possible if Oregon had 10 wins or more … but they won’t.” Oh, geez, another nine-win season prediction in line with all other Pac-12 media buffoons?

Remember last year’s predictions?

2015 Prediction

What I did NOT see was a defense that was so porous all season, and what I wrote in last year’s predictions would up getting quite a bit of ridicule from many quarters. I doubled-down by stating that Vernon Adams would break many of Mariota’s season’s records, which got people howling when it was written in July … long before anyone watched him play. Yet that is what a real prediction is – done before the season and not in October – and not a “we’ll see,” or other hedged nonsense that wussies hide behind. Be a man and stand your ground (Pac-12 media, anyone?).

What the world saw was a quarterback (Adams) who led the nation in Passing Efficiency, and when healthy (as most now agree), could have led us to a 12-1 season and into the 2015 College Football Playoffs. We were one play away from beating Michigan State with an injured Adams, and one first down away from beating Washington State with Jeff Lockie at the helm. So, an 11-1 regular season record and a berth in the Pac-12 title game could have easily occurred even with an all-time weak defense. From there, just one more win and it’s PLAYOFF TIME!

I could spend a ton of time building up to my ultimate prediction, but let’s get on with it so you know precisely what I am thinking …

Oregon is going to the 2016 College Football PLAYOFFS!

Oh yeah. We are, and let’s see why I would believe that.

Aidan "gets us off the schneid."

John Sperry

Aidan “gets us off the schneid.”

Special Teams will be Special

Has Oregon ever had a complete total package of talent and experience on Special Teams like it has this year? Aidan Schneider is money (33-of-36 career field goals) as the placekicker and Matt Wogan has punched more kickoffs into the back of the end zone than anyone in recent memory. Ian Wheeler did not have great distance last year but was superb with placement inside the 20-yard line, and I believe he will improve upon his 39.5 per punt average.

Seeing a back-up tailback returning kickoffs (Tony Brooks-James) is a talent placement that works, but noting Charles Nelson also on kickoffs and punt returns? This feels like the glory days of excitement for these plays returning as Nelson will have some giddy-up in his steps from not having to make tackles at safety as last year. Veterans Tanner Carew (long snapper) and Taylor Allie (holder) fill out an experienced Special Teams squad that could vault Oregon to victories the way we saw in the 2010 season.

OK, Big-Boy … what about the new 4-3 Defense for 2016?

People forget that prior to last year’s team giving up 37 points a game, the 2014 defense gave up 23.6 points per game - second in the conference for scoring defense. When the Ducks are scoring an average of 45 points, they will win most of their games, as they did in 2014 en route to the National Championship game. I wrote extensively this spring about the philosophy of the new defense and how it manifested itself in the Spring Game. I believe we can be in the top five in the conference for scoring defense this season.

I am targeting an improvement down to giving up 26 points per game (which is not that great, but we face a ton of Spread Offense teams), and I believe this defense will put the Oregon offense on the field for more snaps in the first three quarters, thus scoring more - like a 46-47 point average per game.

Hence, this new defense (with the change in philosophy) will help the offense score more points this year, while the biggest defensive improvements will come in 2017 as personnel is better matched up with Brady Hoke’s objectives and defenders have their assignments refined. Nonetheless – we will see fewer points scored, more turnovers generated and more time of possession for the Oregon offense due to Hoke and his new scheme (you see … that is a prediction, and not an observation after-the-fact by the chicken hearts who call themselves sports journalists).

Darren Carrington scores!

John Sperry

Darren Carrington scores!

The 2016 Offense is the most loaded, deep and talented skill group at Oregon EVER.

Let’s look at who will not or may not be on the 2017 team next year to give you perspective: Nelson (possibly going early), Dwayne Stanford, Darren Carrington (going early), Devon Allen (possibly going early), the freak Pharaoh Brown, Evan Baylis, Tyrell Crosby (likely going early), Cameron Hunt, Dakota Prukop, and Freeman (going early).

