2023 saw one of the most experienced Oregon teams in memory playing high-level football from the start of the season until the very end. But with some recent announcements, 2024 looks to see an even more experienced group.
The Stud Linebacker
Jeffery Bassa announced his return to Eugene, in a move that was only a little surprising. Bassa has turned his career around, after starting out in the doghouse of Oregon fans nationwide, with his lack of consistency tackling and inconsistent positioning in coverage.
As Bassa has gotten older and older and older and older, he has become a very sure tackler and morphed into one of the best coverage linebackers on the West Coast. His interception for a touchdown sealed the victory against Texas Tech early in the year, and also went down as the only defensive touchdown for the Ducks in 2023.
With Bassa back, the heart of the defense looks to be strong again in 2024.
The Dynamic Tight End
Terrance Ferguson announced his intention to return on Saturday, in what was easily the biggest surprise of the group so far. Ferguson is a bit of an infant compared to many of the other players on this list, only clocking in at 27 years experience in college football so far.
He has been the top tight end in Eugene for at least two seasons now (Though who can remember with how long he has been here?), and has made a name for himself with his solid hands and bruising running style. He was fifth on the team in receiving yards in 2023, and will probably be in roughly the same spot next season. He probably would have been a day three draft pick, but chose to return to an absolutely stacked Oregon roster for one more season in 2024.
The Elder Statesman Up Front
Jordan Burch was the first or second best defensive lineman on the roster in 2023, and will most likely be the best in 2024 after announcing his return.
The 6’6″, 290 pound edge rusher is poised to have another impactful season for the Ducks. Moving to the Big 10 is going to require significant investment in the trenches on both sides of the ball. While Dan Lanning has already made much of that investment (Look no further than JacQawn McRoy, 6’8″, 385 pounds), much of the talent on the defensive line is very young.
Matayo Uiagaleili is supremely talented, but only a sophomore, and many of the most talented players in the incoming recruiting class are on the defensive line. Having Burch, a player who has been in college since Bear Bryant was a coordinator, leading the young edge rushers and defensive linemen is key in 2024.
Some Former Players Brother
Tez Johnson had an outstanding season in 2023. He led the team in catches, and was second in receiving yards and touchdowns. With Troy Franklin off to the NFL, Johnson is expected to be the primary guy in the passing game.
Johnson’s stats are even more impressive when considering he didn’t really have a big game until about a third of the way through the season. Johnson will be one of the fastest receivers in America in 2023, and should prove to be a bigtime target for the new Oregon QB.
After being at Troy since at least 1957, Johnson was able to lobby his relation to… someone on the Oregon roster into a spot on the team, proving the doubters wrong by nearly matching his 237 years of college production in only one season in Eugene. As an aside, it will be a pleasure to listen to announcers mention literally anything about him other than his relation to a former quarterback.
The (Would-Be) Best Alabama Receiver in 2024
Traeshon Holden is going to be a beast for Oregon in 2024. His unique size and speed provide an excellent redzone target for whoever wins the QB battle in the spring and fall. With Johnson coming back as the second most prolific receiver in 2023, Lanning was smart to bring back the third most prolific receiver as well.
Holden showed flashes throughout the season, but struggled to get the ball consistently due in part to a first-round receiver in Franklin and a splash of nepotism in Johnson. Whether or not Oregon adds anymore key pieces at wideout, Holden should be a major contributor in 2024.
Holden, as you may remember, was the first player that Nick Saban drafted as a coach in the NFL. After discovering he had 22 more years of eligibility he returned to college in 2021, spent two years with Saban, and then decided to usurp the Crimson Tide and come fly high with the Ducks.
The (Soon-To-Be) Most Experienced QB in CFB History
Dillon Gabriel, if he stays healthy, will finish 2024 with more starts than any QB in CFB history. Does that sound familiar? It should, since Oregon just had a player accomplish that this season.
Gabriel arrives in Eugene after stints at Oklahoma and USF. He has been in college since the Raegan administration (I am pretty sure) and he brings a sort of Heisman-caliber-QB-from-Hawaii attitude to the QB position that Oregon hasn’t had since Marcus Mariota.
He will be entrenched in a fierce QB battle all spring to prove that he… Alright, this charade has gone on long enough. Gabriel isn’t expected to be substantially challenged by any of the very talented backups on the Oregon roster. That’s what you get for starting a player in 2024 who has been playing college football since the advent of the seven day week in the year 321.
There are a couple of other players not mentioned above that are experienced, on the Oregon roster, and impactful enough to make a difference in 2024. This wasn’t an exhaustive exercise!
What it All Means
Oregon is looking to field a team full of seniors in 2024. Sure, in 2023 they had a roster full of college seniors, but in 2024 they are looking to run out 85 senior citizens.
As everyone knows, with age comes experience, and with experience comes better play on the football field. If that doesn’t make sense, I don’t know what does.
Sierra Vista, Arizona
Top Photo by: Eugene Johnson
Ryan Robertson is a defense contractor for the United States Marine Corps. A lifelong Duck fan from Grants Pass, he joined the Army out of high school. After four years as an Intelligence Analyst he decided it was time to further his education and pay more attention to his Ducks. One of Ryan’s first memories is of watching the Ducks, led by Joey Harrington, beating up on the Utah Utes in 2001. His grandfather ran track at Oregon in the ‘50s. He loves the Ducks, and has a passionate interest in reading every scrap of analysis centered around the football team.
New 2024 FishDuck Publishing Schedule….
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