What’s Oregon’s Biggest Reason for OPTIMISM in 2021?

Joshua Whitted Editorials 27 Comments

Oregon Ducks fans have plenty to be excited about in 2021. Mario Cristobal will likely field his most talented roster yet, the Pac-12 is ripe for the taking once again, and if the Ducks can manage a tricky road trip to Columbus, the rest of their schedule is very manageable.

Plenty of exciting playmakers on both sides of the ball return. On defense, darkhorse Heisman candidate and NFL hopeful Kayvon Thibodeaux is ready to spend yet another season making a living in the opposing offense’s backfield. Freshman All-American Noah Sewell flashed superstar potential last season, quickly emerging from his older brother’s shadow. And former five-star prospects Justin Flowe and Dontae Manning both looked like future stars in their own right in Oregon’s spring game.

Offensively, the Ducks will field one of the top backfields in the country, led by a pair of stars — Travis Dye and CJ Verdell — who are each capable of shouldering the load and making explosive plays. A talented offensive line remains entirely intact, bolstered by the addition of several high-profile recruits, including top-50 prospect Kingsley Suamataia. And a wide receiver group that has taken its lumps over the past few years looks to finally be a strength, with the emergence of speedster Kris Hutson, and the acquisitions of blue-chip recruits Troy Franklin and Dont’e Thornton.

Last but not least, who isn’t excited to see what Ty Thompson — Oregon’s highest-rated QB recruit ever — can do as a freshman? Expected starter Anthony Brown is solid in his own right, but fans are itching to see what the dazzling freshman Thompson brings to the table.

Things are looking up for Our Beloved Ducks in 2021. Who are you most excited to see when toe hits leather this fall?

Joshua Whitted 
Morgantown, West Virginia
Top Photo by Kevin Cline

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I’m most optimistic for the receiving group. The Ducks seem to have relied on one quality WR for several seasons, without any newcomers offering hope for the future. Pre-Covid, I was in awe of Mycah Pitman’s “catch everything” hands and now am excited to see him and rising stars Johnny Johnson III, Devon Williams and Jaylon Redd being challenged by some freshmen with huge upsides. This could finally be the season where our receiving corps blows open games with explosive plays that rack up points at a clip we were spoiled with in the Chip Kelly years.

Overall, the 2021 Duck team has a lot to offer, on both sides of the ball (and from the sideline/coaches’ box). I’m eager to see it unfold. GO DUCKS!


Honestly I expect Oregon to seize the moment next year and that will happen at OS. I expect Oregon as long as Morehead gets to run his offense W/O interference then this team should be able to put up 40+ on them. With the improving talent on D I also expect top play from 11 players into one of the best in the Nation. This is Oregon’s chance to get into the playoff’s and cause Havoc even if it’s BAMA.


1-talented & deep roster
2-PAC12 north is weak

David Marsh

I don’t know if the Pac-12 North is that weak… we love to make fun of Washington and hate them and for good reason … but we underestimate them at our own peril. I do expect Oregon to beat Washington this year and I do expect to beat them by double digits in honesty but they are going to be very motivated to take us down.

Oregon State is also highly motivated to beat us but I think we will get some big time revenge for last year.

Washington State is sneaky but like Oregon State there is a large talent gap and I do expect Oregon to win.

Cal… well they will probably still have a good defense and as long as our offense can deal with that I think we will be fine.

Stanford… Stanford and David Shaw can be incredibly good. We get them earlier in the season which will benefit us but they can still be a very good team. The past couple of years Cristobal has managed to out physical them and if that is still the case then I think Oregon wins… granted Stanford was really starting to air it out a lot last year.

On paper the North looks weak… but I think any of them can rise up and bite Oregon. Oregon just needs to prepare and take care of business.

The South honestly doens’t look much stronger than the North… just a whole lot more chaotic.


The top QBs are in the South, Klovis, DTR and Daniels. USC, UCLA, Utah & ASU look better on paper than the majority of the North.

David Marsh

It’s summer… or almost summer. We are coming off of a second Pac-12 Championship and the best recruiting class in program history.

After a few final ranking tweaks Oregon is No. 3 on Rivals!

Now is the time to pump that sunshine just like Field pumps iron!

Jon Sousa

There is no BIGGEST reason for optimism…

…because the biggest reason for optimism is the sum of all the many reasons for optimism.


Ouch, now you’re making me think, good one! The truly exciting reason, is the one we don’t know, the unexpected. The sum is always greater than the parts!


Biggest reason for optimism…?

The fact that it’s a new season with no losses yet!
And, we should be able to watch in person if we want, (I hope).

Otherwise, I think the schedule is tough.
Roughest games are all away. UCLA has most experienced QB in the Pac and the Chipper has been able to take advantage of the transfer portal, I see that as a tough game.

Our offense has not yet shown ability to score or control the game when needed in the last 3 years. A new qb in a new system doesn’t make me think it will happen this year either.

The defensive line needs to be improved. We need to get better at stopping the run. But the odds are in our favor for a strong improvement here. Looking at past defenses, the 1st year with a new DC seems to always have biggest positive effect. I expect I will be quite excited about the D.

My real hope is to see an offense that scores points in numbers that will make Charles happy. And will make future all star recruits want to come to Oregon.

Can’t wait for the season to start.

Carl N

It is hard not to be optimistic when your biggest question marks are positions that have experience, talent and potential. Although Brown’s ceiling may not be as high as the younger alternatives, having his experience while having three QB’s pushing him makes for as deep as a QB room as we may have seen in quite awhile. Similar situation at RB, although it certainly would be nice to have a Royce Freeman. But hard to complain when you have two experienced backs in Verdell and Dye, and solid young talent behind them.

