I have never been so torn going into my annual “prediction” article, and now I know how some football recruits must feel on the day they decide; do they follow their head or their heart?
I’ve explained my lack of confidence in the offensive staff, yet coaches do improve as players do … and at this time of year hope springs eternal. Still, that is not a way to determine the fortunes of the 2019 Oregon football season, especially considering the importance of this season in revealing the direction of the program. A step backward now would be disastrous on many fronts, while a big step forward would shorten the time span of growth until Oregon resides among the elite of college football again.
This is a very big year for Oregon football.
The reality to me is that the talent is there, but can it be coached up on offense? Now, I understand that injuries and weird bounces of the ball can change a season’s outcome, but I am not referring to the play or two that can mean the difference between a Pac-12 North Championship and a Playoff run.
I am completely perplexed about the future of the offense, because if it clicks on all cylinders Oregon could go undefeated, yet if it sputters, a five loss campaign (8-5) is not out of the question. Which is it going to be?
Coaches: There are NO EXCUSES for this Season
As I look at ChileDuck’s Updated Depth Chart in the FishDuck.com Oregon Football Repository, I am amazed to see the unusual amount of experienced talent returning this year. Everyone knows about the highly acclaimed offensive line, and the quarterback Justin Herbert, but few take note of the incredible depth along the defensive line — the most that I’ve ever seen at Oregon. You have players (Four of them!) that are redshirt seniors and have each made big plays in Gary Baker, Bryson Young, Gus Cumberlander and Drayton Carlberg.
Looking across that savvy defensive line-up and noting Troy Dye, Isaac Slade-Matautia and La’Mar Winston at linebacker, and for the first time in years–an entirely experienced defensive backfield with the corners and safeties? This defense is made for creating havoc in the new Andy Avalos scheme. There are no excuses for not having the best defense at Oregon since 2014!
A Defense I Want to See …
–Creates turnovers and gives the offense short fields.
–Does not have open receivers running loose in the secondary.
–Holds opponents to an average of 24 points a game or less.
–Makes full use of the extraordinary depth this year on the defensive line with player rotations.
–Is in superb condition and does not give up easy touchdowns late in the games.
2019 Season Success Is Dependent Upon the New Oregon Offense
The Ducks averaged their fewest rushing yards since 2005 last year, the fewest total yards since 2009 and fewest points since 2006. Oregon rushed for more yards in 2016 when Jake Hanson, Shane Lemieux, Brady Aiello and Calvin Throckmorton were redshirt freshmen starters, than as redshirt juniors in 2018! (2,717 yards to 2,332) Can that be turned around?
Few would disagree that on paper — this is the finest offensive line in the history of Oregon football. I was stunned to see two of them on Pre-Season All-American lists and three of them listed as among the Top 50 players in all of college football with No. 36 Penei Sewell, No. 32 Shane Lemieux and No. 26 Calvin Throckmorton.
What you see above is jaw-dropping to me, as out of over 60 players that were starters as offensive linemen in the Pac-12 last year–three of the top five are Oregon linemen. What about the aforementioned rushing statistics? What you see above is something USC would have done in the past, or perhaps Stanford on a good year. It is surreal to see a disproportionate number of Duck offensive linemen in the Top Five of the conference.
This result would be the apotheosis of what Head Coach Mario Cristobal would want to recruit and develop ultimately, yet two of three were recruited before Willie Taggart and had achieved greater rushing success in the past than under the current regime?
Will this potential be realized? If Oregon were going to ever win a rushing title again within the Pac-12 … wouldn’t this be the year? (How can you have more experience and recognized talent in any other year?) There are no excuses …
An Offense I Want to See …
–Is unpredictable in game planning and game management.
–Can run a variety of tempos depending upon situation.
–Snaps under center inside the five yard line as Alabama and Clemson do.
–Receivers who catch most of the passes thrown to them.
–Running backs who are taught and allowed to look for cut-back lanes to create explosive plays.
–An offensive line that adjusts easily to defensive line slants and stemming.
–A quarterback that throws the smart pass to the most open receiver.
–Passes that are not just bullets, but will have some lofting over the linebackers and in front of the safeties when needed against a “Cover-Two.”
–An offense that averages at least 40 points a game.
Spit it Out, FishDuck!
My prediction for the season is going to come down to what Oregon must do in order to maintain the momentum in recruiting and the buzz about Ducks football. Between the regular season and the bowl game–Oregon must win at least ten games (10-3) to continue the upward trajectory of the program. I recognize that the schedule is much harder than last year, but if there was ever a year to beat Auburn, Stanford, Washington and USC on the road — this is the year with such a talented and experienced Oregon team. My belief (based upon talent) of what the season should be? This team should be winning 12 games at least, and with prior coaching staffs–I would have that confidence to state it.
Yet, that is what will make the season that much more entertaining–watching the growth and progression of the players and coaches, and knowing how high the stakes are for Oregon Football.
“Oh how we love to ponder about our Beloved Ducks!”
Charles Fischer (FishDuck)
Eugene, Oregon Top Photo by Ahsan Awan
Chris Brouilette, the FishDuck.com Volunteer editor for this article, is a current student at the University of Oregon from Sterling, Illinois.
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