The Oregon Ducks football program, in the past four years, has made an unprecedented run that has not been equaled by any other Pac-12 team (although Stanford is looking to make a statement of their own in the coming years). Participating in four straight BCS Bowl Games and coming out with victories in their past two contests, the Ducks have been among the college football elite ever since Chip Kelly took the reigns from heralded Oregon coach Mike Belotti.
But, as just about every college football fan will tell you, Chip Kelly is now gone. He’s off and trying to implement his spread offense with the Philadelphia Eagles while bringing in a plethora of former Ducks to help aide his effort.
Aside from individuals talking about Kelly’s departure from the program, many fans of other programs in the Pac-12 are anxiously awaiting the downfall of a program they seem to have become annoyed with as of late. Marking Kelly’s departure as a key moment in the momentum shift from Oregon, college football fanatics all along the northwest are anticipating the Ducks to have several of their weaknesses exposed in the coming years.
And though Oregon fans will be quick to defend their heralded football program and protest against those naysayers, the Ducks could very well have one of their weaker seasons in recent years if a few things do not come together for them in the coming season.
But still, despite a somewhat aura of uncertainty surrounding the program, college football analysts are still predicting Oregon to potentially reach a BCS National Championship Game.
As mentioned above, they will need to sort out a few things should they want to see themselves try and avenge their 2011 BCS National Championship loss to Auburn (who may, in the coming years, have to vacate their title).
Here are a few weaknesses the Ducks will need to address if they don’t want their 2013 campaign to be one of their weaker season in recent history.
Uncertainty at Running Back
The Ducks have undoubtedly one of the best running backs/wide receivers in the nation in De’Anthony Thomas and have a somewhat proven/big potential back in Byron Marshall. But with Kenjon Barner now looking to cut it to the outside in the NFL, things are a little uncertain at running back for the Ducks heading into 2013.
While Barner was never a full-time back at Oregon until his senior season, he was always projected to be a great every-down back who could put up big numbers. Unfortunately for the Ducks, they really don’t have that kind of player this year. For, as good as Thomas is, the standout athlete is a little smaller than what an every-down back should be.
This predicament would obviously lead some to believe that the Ducks could very well use Marshall quite a bit this year, of which they will probably do. His production can also be questioned, however, as he never truly took full reps in any game and rushed despite showing a lot of promise.
If the Ducks aren’t able to find a back who can take most of the reps while still allowing Thomas to lineup as a receiver from time to time, their offense may not be as versatile as in years past.
Dion Jordan and Isaac Remington have departed and left quite the holes to fill on the defensive line. With Jordan being a projected top-10 pick in the NFL Draft, you’re obviously going to see a little bit of a fall-off in terms of production from your line, but the Ducks may not be equipped to handle the big lines of Stanford, USC, and Washington as well as they have in recent years.
Oregon will need players like Arik Armstead and Tony Washington to really step up on the line and prove that they can be the next great sack masters in Autzen Stadium.
Like the defensive line, the Oregon linebacking corps took a huge hit with the departures of Michael Clay and Kiko Alonso.
They will now look to find a way to replace two of the most productive linebackers in recent memory with players who have yet to prove themselves at the college football level.
So, while the Ducks surely have the potential to be a top-10 program in 2013 and contend for another Pac-12 and BCS title, they have a few key weaknesses they will need to address if they want to remain among the college football elite.