How Does Oregon’s Offense in 2021 Stack Up Against 2014?

David Marsh Editorials 16 Comments

2014 was the first year of the College Football Playoff, and Oregon was the first team to win a CFP semifinal game. The 2014 season was an incredible year for Oregon fans, as Marcus Mariota was the first Oregon player to win the Heisman, which he did while setting QB records — not only for Oregon but for the entire conference.

The 2021 season is already looking promising for Oregon (check out the odds here), but how does the current 2021 team stack-up against Oregon’s 2014 team, the last Oregon team to reach the National Championship Game?

Today, we look at the offenses to determine which of those two Duck teams has the advantage.

Quarterback

This one is simple. No matter who the quarterback for Oregon is this year, no one is going to be as good as Mariota in 2014. Anthony Brown will do just fine if he holds onto the starting job. Just don’t expect him to be putting up Mariota-like numbers. Ty Thompson, Jay Butterfield and Robby Ashford all have the potential to become breakout stars at Oregon, but even if one of them does win the starting job, it is highly unlikely they will be as polished as Mariota was in his final year at Oregon. However, the 2021 quarterback room for the Ducks is far deeper than it was in 2014, as Mariota did not have a reliable back-up.

Advantage — 2014 Ducks

Craig Strobeck

Marcus Mariota is still the best quarterback in Oregon’s history.

Running back

This one is a bit odd because Royce Freeman was a freshman in 2014 and CJ Verdell is a junior heading into 2021. However, even as a freshman, Freeman was a force to be reckoned with, and his supporting cast at running back consisted of Thomas Tyner and Byron Marshall. The running back corps in 2014 was just better on the whole. Even though Travis Dye will have more receiving yards this year in Joe Moorhead’s offense, it is difficult to see him getting more yards as a receiver than Marshall, who surpassed 1,000 in 2014.

There is, however, an opportunity for some of the young running backs coming into Oregon to get meaningful snaps. Trey Benson and Byron Cardwell are both bigger backs, and they could very well take over some of the carries from Verdell as the season progresses.

Advantage — 2014 Ducks

Wide Receiver

Heading into 2014, wide receiver was a big unknown for Oregon. The headliner was Bralon Addison, who was explosive and a threat anywhere on the field. He even gained some intriguing quarterback play in 2015 due to injuries. However, Addison was injured and missed the entire 2014 season. Devon Allen, Darren Carrington, Keenan Lowe, Charles Nelson and Dwayne Stanford would all make an impact throughout the season, and though Marshall was listed as a running back, he did surpass the 1,000 receiving yards in 2014, so he should really be counted as a receiver, as well.

Kevin Cline

Devon Allen had an incredible year in 2014, especially in his breakout game against Michigan State.

Though this receiving corps was solid throughout most of the year, it was not deep. By the National Championship Game, Allen was injured and Carrington was suspended due to failing a drug test. The lack of depth showed, as Mariota struggled to find receivers at times against Ohio State’s defense.

In 2021, the situation at wide receiver comes with far more certainty. Johnny Johnson III, Jaylon Redd, Mycah Pittman, Kris Hutson and Devon Williams are all returning, and the freshmen Troy Franklin and Dont’e Thornton look to be stars in the making. The mix of veterans and youth at wide receiver make it perhaps the greatest offensive position of strength.

Advantage — 2021 Ducks

Tight End

The 2014 Ducks featured tight end Pharaoh Brown, who was having an incredible season until he was critically injured against Utah. Johnny Mundt and Evan Baylis were serviceable, but neither had anywhere near the same ceiling as Brown. Oregon’s offense lacked a true tight end threat without Brown on the field. Brown was especially missed in the National Championship Game, where Oregon just lacked reliable receiving targets for Mariota.

In 2021, however, Oregon has a plethora of tight ends with varying degrees of experience. Spencer Webb looks like he will be a consistent passing target, whereas DJ Johnson is a powerful blocker who also had some nice hands for some short range passes. Those who have yet to play a game, Patrick Herbert, Moliki Matavao and Terrance Ferguson, all showed flashes of potential during the Spring Game. The Ducks have a great amount of tight end depth, which will certainly come into play as the season wears on.

Advantage — 2021 Ducks

Gary Breedlove

Pharaoh Brown was a large receiving target for the majority of the 2014 season.

Offensive Line

The 2014 offensive line was on the whole pretty good, though they did suffer injuries throughout the year. Tyler Johnstone was one of Oregon’s starting lineman and was out before the season even began with a torn ACL. Jake Fisher was out for multiple games with an injury, which allowed freshman Tyrell Crosby to establish himself along the offensive line. Starting center Hroniss Grasu missed a few games later in the season after suffering an injury at Utah.

It was a miracle that Oregon made it to the National Championship Game with all the injuries along the offensive line, and it was really the spectacular quarterback play by Mariota and the running back play by Freeman that hid the problems along the offensive line.

The 2021 offensive line still has a lot to prove. They are physically bigger than the 2014 offensive line, but they haven’t proven their ability to create in the run game and their pass protection has at times been suspect. However, the 2020 season was a mess so it is difficult to make any real judgement as to their continued development.

The Spring Game was also of little help in determining Oregon’s line capabilities because that would require us to have a complete understanding of the defensive line play, and the defensive line still has many questions, as well.

But if this offensive line can simply live up to their potential, they will be a great, mauling offensive line.

