“Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious summer by the return of spring ball.
And all of the clouds that low’r’d over men’s basketball
In the deep bosom of helmets and pads buried.”
Richard III Act 1, Scene 1, 1-4 (kind of).
OK, I admit that it’s a big stretch of Silly Putty to equate the opening of spring football with the House of York’s overthrow of the Lancaster’s, and Edward IV’s coronation.
But it was the Wars of the Roses that inspired Shakespeare to pen Richard III. And there is a most Evil Empire in the north that our 2019 Men of Oregon will attempt to bring to ruin as they look to recapture the Rose Bowl throne — one that has eluded them since the departure of “King Marcus I.”
Going into 2019, how do the Ducks stack up against the treacherous Dogs of Montlake and the dreaded House of Petersen?
Preparing for Battle
Edward IV was a big man. Historians reckon that he stood 6’4” — big for today, and huge by the standard of the 15th century. He was a fierce warrior-knight who always led his men from the front lines of battle. Mounted on an armored war horse, he must have been a fearsome sight for any enemy to behold.
In 2019, Oregon has its own sturdy knight: Sir Justin Herbert, who at 6’6″ and 230+ pounds bests King Edward. (Fortunately, he does not best King Edward in the pursuit of wine and women, which ultimately ended with the King’s untimely death and the short, unhappy reign of Richard III.)
Sir Justin is not as fleet of foot as King Marcus or as Edward was on horseback. But he is certainly more athletic than the misshapen Richard III and more than capable of escaping any enemy who attacks him in the pocket.
Oregon fans are blessed that Sir Justin spurned the promised land of NFL riches and returned to lead the Duckies in the 2019 quest for the crown.
A blessing on him, but there are questions regarding his play and that of his surrounding cast. Perhaps we will get some preliminary answers to these questions by the end of spring ball.
Can Sir Justin duplicate the success of Edward at the Battle of Towton? Can he win the games that matter and not just the skirmishes against lesser foes? Indeed, he did triumph over the Dawgs of Montlake last season, but does he have any other big win to his credit?
And in 2019, can he be a better leader when campaigning on the road and outside of the friendly battlements of Autzen? No crown will be won without road wins. No crown will be won if the team is not ready to do battle — especially afield from Autzen.
Can Sir Justin be as accurate with his throws as the feared English archers were with their arrows? And with the vaunted Duke Dillon Mitchell eschewing Eugene for the pros, will he have targets to throw the ball to? If we see a return of the 2018 Hands of Teflon receiving corps, the quest will be over before it begins.
The receivers must make the easy catches, win the battle for 50/50 balls and help out their QB with the occasional great catch. Look at what Clemson’s wideouts did in this year’s championship game, and all that they did to help out true frosh QB Sir Trevor Lawrence (aka the Young Awesome One).
Next, will the yeomen, the offensive line, step up and consistently play to their potential? Almost all of the media scribes project Oregon to have the best offensive line in the conference and one of the top five nationally in 2019. These guys need to road grade the better teams — not just the Oregon States of the world.
Having the two leading rushers return makes no difference if the line can’t open holes. No team is going to have consistent success throwing the ball without a decent run game.
It’s time for the big uglies to live up to the hype.
And what will we see from new Count Andy Avalos? Will the defense improve? Will Duck defenders be able to make routine tackles? Will the vaunted incoming frosh have an immediate impact on that side of the ball? Will one or more of these youngsters be able to help out Master Troy Dye and the other returning players?
After all, we have seen five-star rated D-linemen journey to Eugene before and leave without an iota of on-field success.
Finally, at least based on the recruiting rankings, we know that General Mario Cristobal and his fellow officers can recruit. Never have the Ducks seen this level of rookie talent (at least on paper) flocking to Eugene.
But can they coach these kids up? We have seen many a five-star player across the country never improve beyond what he accomplished in high school. Then there are the programs like Alabama, where Cristobal studied under the great Saint Nick, which turn highly ranked players into top NFL draft choices. Will these young Ducks improve their play when going against college athletes?
Of equal concern, will the team be ready to ball out from the opening whistle on the road? If the Ducks are to take back the Roses from the House of Petersen, they cannot no-show against Wazzu and Utah like they did last season, and utterly fail to compete like they did in Tucson.
There can be no more “acceptable” defeats for this coaching staff. And while it’s not necessarily representative of what we will see in 2019, the 2018 offense was often unable to overcome deficits.
“All of Autzen is a stage.
And all of the roster and the coaching staff, more than mere players.
One man in his time plays many parts.
His act now spanning two ages.”
As You Like It Scene 7, 139-143 (kind of).
Here is how us fans will like it: On August 31, 2019, grab a Tiger by its tail and do not let up before beating the Beavers into submission on November 30th. Hopefully, spring ball will have us fans feeling that the 2019 run for the Roses will be a true pursuit and not a futile … quest?
Georgetown, Texas Top Photo by Kevin Cline
Andrew Mueller, the FishDuck.com Volunteer Editor for this article, works in digital marketing in Chicago, Illinois.
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