The “pre-season” starts this Saturday for the Ducks. Bowling Green, Portland State, and San Jose State occupy the Ducks first three weeks until the real action begins at home against Stanford on September 22nd.
Not the typical non-conference slate we’re accustomed to, but you gotta’ play the hand you’re dealt, and the Ducks can use this soft slate of games as serious practice games to help answer several key questions coming into this season.
(We’d of course prefer there to be at least one super-juicy non-conference game against a Power-5 opponent, but as we all know Texas A&M backed out of the 2018-2019 home and home series with the Ducks.)
Here’s a list of things we’d like to have some clarity on by the time Stanford comes to town.
A) Running Back: While senior Tony Brooks-James appears to be the lead back coming in. Senior Taj Griffin, sophomore Darrian Felix, freshmen CJ Verdell, Cyrus Habibi-Likio, and Travis Dye are all in the mix.
Who will be the number-two back? Or, possibly even supplant Brooks-James as the lead carrier?
B) Wide Receiver: The Ducks are led by returning juniors Brenden Schooler and Dillon Mitchell, sophomore Johnny Johnson III, and grad-transfer Tabari Hines. Freshmen Isaah Crocker, J.J. Tucker and the 6-foot-5 Bryan Addison will vie to snag some of Justin Herbert’s passes.
Will anyone turn into a true No 1? Will two or three of them step-up to become reliable targets to round out a sold receiving corps?
C) Offensive Line: The new focus from Head Coach Mario Cristobal is a lethal blend of ground ’em and pound ’em mixed in with speed.
The Ducks currently have a very experienced O-line, but are they the right kind of “hogs” to get it done the way Mario? Or, are we still a recruiting cycle or two away from fulfilling Cristobal’s vision up front?
D) Defensive: Man oh man did the defense truly step it up last season under first year coordinator Jim Leavitt. They were easily twice as good as the year before.
Now can they once again be twice as good as the year before? (I’m no mathematician, but I believe that would make them 75% better than in 2016. Nice!)
E) Herbert to the Next Level: Sure, we here on fishduck are a little biased towards our own. But, I have a hard time believing there is a current college quarterback who will make a better pro than our very own Justin Herbert. He’s got all the tools (size, arm, intelligence, etc..). Herbert should go down as the best NFL QB prospect in the land this season.
Can Herbert stay healthy, improve as a leader, and continue progressing his overall game?
F) Injuries: You hate to see injuries happen at any time, but especially against cream-puffs. Nothing you can really work-on to avoid them, just pray for good fortune.
Can the Ducks avoid early key injuries?
G) Playing Time for Youngsters: Speaking of avoiding key injuries, one way to do that is to have a huge second-half lead so a team can rest its starters, hence providing valuable playing time for freshman and backups.
Will the Ducks blow-out the patsies to allow for this?
H) New Offense: The new identity is to be a mix of Chip Kelly’s ultra-fast offense with good ole’ southern smash-mouth football. Cristobal, OC Marcus Arroyo, and running back’s coach Jim Mastro will be the chefs in the kitchen mixing together this fine delicacy.
What kind of taste will this fusion offense leave in our mouths?
I) Coach Cristobal: He’s won the off-season, now it’s time to win the regular season. He’ll have the luxury of having three practice games to help establish himself as the right guy to lead the Ducks in the regular season.
Is he the man?
J) The Test: Of course these first three practice games are the lead up to the first real test of the season against Stanford on September 22nd.
Will the Ducks be ready to take down one of the Pac-12’s elite? Or will they be stung with inconsistencies and mediocrity?
What the heck do you think?
Top Photo Credit: Kevin Cline
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