These are all exceptionally talented players; and this is only on offense! In other words, we are absolutely stacked this year at the skill positions. Up front, did know Oregon has five veterans on the offensive line that either started in the past or have played extensively? With redshirt freshmen passing three of them on the depth chart (not to mention a grad transfer who was an all-conference player last season), one can assume these young guns are very, very talented.

I think that some of the upperclassmen had a religious experience as they were Left Behind.

Imagine you are a Pac-12 defensive coordinator who tells your corners that they must match up in coverage on Nelson and Carrington, but watch out for “Mr. 3rd-&-8” converter, Dwayne Stanford, who will mess you up on the short routes. The Freak will have special play packages for him (as in 2014), and is truly a match-up nightmare because of his blocking ability. But when he blows past a linebacker with his WR speed and route-running, it plays havoc on your game plan.

However, you’ve worked long and hard and have your plan on defense set to slow the Oregon passing game and all of its weapons. Congratulations, and well done. But you forgot about a 230-pound battering ram of a Heisman candidate in the backfield. I’ve heard of stretching the field, but this is simply insane to try to stop. Oregon can hurt you at every spot on the field, and with the field so stretched, huge holes will open in the run game to gash you further (oh, yeah … we are the conference rushing champion – for the past decade).

This offense will set new scoring records at Oregon where the bar is already pretty darn high, but the quality and depth of talent on the field and in the coaching booth is too good to ignore that inevitability.

Not very charming, but is much more accurate.

From FishDuck.com Video

FishDuck – Not very charming, but he is much more accurate than some pundits.

FishDuck … you always predict greatness for Oregon because you are a brown-nosing, boot-licking, suck-up to the UO Athletic Department, and a sunshine-pumping tool who is the biggest homer ever on the web.

Well … I’ve been called worse.

It is not all cushy for Oregon, as I am very concerned about both safety positions; when Nelson had to move to defense after only four games last year? That was the most dramatic band-aid done for immediate effect that I’ve ever seen at Oregon, but it was well justified.

When I see a safety doing a chicken-wing tackle in game replays – I just go nuts. Williams has potential, but not much game experience and the other position? Don’t get me started. If those positions don’t play better than last year (significantly), then the defensive predictions I made are in serious jeopardy.

Have you thought about 2017? Don’t.

That talented offensive group listed above is going to be missed like never before; all bets are off for the next year, as we’ll have a massive rebuilding year. So I will state the negative when I see it, but for 2016 - I smell Roses - and more!

So what about Aaron Fentress?

Often wrong, but he's still charming.

From Twitter

Often wrong, but Aaron Fentress is still charming.

He is but just a part of the entire cabal of Pac-12 journalists that makes me feel like I’m surrounded by idiots.

On that aforementioned television program where he spoke of Freeman’s Heisman chances? He went on to say that “this year will not be great for Oregon, (under 10 wins) but next year the Ducks would be much better!”

I could not believe my ears; he has predicted precisely the opposite of reality!

How can you be any more wrong … and be paid for this un-researched, banal gibberish?

Oregon’s Secret Weapon

The ignorance of the pundits has a hidden benefit in that for the first time in a very long time, Oregon will be the underdog. This team has been dismissed, disregarded and disrespected – and it is not just the roster of players. This is a coaching staff that has watched everyone predict Oregon’s demise for a very long time. “You’ll be toast without Jonathan Stewart, or Dennis Dixon, or LaMichael James or Marcus Mariota.” The list is long. In addition to the lack of confidence expressed in the players, the media expresses near contempt for the Oregon coaching staff.

So, let’s see … a loaded, talented team that has players and coaches with a chip on their shoulder? Wow. Look out!

I can hardly wait.

“Oh how we love to learn about our beloved Ducks!”