Advantage — 2021 Ducks

Conclusion

The Oregon offense in 2021 has the potential to be great. The biggest advantage they have over their 2014 counterparts is depth. The 2021 offense should be able to take numerous injuries and maintain a high level of play, something that was difficult for the 2014 team. However, will Oregon take advantage of all the high quality recruits and surpass the 2014 offense, or will the 2014 offense remain the pinnacle of Oregon’s offensive capabilities?

David Marsh 
Portland, Oregon
Top Photo By: Craig Strobeck

Andrew Mueller, the FishDuck.com Volunteer Editor for this article, works in higher education in Chicago, Illinois.

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MaiTaiDuck

Here’s what needs to happen for this years offense to out perform the 2014 team. Obviously I wont say it will be close to the out put that team with Mariota behind center. This will be a great offensive fire power team if Mario stays out of the way. Moorehead is a proven commodity and he’s proved what he was capable of so Mario needs to let his assistants do their jobs. Then I believe this could be a team that wins every game they play and this includes against OS.

ptdduck

There’s no superstar on offense like Mariota was in 2014. Furthermore, I’m not confident in the scheme. The 2021 team will go as far as the D can take them IMO.

DanLduck

Talk about a tough comparison!!
A championship caliber team vs an unknown!
In 2014 we kept having “the next man up” step in and we kept winning.
Until the final. We lost like, what, 10-11 starters over the course of that season and still managed to embarrass FSU!

I know it looks like we got more depth now, and I think we do, but winning is done on the field, not in chat rooms.

Until a Cristobal led team can win a big game against another well coached team, I’ll take that 2014 team every time. (Winning the Rose Bowl by 1 pt only gets half credit in my book)
We have yet to produce a dominant offence in any year. That said, my green and yellow tinted glasses tell me this could be the year! (Go Robby Ashford 😁)
PS I think the defense this year will ROCK!

Santa Rosa Duck

Thanks David Marsh, fun read. It does seem that the 2021 team has potentially more depth. What we do not have is a Marcus Mariota at the helm. One of my all time favorites. The Ohio State University game will tell us a lot. They are a team defined by depth.

Tandaian

I like potential, but I love results. I hope all the offensive groups have results on the field. The depth and potential are all there for the Ducks. If things click, this group of players can be a scary great team.

Logger29

2014 was a fantastic offensive team. Thanks for a well thought out article. So many of those players mentioned from the2014 bunch were products of great coaching and player development. It is yet to be seen if the current staff will be able to develop the raw talent they have recruited, which I think is the key to the Duck offense.

David, I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on the defensive side. As great as that 2014 offense was in the penultimate moment, for the National Championship, when the offense needed help, it got none.

I agree in principle, if not in actual number ( 45 points a game for the Alabama/ Clemson cartel has something to do with quality of competition across a season as well as devastating offenses). 2021 should get Oregon’s scoring in that neighborhood.

My be concern for 2021 is the defense. The Duck D got run over last year. The Beaver game is a great example. One or two “ three and outs “ in the second half and it’s a win. Same goes with the bowl game. Stop a very pedestrian Iowa St offense and again the Duck offense would have had a good chance of scoring down the stretch.

So my question, what ( if any ) past defense should the current Duck squad try to emulate?

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck

This is going to be as an entertaining year to watch the defense as the offense, and I can’t wait!

DeForest Buckner Michael Wilkes FP.jpg

David,

You are one of my favorite writers to read among all Oregon websites with your interesting topics, writing skills and conclusions reached … until now. I don’t know if I’ve ever politely disagreed with a FishDuck writer as much as I do with this article.

–Two of three Tight Ends from 2014 are still playing in the NFL, and thus I take them over our 2021 potential any-day.

–Good gosh we had it all at receiver in 2014; we had “Mr. Third-Down” in Dwayne Stanford, and bomb threats from Devon Allen and the others had plays that were too numerous to mention. (Keanon Lowe!) The fact that we think some freshmen could beat our seniors in 2021 tells you a ton about the starters of 2021 versus 20214. I would LOVE to have 2014 WRs back again!

–There were three future NFL players in the offensive line in Tyrell Crosby, Hroniss Grasu and Jake Fisher, and that is mountains ahead of the potential of this 2021 group. 2014 won the rushing title for the conference, and I doubt this group will do the same…(and the OL coaching is not the same either!) A big part of scoring so many points (45) per game was that offensive line in 2014, while 2021 is quite unproven.

David, you are a great fan and writer, but I do think you may have had an even stronger green tint in your glasses than I wear!

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck

I still recall that game at UCLA, with three of those members in a picture right here, and boy the plays! That was one of the most fun teams ever to watch at Oregon… (Jake Fisher is No. 75 in the picture) And I recall how Terrell Crosby was running as fast as Mariota down the field on an explosion play at Utah….ahh the memories!

And you are quite right, David, about how if we disagree and debate–you’ve done a great job in spurring fun discussion.

Royce Freeman_Craig Strobeck.jpg
GODUCKS15

It just goes to show how important a QB and an offensive game plan need to be. With lesser talent on the 2014 team the 2014 Ducks put up 45.4 points a game.

If you look at the point totals in the games they won it’s off the charts compared to todays Duck teams.

I miss those days.

Thanks for a little trip down memory lane.

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck

Yep, putting up 45 points per game compared to Oregon’s 30.70 points per game over the three years that Cristobal has been in charge–is not even in the same zip code for comparison.

Haywarduck

Agree, the potential of the 2021 Ducks is exciting. I would pay to watch that 2014 team play anytime. I hope the same can be said of this offense as it develops.