My friends, this article might be the most informative about the current situation of Oregon football as you will read, yet while I wish I could take credit, I cannot as it comes from those who are currently or have retired from being paid to coach football. My reaction and feelings were published yesterday and look to learn in this article from those who know a whole lot more than I about the game. FishDuck
From the GOC: “The defense is still a mess, with no upside in sight.”
The Grizzled Ol’ Coach, Mike Morris, started his thoughts with the quote above. He added that “… the addition of Troy Dye and A. J. Hotchkins [to the defense] definitely helped – Dye a lot and Hotchkins a little. And Reggie Daniels was the best Duck on the field – when he played. Offensively, they also still have no consistent “identity” and both groups [the offense and defense] don’t know what to do when the going gets tough.”
“I can’t imagine ANYONE who thinks the Ducks are well coached. And too many of them [fans] get more joy out of pointing that out than they do watching a win.”
(FishDuck Note: Unfortunately, the coach can be upfront about many subjects and his observation of some Oregon fans does ring true. Ouch!)
From Ryan Mitchell: (former Oregon Safety) “We look good when we pay attention to detail.”
“First and foremost we should be 4-0 right now, and our loss to Nebraska was because of poor execution, and our loss to Colorado was not only because of poor execution, but our attitude at a pivotal moment in the game. So our issues are part players, and part coaches.
“Defensively, we’re just not there yet. I like where we are headed, but this is a new philosophy and it will take time. We have some moments that show promise and some that don’t, and I’ll be excited to see us a play a complete game. But we probably won’t see that until we get the guys we need and that happens when we recruit the players we need. We look good when we pay attention to detail. That tells me that paying attention to detail and the little things are being taught, just not executed consistently throughout the game.
“We will get there though. I don’t have any issues with our staff, however, the only thing I wish we could’ve employed in the Colorado loss was a sense of urgency going into halftime. I think we felt they were just going to let the clock run out, and Colorado attacked us and we weren’t ready. (That to me was the difference in the game.) So if you combine a lack of urgency with poor execution, you get our scenario. We’re just not good enough to not show up on every play and be undisciplined.”
(FishDuck note: Some good kernels of truth being shared there that are both good and bad – I like it.)
From coach Ruskin Fiegenbaum: “Brady Hoke inherited a quagmire of a situation.”
“What stands out to me is Oregon’s defense cannot get off the field, as their third-down defense is 98th in the country in terms of third-down conversions and that is with playing two very bad teams. In 2015, their third-down defense finished the year 90th in the country, while in 2014 their third-down conversion rate was 75th and in Helfrich’s first year it was 72nd. Since Helfrich has been the head coach in the 2013 season, the Ducks’ ability to get teams off the field has declined each year.
“In Chip Kelly’s four years the defense’s average finish was 42nd in the country while Helfrich’s three-plus seasons has been 83rd. (FishDuck note: the presence of Jerry Azzinaro, who came with Chip may have been a big part of that.)
“Now, the third-down conversions stat is not the end-all of all defensive statistics, but it is a great indicator of a defense. (After three-plus seasons, one can start to see trends.) The problem with the Ducks on the field is they do not have a style that they can hang their hat on. If its third-and-long, they play zone coverage and allow an easy dump off that requires them to tackle the ball carrier in space before he gets the first down. And then they often miss the tackle and the opponent picks up the long conversion.”
“When it’s a shorter third-down situation and Oregon plays man coverage and they are out of position a lot of times, thus this leads to either a completion or a frustrating penalty resulting in a first down.”
“The biggest problem to me is the tackling from the linebackers. Too many times they are missing tackles or getting dragged for yards after contact by the opponents.”
“Oregon’s defense is not playing consistently well, that is for sure – but they show glimpses. Great defenses are able to get a pass rush with just four rushers; I have seen Oregon get home [the sack] with four a couple of times, but again, it is inconsistent. If Oregon can get a pass rush with just four, it will help pass coverage tremendously since they can drop seven in coverage and still get pressure.
“I think Brady Hoke inherited a quagmire of a situation and is trying to get things turned around. The 2015 defense was one of the worst Power 5 defenses and that’s with a NFL first-round defensive lineman. I think it’s only fair to Hoke to give him at least one recruiting cycle, since the culture of defense has really slipped since Helfrich has been in charge.”
(FishDuck note: I did not know about the third-down conversion percentage declining like that – fascinating analysis.)
From coach Tom Kaspar: “Tackling, tackling, tackling …”
“The questions, [we all have] deal with symptoms of recruiting weaknesses that can’t be cured in the short term. Five RS frosh on the O-line is one example, while the most recent recruiting class had but two ESPN-500 players.” (The Chip Kelly norm was six or seven.)
“I see more pain ahead unless the current adversity can be used by coaches to build a brotherhood that plays for each other and to hell with the scoreboard.”
(FishDuck note: Great observations in areas that we fans would not always think of.)
From Nigel Burton of the Pac-12 Network: “Those things [on defense] have got to get fixed or that thing is going to explode.”
Coach Nigel Burton played corner for the Huskies, was a Division 1 head coach, and was a defensive coordinator himself. I heard him speak at a Coaches Clinic, and he was very knowledgeable and charming, much as he comes across on television. He had some really interesting quotes in his video analysis below, including the title of the entire article. He starts by stating that …
“It is a difficult task – I have been there twice changing a defense from the 3-4 to a 4-3.”
His video below is only a little over two minutes, but it shows us a ton about the problems on defense. He is very clear how, in one example, Oregon had both the defensive tackle and defensive end on one side take the wrong gaps.
The University of Oregon athletic department cannot get annoyed with FishDuck.com for publishing some negative when the worst of what I have, came from their own Pac-12 Network!
“I don’t know what is happening with this defense …”
(FishDuck note: Wow.)
How interesting was all of that? I have never assembled an article quite like this, and appreciate the response from the coaches to my very-late-night email. I personally learned a bunch, and it is so fascinating to get the different perspectives from professionals in the game.
We got negative and positive, … despair – and hope. We read a complete gamut of opinions, and I hope you learned some things about football and not just Oregon, that will make us all better fans and enjoy our beloved Ducks and college football that much more.
Charles Fischer (FishDuck)
College Football Analyst for FishDuck.com
(P.S. Do check in Tuesday for a tasty play analysis of something I thought I would never see come out of the playbook again….)
Top Photo from Video
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