The Oregon offense was stagnant all through the COVID-ridden 2020 season, and the ground attack wasn’t doing the team any favors. The Ducks did average 166.7 YPG (yards per game), a mere eight yards under the 2019 season average of 174.9 YPG, but both of these seasons are far and away from the success of 2017 and other similar seasons of dominance when the Ducks were able to average over 250 rushing YPG. 2020 marked the first season since 2016 that the Ducks were outgained on the ground by opponents on a season average, which is something that head coach Mario Cristobal must be harping on in this offseason. Stopping the run is the go-to first rule of being an enforcing defense and Our Beloved Ducks need to better in the defensive trenches in order to give the offensive trenches a chance to reach their full potential.
Unfortunately if there isn’t improvement from the young stars littered on this defense, the Ducks will be in trouble all through the 2021 season. Ohio State is no slouch in the trenches and will be an outstanding first test of both Cristobal’s merit and the Tim DeRuyter led defense. If they’re able to do more than just hold their own, the Oregon offense will be in great shape to impose their will with the outstanding offensive line production we’ve grown accustomed to seeing under coach Cristobal’s miracle-like recruiting seasons. Another schematic question that could arise from this conversation however is: will the Ducks be a run first offense in 2021?
Offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead has to be able to make the passing attack work with even just a serviceable quarterback playing, whether it be Anthony Brown, Jay Butterfield, or any of the other enticing new recruits including superstar-of-the-future Ty Thompson. But if the run game can be leaned on this season and dynamic quarterback play can take a backseat to a dominant backfield rotation complemented by a “game-managing quarterback” that involves some sure-handed pass catching running backs, will there be enough respect for the potential the Ducks possess at the receiver position for some gashing runs from CJ Verdell, Sean Dollars, and Travis Dye?
Consider this an intro to an offseason long discussion, since all the moving parts we’ll learn more information in the coming weeks with Our Beloved Ducks prepping for a season where we as fans hope to return to Autzen and see for ourselves. I personally would love to see Dollars pop this year and make a major impact on the offense. But at this juncture, how well do you think the offense will prosper in the 2021 running game (and which back do you see leading the team in rushing/scrimmage yards)? Will it be leaned on heavily like years past, or will quarterback play prove to be the first priority in Moorhead’s offense?
Top Photo by University of Oregon Athletics
Alex Heining is a third-year student at the University of Oregon. He’s working towards a bachelor of arts degree as an English major and media studies minor in journalism. Growing up in the Los Angeles area of southern California, Alex ended up a Duck through family ties, a quality football program, and the beautiful green of Lane County. Currently finishing his first science fiction novel, he wants to end up in the sports world of journalism on the west coast. Particularly, covering high school football, recruiting commits, and all things Ducks.
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