Pac 12

2010 NCAA Football Preview: Oregon Ducks

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Between now and the September 2nd season kick-off, Danny Hobrock will be previewing all the major college football teams with new teams being released daily.

2009 Season Breakdown

2009 final record (overall, conference): 10-3, 8-1
Bowl Game: Rose Bowl (L 26-17 vs. Ohio State)
Final Ranking (AP, Coaches'): 11, 11
Conference finish: Pac-10 Champions
Offensive rank: 33
Defensive rank: 35

2009 Individual Statistical Leaders

Rushing: LaMichael James, 1,546 yards, 14 TD; Jeremiah Masoli, 668 yards, 13 TD
Passing: Jeremiah Masoli, 2,147 yards, 15 TD, 6 INT
Receiving: Jeffrey Maehl, 696 yards, 6 TD; Ed Dickson, 551 yards, 6 TD
Tackles: John Boyett, 90 total tackles
Sacks: Kenny Rowe, 11.5 sacks (10 solo, 3 assisted)
Interceptions: Talmadge Jackson III, 4 interceptions (1 touchdown); John Boyett, 3 interceptions

2010 Season Outlook

(* denotes conference game)

Key Matchups

September 4 @ New Mexico: The Ducks will win this one, but the college football world will be watching to see how they fare without last year's starting quarterback and running back. Oregon is still considered a top 15 team (or higher) without Jeremiah Masoli, but some still question their ability to challenge for the Pac-10 championship without their would-be preseason Heisman candidate. Running back LaMichael James will be back after this one with Kenjon Barner carrying the load for the first week, but quarterback Masoli is gone for good, leaving the offense in the hands of either senior Nate Costa or sophomore Darron Thomas. All eyes will be on whoever lines up under center in the opener.

September 11 @ Tennessee: LaMichael James will begin his 2010 season with a trip to Knoxville to take on the Volunteers. Tennessee was one of five SEC programs to finish in the top 25 of total defense, but they let up an average of 150 yards per game, including five games in which they let up more than 200 yards on the ground. They lost four of those five games with the lone exception being their 56-28 win over Memphis. LaMichael James rushed for over 1,500 yards last season. If the Volunteers cannot shore up their rushing defense, they'll be in for a long day.

October 30 @ USC: Either Oregon or USC has won or shared the Pac-10 title in each of the past ten seasons. Some are expecting a down year from the Trojans based on last season's performance, but USC won't be out of the conference hunt in 2010 and could very well finish on top of the Pac-10, even if it doesn't earn them a trip to the Rose Bowl or an official Pac-10 title...

December 4 @ Oregon State: The Civil War is one of the most eagerly anticipated college football matchups in the game. Both the Ducks and Beavers have their sights set on the conference title and this one could once again decide who represents the Pac-10 in the Rose Bowl in Pasadena.

Preseason Rankings (will not officially be released until August)


Coaches': N/A

Key Losses

Jeremiah Masoli, QB; Ed Dickson, TE; Will Tukuafu, DE; T.J. Ward, S

Key Returning Players

LaMichael James, RB; Jeff Maehl, WR; Bo Thran, OT; Kenny Rowe, DE; Brandon Bair, DT; Casey Matthews, LB; Spencer Paysinger, LB

Offensive Overview

The Ducks, once thought to be set at the quarterback position with a Heisman candidate returning, now find themselves unsure of who will be taking snaps once the September 4 opener rolls around. The upside is that they have two very good quarterbacks engaged in a close battle for the starting spot. Senior Nate Costa probably would have started the 2008 season if not for a preseason injury, while Darron Thomas has done nothing but impress when given the opportunity. Thomas nearly brought the Ducks back from a 24 point deficit in the fourth quarter of a 2008 matchup with Boise State and shined in the spring game on 15 of 23 passing for 196 yards and a touchdown. The battle continues…

Running back LaMichael James was one of several Ducks to run into legal trouble this offseason. After a one game suspension, James will be itching to continue his 2009 success. With Kenjon Barner, a speedy back who will get the opening game start in James' absence, backing him up, the running game should again be one of this team's strengths. James and Barner will run behind an offensive line that returns all five of its starters. Jordan Holmes will return at center with C.E. Kaiser and Bo Thran returning at the tackle spots. Thran was an all-Pac-10 honorable mention in 2009 and Kaiser is the unit's most experienced player with 22 starts to his name. Mark Asper and Carson York, who started 12 games as a freshman last season, will shore up the guard positions. Holmes, Kaiser and Thran will be seniors, Asper a junior and York a sophomore.

At the wide receiver position, Jeffrey Maehl, D.J. Davis and Lavasier Tuinei were the three leaders at their position a year ago and all return for the 2010 season. Depth took a bit of hit when Tyrece Gaines and Diante Jackson were both declared academically ineligible and will not play this season. Maehl is the most productive of the bunch and help is needed behind him to take pressure off of the running game and lessen the burden on the new quarterback. Tight end David Paulson will replace Ed Dickson after spending a year as his reliable backup. He caught 12 passes for 185 yards a year ago. He'll be used a lot in the offense with Brandon Williams, a junior college transfer at tight end, also expected to get some looks.

