Devil’s Advocate with Duck Football

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Featured image courtesy of Kevin Cline photography.

As the summer months grind along, anticipation for the new football season begins to build among fans everywhere. Recruiting, pre-season watch lists, conference media days, and even the annual release of the football video games all have a way of adding fuel to the fire.

Will this be another record breaking season of scoring for the Ducks?

Kevin Cline

Will this be another record breaking season of scoring for the Ducks?

At this time of the year, every team is undefeated, and there are several reasons that each fan base can be optimistic, yet so many unknowns likely remain.

For example, how much will a certain player benefit from another off season of conditioning, film sessions, and learning the nuances of the playbook? Which position groups will be improved from a year ago? Is the new recruit as good as advertised? How might coaching changes affect the team? The questions can begin to pile up.

Fans can hope for positive answers, but, what if everything goes wrong?

Like everyone else in 2013, the back-to-back BCS bowl champion Oregon Ducks have questions of their own, and perhaps more so than others. So, what are the biggest questions for the Ducks, and what if “Murphy’s Law” prevails?

After all, how often do things in life work out exactly the way you expect? Take a team like Washington for instance. Sure, they’ve been dreadful for over a decade, but I’m sure they didn’t PLAN on going 0-12 in ’08…

Let’s play devil’s advocate here and examine some worst-case scenarios for the upcoming football season:

Oregon still can’t kick a field goal

Duck fans have come to realize that there is no more helpless feeling for fans than watching a potential tying or winning field goal kick fluttering through the air, off line. So there’s no need to recap the field goal inconsistency that has plagued Oregon the last several seasons.

The bottom line is, when you need a field goal it helps to have a kicker with an accurate leg and confidence. Ask anyone who has ever picked up a golf club, the more you think about your swing, the worse your shots become.

In 2012, the Ducks’ field goal conversion rate of 53.85 percent ranked 117th out of 124 teams nationally. The 64 percent rate in 2011 was slightly better, ranking 80th. This needs to improve.

To add depth to the position, Oregon signed a freshman kicker, Matt Wogan, who by all accounts has a ton of potential. But, if he is not ready,

Can Oregon's stars stay healthy in 2013?

Craig Strobeck

Can Oregon’s stars stay healthy in 2013?

can the current players provide a better conversion rate?

The linebackers struggle

Ah yes, the linebackers. This position group has been the consensus go-to for most media and fans looking for areas of concern in 2013. Not a ton is known collectively about the current group. We do know Boseko Lokombo is expected to hold down one side, but injuries, closed practices and a lack of in-game reps has made the other linebacker positions a bit of a mystery.

This uncertainty arrives after several seasons of relying on the solid play making and leadership of guys like Casey Matthews, Spencer Paysinger, Kiko Alonso and Michael Clay. The latter two led the Oregon defense in tackles by a wide margin and combined for 24 tackles for loss.

What if this group struggles to replace all that production? What if they can’t tackle anybody?

Key Injuries

No lengthy explanation required here. A successful team should be greater than the sum of its parts, but enough injuries to those parts can derail even the most promising seasons.

Helfrich is in over his head

Mark Helfrich is the luckiest guy in the world, dream job in his home state, head coach for what has now become a title-contending national brand. Or is he?

Let’s face it, the trajectory piloted by Chip Kelly is going to be a tough act to follow.  A record of 46-7, three consecutive conference championships, four straight BCS bowl appearances, Rose and Fiesta Bowl trophies don’t just fall out of the sky.

Rich Brooks to Mike Bellotti worked, and so did Bellotti to Kelly. Following that pattern, Helfrich is rightfully the next in line. But can he really be asked to raise the bar much higher? He has done a superb job as an assistant and so far, so good, but can he handle everything involved to be a good head coach over the long term?

Chip was good, can Helfrich be better?

Kevin Cline

Chip was good, can Helfrich be better?

What if he can’t?

Stanford wasn’t a fluke, OSU/Wash are also legit

Each of the past several seasons, the Ducks have one game where they can’t seem to find production on offense. In these edge-of-your’s-seat styles of games, a missed assignment, a turnover, a missed down field block or tackle can impact the outcome. UCLA in ’08, Boise State in ’09, Cal or Auburn in ’10 and Stanford last year all followed a similar script.

The Ducks clobbered Stanford in 2010 and 2011, but what will the 2013 game, the probable conference game of the year, look like? What if Stanford can repeat its impressive results from last season?

Sinking further into the land of half-empty; Oregon has a half-decade winning streak against little bro OSU and going for ten straight in the Washington series this season. Did the Beavers’ rebranding and the Huskies’ makeover in the off-season have an impact on the field? Is one of those teams due for a win against the Ducks?

There is my list of concerns for next season.  What do you see as “worst case scenario” items for the Ducks?



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