Our Oregon Ducks football team has the annual spring game coming up this Saturday, and there’s a lot to prove for this team. Fortunately, it looks like the Ducks have all the key pieces in place to have one of their best seasons in school history. A veteran starting quarterback in Bo Nix coming back for his final season, an outstanding coaching staff in Dan Lanning’s regime, and star power all over the field on offense. While there’s a lot to prove on the defensive side of the ball after major players have departed, 2023 has a great outlook for the Ducks to be real contenders for the College Football Playoff.
That said, there’s a ton of work this team’s going to need to get done between now and September 2nd (when the Ducks open their season against Portland State). The week ahead’s a big one, with superstars and former Ducks like Christian Gonzalez headed to the NFL Draft on Thursday, and the beloved spring game coming up on the third day of the draft. Today, we’ll focus up on three key factors to watch on Saturday for the annual spring game, honing in mainly on the moving parts of the offseason and pivotal changes for the year ahead.
3. Big-Time Recruiting Visits
Usually, a handful of top recruits would be in Eugene for the spring game. Instead, we have the privilege of Oregon’s highest star-power recruiting visit from current commits and future commits EVER. And that’s a statement. David Stone Jr. and company top that list as one of almost double-digit 5-star recruits, which is absolutely mindboggling to think about. Lanning and Mario Cristobal have shaped a foundation for the Ducks to be a destination team in the West, and it’s a privilege to get to see it as a fan of Our Beloved Ducks.
Hopefully, it’s moments like these that can completely shape our expectations for years ahead with Lanning at the helm, as he coerces future recruiting classes to join a squad that may end up beating his own recruiting record set earlier this year. If you happen to be at the game this weekend, let ’em know what it means to be a Duck!
2. Will Stein’s New-Look Offense
There’s a lot to be excited about here with a new offensive coordinator at the helm. We saw Nix flourish in Kenny Dillingham’s offense last year, and we might see him take an even bigger step with Stein. As he gets ready for the NFL Draft in 2024, he could elevate his chances at being a 1st-round pick with a Heisman Trophy, so there’s a lot at stake for Nix from here on out.
Even though this is just a scrimmage, it’ll be a GREAT feeling as a fan to see a quarterback we trust at the helm again this year. I have zero question marks about whether or not Stein will be able to get the most out of him, and help Nix set an even higher bar for this offense to flourish throughout the season. He’ll be leading a highly-touted group of skill position players whom with he’s already spent over a year developing chemistry. This includes: Troy Franklin, Kris Hutson, Bucky Irving, and Terrance Ferguson.
Be on the lookout for them in some new looks on Saturday, while other quarterbacks get their chance at spinning it a bit, and Lanning can gauge what the rest of the roster’s skill-position composition has to offer.
1. Impact of the Transfer Portal, New Faces
New additions and subtractions on both sides of the ball will play a major role in how the team performs this year, and most of that came through the transfer portal. Luckily, though, Lanning’s been able to traverse treacherous waters in the pond before.
Superstar Travis Dye left the roster last year, and the Ducks didn’t miss a STEP in the running game. In fact, Oregon’s rushing attack looked as dominant as ever for a stretch in the 2022 season.
Now, while the transfer portal hasn’t completely worked out in the Ducks’ favor, we should be excited about a ton of these young pieces bulking up an already elite roster. The biggest returning portal pieces are Nix and Irving of course, but Ajani Cornelius, Jestin Jacobs, Evan Williams, and several others could make a Christian Gonzalez-like impact in their first year.
Sometimes, though, the transfer portal can be a mixed bag. Traeshon Holden was going to be a big addition as a receiving threat, though he was dismissed from the team in the offseason. Then, he returned to the team after being reinstated, and has been practicing well. One of the greatest truths we can learn from player acquisition is the fact that there are no gurantees in football. Fortunately for us, this is nothing to sweat over, and Holden shouldn’t miss a beat moving into the year.
Even if Holden were still off the team, Lanning’s taken as many chances as he can to get quality depth around this team and even find new starters through recruiting, transfers, and making this program desirable with some stability in his coaching staff. Granted, superstar offensive coordinator Dillingham will be missed, but that’s to be expected of great offensive minds.
This team is experienced, well-coached, and ready to win even with all the changes. I expect to see that reflected in a fun outing on Saturday in a satiating sneak peek to tide us over for the football season ahead.
Bottom Line: The Future Ahead Is a BRIGHT One
Overall, I’m extremely excited to see what this 2023 squad has to offer. I believe this will be one of Oregon’s best seasons in the past decade, and all the right pieces are in place to create scoring opportunities, takeaways, and a fun-filled season for us Duck fans.
Anyway, enough from me, Oregon fans. What are you going to be on the lookout for this Saturday? Who’s the “splash” player you expect to make an impact early and often this year? Will any transfer players become stars like Nix did? Let us know in the FishDuck Forum with decorum!
Los Angeles, California
Top Photo By: Kevin Cline
Alex Heining is an Oregon alumni from the graduate class of 2021. After studying sports business and media studies, he has moved into the field of digital marketing as a copywriter and content manager in the Los Angeles area. Still, he loves his Ducks and goes to local high school games all over the Los Angeles and Orange County area to check out new recruits of the future (and a SoFi game or two with the pros). On any given Saturday, expect to find him doing martial arts, playing the guitar, or screaming at the tv over a missed holding penalty.
FishDuck Going to Articles on Monday and Tuesday Only…
Our off-season schedule begins, and we move from publishing articles seven days a week to Mondays and Tuesdays only. Same great group of writers, and we will have an article on other days on occasion.
The Our Beloved Ducks Forum (OBD) is where we we discuss the article above and many more topics, as it is so much easier in a message board format over there. At the free OBD forum we will be posting Oregon Sports article links, the daily Press Releases from the Athletic Department and the news coming out every day.
Our 33 rules at the free OBD Forum can be summarized to this: 1) be polite and respectful, 2) do not tell anyone what to think, feel or write, and 3) no reference of any kind to politics. Easy-peasy!
OBD Forum members….we got your back. No Trolls Allowed!