Charles Fischer  (FishDuck)
College Football Analyst for FishDuck.com
Eugene, Oregon

 Top Photo from Comcast NW Video

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Charles Fischer

Charles Fischer

Charles Fischer has been an intense fan of the Ducks for thirty years and has written reports on football boards for over a dozen years. Known as “FishDuck” on those boards, he is acknowledged for providing intense detail in his scrimmage reports and in his Xs and Os play analyses. He and his wife Lois, a daughter, Christine, and their dog (Abbie) reside in Eugene, Oregon, where he has been a financial advisor for 30 years serving clients in seven different states. He does not profess to be a coach or analyst, but simply a “hack” that enjoys sharing what he has learned and invites others to correct or add to this body of Oregon Football! See More...

  • cfluegge

    Nice read, FishDuck. I will say you have NEVER seen a half-empty glass. LOL. However, I think you sell the talent we’ll have in 2017 a bit short. I think we’ll reload with Benoit, Brooks-James and true frosh CJ Verdell at RB. And Griffen, Brown, Ofodile and Mitchell at receiver (would have loved to see what Merritt could have done for us). TE will be biggest area of need…

    • FishDuck

      Well, next year COULD be better than what I am projecting, but the facts to me remain that THIS is the year with more talent and opportunity, contrary to Fentress. Thanks for coming by Casey!

      • Mike Merrell

        I have to agree that this year looks loaded, most obviously at the offensive skill positions. And there will certainly be some big shoes to fill in 2017. But the X factor for 2017 is Justin Herbert, If he continues to develop the way he has over the past four weeks. When you factor in Dillon Mitchell, a maturing offensive line and overall development on defense, “14” could be the number on all those Seattle jerseys by the end of 2017.

  • Platypus

    Fentress is entertaining but needs to do a lot more homework before he offers any creditable predictions. Two things stand out to me for success this season, #1 Defense #2 Defense…Just get two more stops per game last year and the Ducks go 11-1. If somehow they can improve to #57 nationally (which is twice as good as last year) they will have that chance to shut all the ‘Donut Holes’ of the experts, although that is just a side benefit of the real goal.

  • Ed Emberlin

    People are saying that we have a young O-Line…but there is a BIG difference between young because you have to be and young because they beat out the veteran! We are the later at 2 of the 3 new positions.


    I totally agree with pretty much everything you’ve stated Charles and I believe this defense will be evn better than what you’ve stated and the DBs will be a strength. Fentriss I’ve always considered an idiot like Clownzano and the rest. They don’t watch game film to they wouldn’t come up with their 2nd guessing schemes. They truly aren’t Football experts just like ESPON’s selective dipsticks. Oregon I said would get new offensive records because the D will be attacking instead of read and react so that just means more chances for our offense. I believe all these moronic people just love to HATES the Oregon Ducks and their success. Because thats all that ever comes opuit of their mouths is DOOM AND GLOOM about 1 of the most talented rosters in all CF. Thanks Charles and as usual you hit it right out of the park.

    • FishDuck

      We love MaitaiDuck! (Especially when he loves us) Thanks for your remarks and man….I can hardly wait for Saturday!

  • douglas fur

    With too much time on my hands I looked up Michigan vs Utah 2014. Now I’m worried. Against a good PAC12 team the Hoke defense seems to have some holes in it. His emphasis on LOS and penetration looks like it gives opportunities to the passing game and runners who make it to the second level.
    I guess that is in general true of any defense, the basis of “Control the line = win the game”.
    How does your learned eye see it?


    • douglas fur

      Post game: the defense is better this year and it improved during the game. Looking at a dozen UCD pass competitions the range was 4-27 yds, the median ~11.5yds, and the average 12.9yds. So the mid distance hole exists at about 11-13yds. Is this a weakness of the 4-3 or just where most successful passes fall against any defense?

  • duckusucker

    Gotta disagree ’bout ’17. QB play could be better. Running game w/Benoit, Verdell, Griffin, and T B-J will be as good. TE recruiting was excellent— but it is a tough position to learn w/Duck special demands; my money is on Osborne doing a great job. WR? Not all that can go will go (Stanford or Allen should remain). Brown and Ofodile are true talents and throw Mitchell into the mix and it all looks rosy.
    D and O lines should be stronger as young guns get a valuable year under their belts.
    Sorry, but I think Fentress is half right: 2017 will be a fine vintage.