My friends, the title above is true. I am still blown away just thinking about it.
As a 30-year season ticket holder and lifelong observer of Oregon football, I have never gone into a Spring or Fall Football Season like 2017, and it will be that way for all of us; we have never had a season in our lifetime that has this many questions before the first game.
Usually we have three or four storylines or themes to keep an eye on for Spring Football and Fall Camp, but this year it seems like there are thirty or forty questions that the Taggart-era Ducks need to answer. Indeed, we know hardly anything about the coaches, the schemes Oregon will be running, and how they intend to use both current players and new recruits.
In fact … it is all questions. There is no status quo going into spring. This is unchartered territory, folks.
Prior to this year, we knew the coaches, we knew what they would run, and how they would utilize the talents of the players. Oh sure, you had a new coach here and there, but continuity was the hallmark of the program. Thus our questions were few in contrast to what we will be watching for and learning now.
Is Coach Taggart going to adjust his offense (his quarterback at South Florida was running a lot) to a more balanced approach, as Helfrich did to utilize the skills of Marcus Mariota? Terry Wilson looks more stout as a runner, and has quicker feet than Justin Herbert, and there are rumblings that Travis Jonsen has changed his body and improved his skills significantly in the off-season.
Or will Taggart retain his run-heavy offensive emphasis and thus open the way for a new QB starter at Oregon?
It will be interesting to see who the “Jets” will be within the new Jet-Sweep Series in the Oregon offense; will it be Tony Brooks-James or Charles Nelson? Or will it be a freshman stepping in at that role such as Jaylon Redd, Daewood Davis or Cyrus Habibi-Likio?
Heck … I have significant questions about some returning upperclassmen! Can Royce Freeman make it through a season without being beat to heck? In the Cal game (long before the season ended), he had no wiggle or speed to turn the corner like we saw earlier in 2016 against Virginia. Can Darren Carrington put his issues aside and have the blockbuster year everyone thought would happen a season ago? Will Charles Nelson get his head back together (that was one curious phenomenon; he was making poor judgments from the very first game last year)?
Defensive Coordinator Jim Leavitt runs a 3-4 defense, but will he run it as a one-gap defense as Oregon employed in last year’s 4-3 defense, or will he operate a two-gap 3-4 defense as Nick Aliotti and Jerry Azzinaro did in the past? The difference in technique used and the type of player profile along the defensive front is vast between the one and two-gap defenses. Further, can these coaches teach their chosen schemes effectively? This is fascinating stuff to watch for.
Something that helped Leavitt at Colorado was a dominant 325-pound Nose Tackle (above) who commanded double teams on every snap, while Azzinaro had to make do with a 275-pound Oregon defender in the center of the Duck defense. Can Rex Manu or new freshman Jordan Scott fulfill that important zero-technique role for Coach Leavitt? I cannot recall ever having this many questions about a Duck football team going into a spring or fall football, and that does not even account for the fact that we know nothing about this new staff.
This is the single most interesting football season at Oregon, ever. The upcoming drama and entertainment of seeing it unfold has not ever happened in my lifetime, and here at FishDuck.com we plan to dig into the offense and defense and pass along all that our coaches discover as we always have.
“Oh how we will love to learn about our Beloved Ducks!”
Charles Fischer (FishDuck)
College Football Analyst for CFF Network/FishDuck.com
Top Photo by Craig Strobeck