On the defensive side, there may be questions on the D Line, and how the defensive backfield gets sorted out. But once again, it is not for a lack of talent or potential. Certainly I would love to have the 2014-15 D Line back. This year it will be fun to see who emerges, and can they rise to the level of the other position groups.

I am excited to see what a fully implemented Joe Morehead offense can do, and what difference Tim DeRuyter can make. Especially with a full offseason of preparation.

It has been said that you are only as strong as your weakest link. Compared to the Alabama, Clemson and Ohio State, Oregon still has some work to do to compete consistently at that level. Being in the Pac 12 does afford opportunity in that if Oregon plays to its potential it does open a door to the playoff. But a top bowl game is not so bad either. I am as hopeful and optimistic as ever. Not to mention the linebackers and receivers… so let’s fire up the band and get fans back into the seats!


It is easy for me to discuss what I want to see, but you asked what is the most exciting items to watch for and for me…

On Offense: the passing attack, as I believe a 6th year senior and all these talented receivers could have a real break out year.

On Defense: I cannot wait to see the blitzes by Coach DeRuyter; he likes to divert attention on the outside and we have that in Thibs, and then blitz the “A” gaps on the inside and Justin Flowe already demonstrated a flair for doing that in the Spring Game.

So much fun stuff to watch for!


My gut feeling is that this upcoming season’s ceiling is a Rose Bowl win, primarily because Anthony Brown’s ceiling isn’t particularly high. Plus these dependent factors:

  1. Cristobal lets go and allows Moorhead to do the offense as he sees fit.
  2. Defense returns to 2019-ish form.

I don’t think TT will start this season, that’s a tough ask for any true freshman let alone at the QB position. Best case scenario is if Oregon can get some blowout wins so that he can get some game reps during garbage time.


I wouldn’t either, Rose Bowl is still a NY6 game and provides enough luster to keep top 10-15 recruiting classes coming so that Oregon can consistently stay in orbit of the CFP.


#1, this is Oregon after all, a well oiled Moorhead offense. #2, a defense like we haven’t seen since the Gang Green Defense!

David Marsh

2019’s defense was pretty darn good under Avalos. Though I am expecting DeRuyter to be better in the long run as he has more experience.


Wow Joshua. I was following you along and digging it, until you threw the knuckler with TT. While he might add excitement, I’m convinced that starting QB is AB’s to lose.

I don’t think he will lose out, but Butters and Robby are right there. Thompson will probably need to study and train until 2022.

Appreciate your thoughts and loyalty to the Ducks.


I agree with you Notalot, and I agree with SeattleDuck, too.

It’s a tough ask for a freshman quarterback to take charge of an offense, while still basically trying to learn the plays and getting comfortable with the personnel, particularly the receivers, and earning the confidence and respect of the veterans.

That said there have been many incoming freshman quarterbacks who have taken over right away…..the list is long and dotted with many familiar names, including Dan Marino, Peyton Manning, Philip Rivers, Johnny Manziel, Jameis Winston, Jalen Hurts, Jake Fromm, and of course Trevor Lawrence. And remember, Justin Herbert started several games for the Ducks as a freshman. There have been many others, too.

Does Ty Thompson deserve to be mentioned in the same breath? I really truly hope so, but it appears that if Brown falters this season Butterfield, or perhaps Ashford, may get the nod before Thompson. The kid is obviously considered an elite prospect and my hope is that he’ll eventually get the opportunity to live up to those lofty expectations.

One prediction I’m fairly confident in making….at least one, and maybe two, of the underclassmen will eventually transfer.

Mike West

I came away from the Spring Game (after a FIFTH look) with a more positive outlook. I’m a snob. I admit it. We don’t pass the eye test when it comes to facing tOSU, Bama, Clemson and Georgia (heck, we might even struggle in the espSECn).

What I DID LIKE though, is Moorhead showed off a full stable of QBs that showed they can read well enough to complete passes 10 to 15 yards plus in an offense that gets multiple WRs open each play. What was lacking in my mind was a consistent barrage of those plays.

Instead we witnessed more “physical running with concrete blocks on our ankles” type of plays. We still want to fight in a phone booth (somewhat).

Cristobal cannot win the LOS unless our QBs run the ball. The kind of plays we walloped Utah with in the Conference Title Game (not to mention the type of plays we used against Wisconsin a month later). Running the QB generates explosive running plays like we saw when Win the Day (Fast Hard Finish) was our moniker. But even that isn’t enough.

Sorry FishDuck, the Elite use power as much as speed AFTER they part the Red Sea with explosive passing plays.

LSU and Bama executed multiple thunderous passing plays EVERY WEEK. We used to say CBs were burnt to a crisp when they got beat that bad. I’ve even seen elite DBs looking like charcoal the last two years. In my opinion, yards after catch, and simply running past gawking CBs and Safeties is the order of the day.

Alas, there is good news (in my mind) though. None of this year’s the top five show 2019 LSU or 2020 Bama explosiveness yet. Though they all have the horses (experience is an issue for them as well-even Clemson). And I DO think we have those kind of horses ourselves now.

I just don’t see a QB that can get them the ball downfield like LSU and Bama did the last two years (yet).

What intrigues me the most is Moorhead showed multiple passing plays our QBs can complete, and they DID complete enough deep passes in the spring game to give me hope we will “go for the throat” this year.

We have four QBs that all can run the ball. They all complete mid range passes very well, and showed they all can complete at least one deep pass a game. If Cristobal and Moorhead throw caution to the wind, and risk attrition, maybe just maybe all four will play this year, and every defense will have to prepare for everything Chip used to show, with Moorhead’s masterful ability to pass the ball downfield.

That’s my hope.