Another Rose Filled Year?
The Oregon Ducks‘ 2011 campaign was, needless to say, quite impressive. Despite accumulating two losses, one to a team in LSU that appeared in the BCS National Championship, the Ducks won their third consecutive Pac 10/12 title while also laying claim to their first Rose Bowl since 1917.
After departures by star players RB LaMichael James and QB Darron Thomas to the NFL, the Ducks will look to begin the next era of Duck football in 2012.
Yet, as high as expectations are once again for the Oregon Ducks, this does not mean that they are not without fault. As mentioned earlier, although the Ducks do have talented depth at RB and QB, the departure of both James and Thomas are quite significant.
With such lofty expectations riddled with a sense of roster uncertainty, here are the strengths and weaknesses of the 2012 University of Oregon Ducks.
Strength – Coaching
One of the most appreciated yet under-appreciated aspects of Oregon football is the coaching. While that statement may seem at odds with itself, hear me out.
Oregon head coach Chip Kelly is without a doubt one of the most respected and smartest minds in college football. Utilizing his offensive knowledge day-in and day-out, Kelly has led the Ducks to new heights. He is an innovative, fast-thinking, and a silent leader who is able to make adjustments whenever he deems necessary.
Though Pac 12 coaches have tried to pick-and-pry at his brains for years now, Kelly has always been one step ahead of the game.
Yet, it is not only coach Kelly that deserves accolades for the success of the Oregon Duck football program.
One of the most least appreciated aspects of Oregon football is the coaching stability that they have had throughout the years and the significant contributions their assistants have made to the program. Included in this list of excellent coaches are Nick Aliotti , Don Pellum, and Scott Frost.
Though they have all received flack at one point or another, most notably Aliotti for his bend but don’t break aggressive defensive attitude, all have contributed significantly to the rise of Oregon football throughout the nation.
Pellum has shaped Oregon running-backs into some of the finest in the nation and Frost has helped to develop quarterbacks and corner-backs as the two continue to become solid units for the Fighting Ducks.
Taken altogether, the Oregon Duck coaching staff is one of the best in the nation.
Strength – Running back Tandem
Last year it was James and Barner. This year, it will be Barner and Thomas. No, not Darron Thomas, he is long gone; DeAnthony Thomas is the name you are searching for.
Oregon has had the recent fortune of having some of the best running-backs in college football at the same time. Whether it was Stewart and Johnson or James and Barner, Oregon running back tandems have absolutely wrecked havoc on college football defenses.
With the departure of James to the NFL, DeAnthony Thomas and Kenjon Barner will lead the Oregon charge down the field.
If you have not heard already, Thomas and Barner are pretty good. Just a true freshman last season, DeAnthony Thomas will break your ankles with his cutbacks and burn by you with his straight speed; just ask the Wisconsin Badgers.
Though Thomas will surely receive his fair share of carries in the 2012 season, it will be Kenjon Barner that shoulders the load for the Ducks this fall.
Always hidden somewhat in the shadows by James, Barner has always been a reliable back for the Ducks of Oregon and has also been rumored to be faster than LaMichael.
With Barner and Thomas leading the charge, expect great things to come out of the Oregon backfield once again.
Strength – Line-backing Corps
One of the hidden gems of Oregon football in recent years has been their line-backing corps. Players such as Casey Matthews, Spencer Paysinger, and most recentlyJosh Kadduhave been huge players within the Pac 12 and on defense.
Though Matthews, Paysinger, and Kaddu have all moved on to greater things in the NFL, Oregon is slowly but surely becoming the new “linebacker-U”.
This year, 2012, expect Oregon to have an even better line-backing corps as they returning stars Boseko Lokombo, Michael Clay, and Kiko Alonso.
If a college football offense is not scared of that corps of destroyers, I don’t know what else could frighten them.
While Clay and Alonso both made names for themselves during the 2012 season, expect Lokombo to emerge as one of the best players in college football, especially on the defensive side of the ball.
If anything is sure about these players, it is that they are some of the most hard-nosed defenders you will ever see. Playing the attacking style of defense that Nick Allioti orchestrates, Lokombo, Clay, and Alonso are true run-stoppers that always end up where the ball is.
Expect great things out of these players in 2012.
Weakness – QB Uncertainty
I know that some people will question this, but it is really one of the weaknesses that Oregon will face leading up to the season, and is mainly so because Oregon does not really have many weaknesses heading into a 2012 season filled with high hopes.
While either quarterback will undoubtedly serve the team well, it is always better to resolve any issues/questions you have before entering any important games.
Weakness – Strength of Schedule
Looking for yet another BCS National Championship bid, the Ducks may find themselves concerned with how weak their out-of-conference schedule is this year.
Though the Pac 12 should be fairly formidable, three home games to start the season against the likes of Arkansas State, Fresno State, Tennessee Tech give the Ducks an easy path to three straight victories.
While this will look good in the win column, BCS voters will not be impressed by this schedule. Since the Ducks will be vying for a BCS National Championship this year, they have to feel worried about their lack of a true test prior to Pac 12 play.
Weakness – Wide Receivers
I know that the Ducks haveJosh Huff and Rahsaan Vaughnreturning, there is a lot of uncertainty around who will start alongside them.
Will it beTacoi SumlerorDevon Blackman?
While there is surely talent there and the depth at the position, uncertainty about who will be productive at wide receiver for the Ducks remains one of their bigger questions heading into the 2012 season.
After looking at both the strengths and weaknesses of what will be the 2012 Oregon football team, the Ducks look as though they will be contending for their fourth straight Pac 10/12 title as well as a bid at the BCS National Championship.
That said, nothing is certain and both their strengths and weaknesses will help determine the final outcome of the season.
2012 will be one hell of a ride.