The time for ifs, ands, or buts has long passed.
Yes, the Ducks are still in transition mode as they adopt the new philosophies brought in by a second-year head coach. And yes, the Oregon wide receivers dropped too many passes last year and are still a question mark. And yes, the Ducks have a new, young defensive coordinator.
And yes this, and yes that. All the way down to the fact that the new head waterboy is a complete momma’s boy who has never as much as poured himself a glass of water, let alone hydrate a mass scale of players in the heat of battle. (Okay, I may have made this part up, but you get the idea.)
Unless you’re a team like the 2004-’05 Trojans, or one of the recent Alabama or Clemson teams, there are always things that need improvement. Heading into the 2019 season, the Ducks are not a perfect team, but enough of the pieces are in place to win a not-so-good Pac-12 Conference.
What the Ducks Have Going for Them
USC Stinks: It’s always easier to win the conference when the Trojans are down and have a crumby coach. It’s also killing their recruiting. Just look at their current recruiting ranking for 2020, it’s No. 59, per 247sports. UCLA and Chip are at No. 67.
Quarterback: The Ducks have arguably the best quarterback in the country in Justin Herbert, and he may well be the first overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. Are the coaches going to waste his talents in his last season? They sure did last year.
UW, Stanford and Utah: The top contenders in the conference are decent but nothing special. UW has to replace a four-year starter at QB, Stanford hasn’t been what they were in years past, and Utah can never seem to take that next step. Point is, the Pac-12 is weak and the Ducks need to take advantage of it.
Offensive Line: As the season nears, I’ve heard pundits from coast to coast talk about how the Auburn-Oregon game may well be a matchup of the best defensive line (Auburn) versus the best offensive line (Oregon) in the country. The Ducks are stacked with talent and experience. But again, as with Herbert, will that talent be wasted?
Wide Receivers: Receivers make the list because after bottoming out last year, they can only get better. There’s been a talent infusion at the position and a new position coach. But again, it comes down to that offensive coordinator thing. Last year, the offensive coaching staff couldn’t come up with strategies to get a struggling receiving corps involved in the game. They basically said, “To hell with it! Let’s just have Herbert toss up deep 50-50 balls to the one guy who can catch.” It wasn’t the best strategy.
Defense: Instead of doing the “Oregon thing” by promoting from within, Mario Cristobal went outside the program and plucked a young and hungry up and comer in Andy Avalos. Match that with depth and experience, and good things should be happening on defense in 2019.
Talent Advantage: Over the past four recruiting cycles (2016-2019), the underachievers at USC have led the conference, but next is Oregon. The Ducks, per 247sports, have an average ranking of No. 16 in that time frame. The next team is Washington at No. 20.
Excuses for Failure
All the talk that our poor little duckies need more time to gel under a new coaching administration, or that the receivers suck, or that Herbert isn’t living up to expectations, or that the off-kilter alignment of the moon in Eugene during the latest solar eclipse somehow messed-up the football team is just a bunch of “blah, blah, blah …”
It’s poppy-cock, it’s baloney, it’s BS, it’s excuses.
Get over it people, we have every advantage and should win the Pac-12 title. Anything less than that in 2019 is a sub-par performance. The biggest ifs, ands, or buts lay with the offensive coaching staff, and in particular Marcus Arroyo. Good coaches coach their team up to make the whole greater than the sum of its individual parts. Last year — especially in the WSU, Arizona, Utah and Michigan State games — the Oregon offense appeared to have been severely coached down.
There were inept schemes, poor play-calling and massive predictability as I’ve mentioned in previous writings. The Oregon coaches were able to take a Heisman front-runner and turn him into a middling Group of Five QB. This is Oregon’s greatest concern heading into the new season, and it must change.
If the offense repeats its poor performance again this season, there will be No Excuses. It will have been crystal clear that Cristobal should have done what many were calling for after last season, and that’s to fire Arroyo.
As Alec Baldwin said in the classic scene from the film adaptation of Glengarry Glenross:
“Your excuses are your own.”
If the Ducks don’t win the Pac-12 this season, fans will surely have a bunch of excuses. But the rest of the college football world won’t care one bit. After all, our excuses are our very own.
Spokane, WA Top Photo by Kevin Cline
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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