Defensive Overview

Dion Jordan moves from tight end to assume one of the end spots as a potential force in the pass rush. Terrelle Turner will also see time and may challenge Jordan for the starting spot this fall. On the other side will be Kenny Rowe, who recorded 11.5 sacks last season, the most in the Pac-10. The pass rush should be there, but where the Ducks show some concern is on the interior of their defensive line. Brandon Bair is a solid tackle, though, leading linemen with 45 total tackles last season. Zac Clark played in 13 games last year and could line up next to Bair at tackle, although Wade Keliikipi could also challenge for playing time.

Casey Matthews is the star of the defense as the middle linebacker. He recorded 81 tackles, three sacks and an interception last season and comes into 2010 with the NFL in his future. Eddie Pleasant moves to safety with Josh Kaddu coming in to fill the void he leaves at strongside linebacker. Kaddu played in the first seven games last season before requiring surgery after breaking his foot. Spencer Paysinger comes into the season with two years of starting experience behind him. He was an all-Pac-10 honorable mention last season after he racked up 81 tackles and 1.5 sacks.

The secondary is another area of this team with a few questions. With Pleasant possibly joining the crew, though, and youth in their ranks, depth should not be too much of a problem. Pleasant will assume a rover position with John Boyett, last year's leading tackler as a freshman, joining Pleasant at safety. Pleasant and Boyett will form a formidable duo with playmaking ability. Pleasant started at linebacker last season, coming up with three fumble recoveries (tied for most in Pac-10), four sacks and four passes defended. Boyett emerged quite unexpectedly to lead the team in tackles and even recorded three interceptions. Marvin Johnson and Javes Lewis add great depth to the position and should see significant time this season. Talmadge Jackson III will assume one of the corner spots after leading the team with four interceptions. Terrence Mitchell has generated some buzz as a freshman this spring and could start opposite Jackson at the other corner spot.

Special Teams Overview

Kicker Rob Beard will be suspended for the first game following an offseason incident that left him in the hospital. He's expected to handle place kicking duties this season in addition to kickoff duties, but incoming freshman Alejandro Maldonado will have the first opportunity to impress the coaches on the field this season in his stead. Jackson Rice will once again handle punting duties after a season in which he averaged 40.3 yards per punt. Kenjon Barner averaged 10.5 yards per punt return and 24.9 yards per kickoff return with one touchdown. He'll likely handle the majority of the returns again this season.

Head Coach: Chip Kelly

This is my favorite Chip Kelly story and I don't see it ever being topped. It's the story of Kelly's check made out to Tony Seminary in the amount of $439 as a refund for his trip to an away game against Boise State that would prove to be embarrassing for the Ducks not only for its outcome, but for the actions of its starting running back after the game. Most fans are familiar with the story, but it's worth revisiting one more time if for nothing more than a good chuckle.

Chip Kelly spent 14 seasons with New Hampshire in various roles before being hired as the Oregon offensive coordinator in 2007. He would spend two seasons in that role before his promotion to head coach for the 2009 season. His tenure as head coach started off as badly as just about any tenure can, as mentioned above, but he quickly turned things around, winning the next seven games, finishing 10-2, winning the Pac-10 and earning a spot in the Rose Bowl where his Ducks fell to Ohio State.

His spread offense has been a big hit at Oregon. In his first season as offensive coordinator, the Ducks finished 10th in the nation in total offense (12th ranked scoring offense) and followed that up with the 7th ranked total offense (7th in scoring offense) in 2008. Last season saw a dip to the 33rd ranked total offense, but Oregon still managed the 8th ranked scoring offense. He'll be challenged to improve in the passing game, but with two capable options competing in fall camp, things are looking pretty good. As far as the defense goes, it's too early to tell the caliber of defense a Chip Kelly-led team will field, but last year's squad was vastly underrated.

Top 2011 Draft Prospects

Bo Thran, OT; Kenny Rowe, DE; Casey Matthews, LB; Spencer Paysinger, LB

Season Prediction

Pac-10 Champions

This is assuming that the Ducks offense doesn't lose too much of a step without Masoli. The spread offense requires good reads from the quarterback and either Costa or Thomas must make good decisions for this team to be successful. Costa has been around the program for a while and knows the offense well. While younger and less experienced, Thomas will likely lead this team in the future, whether that begins in 2010 or 2011. Both quarterbacks have their qualities and whichever wins out in the fall will be the key to another Pac-10 title and trip to the Rose Bowl.

The running game should again be the strength of the offense with James returning following a 1,500 yard season as a freshman and Barner, who was also a freshman a year ago, as his backup. They'll run behind a solid offensive line that returns all five starters and features four upperclassmen. On the defensive side of the ball, the pass defense will be interesting to watch this year with depth at the safety position and promise at the corner position. The linebackers may be the strength of the defense, while the pass rush should be strong off the edges.

The Pac-10 is a tight race with several teams entering the season with a legitimate shot at earning a trip to the Rose Bowl. While the Trojans cannot win the Pac-10 or a trip to a bowl game, they'll likely be fired up enough to make as much of the regular season as they can, disrupting their conference rivals' hopes of winning the conference and playing spoiler whenever they can. Oregon enters the season the favorite (arguably), but will by no means run through the Pac-10 the way the Trojans had in the last decade. - Danny Hobrock

Danny is a sports journalist primarily covering college football and professional baseball. His work for Xtra Point Football has garnered national attention and is critically acclaimed. Danny is the former editor of a political and current events website and the editor of our college football content.

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