Football is Back!
It has been exactly 238 days since the Oregon Ducks beat the Wisconsin Badgers in the 98th edition of the game. The win was the first for the Ducks in the Rose Bowl since 1917 and cemented them as one of the top programs in college football.
Since then, Oregon fans as well as college football fans have had to peruse the internet and news trying to find any bit of information about college football to satisfy their cravings.
For those of you who, like me, have done more than enough college football web browsing the past few months, the wait is almost over. The excruciatingly long, arduous, and tiresome wait for the next Ducks football season will officially be over this Saturday (September 1st) when the Ducks play host to the Arkansas State Red Wolves.
After the Red Wolves, the Ducks will face Fresno State (September 8th), Tennessee Tech (September 15th), Arizona (September 22nd), Washington State (September 29th), Washington (October 6th), Arizona State (October 18th), Colorado (October 27th), USC (November 3rd), California (November 10th), Stanford (November 17th), and Oregon State (November 24th).
The most notable games of a relatively easy 2012 schedule include the Ducks’ contests against Washington, California, and USC, with their matchup against USC being the marquee game of the year.
Due to this fairly easy schedule, the Ducks are once again expected to be frontrunners for securing their fourth straight Pac-12 Championship and to possibly contend for a BCS National Championship. As mentioned earlier, they will need to get past a Trojan team that will also be contending for a National Championship if they want to accomplish either of those goals.
With lofty expectations, here is your Oregon Ducks 2012 college football season preview.
Oregon head coach Chip Kelly has made quite a name for himself during his short tenure as a head coach of the Ducks. He has put together a program that has won three straight Pac-10/12 Championships and appeared in three BCS Bowl games, winning one.
An offensive guru, Kelly is sure to impress the college football world in 2012 once again as he keeps on adding pieces to his puzzle and making the Ducks even better than before.
Defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti will have one of his best defenses in history, thus giving him the opportunity to resurrect his “Gang Green” defense from 1994.
The biggest news to come out of Eugene in recent months was the naming of Marcus Mariota the starting quarterback for the Oregon Ducks.
With the departure of Darron Thomas to the NFL, Mariota and Bryan Bennett competed throughout preseason camps, both looking equally impressive. Though many suspected that Bennett would be named the starter, Mariota appears to have demonstrated the ability to become one of Oregon’s greatest quarterbacks in history.
The easy start to the season should, however, give both quarterbacks ample amounts of playing time. Should Bennett outplay Mariota during this stretch of the season, don’t be surprised if Chip Kelly switches who his starter will be, especially if Mariota is struggling to grasp the offense.
All indications are, however, that Mariota is primed to lead what should be yet another prolific Oregon offensive attack. Mariota excels in open space, being one of the fastest quarterbacks in Oregon football history, and can also dissect defenses with precision passing and a strong arm to compliment the deep game. If he does have a weakness, it is that he has not actually played in a college football game yet.
This will be the year that Kenjon Barner finally gets to prove to the nation that he is just as good as current San Francisco 49er LaMichael James. Boasting the same cutback speed and acceleration as James, Barner actually provides better top speed in the open field, giving the Ducks yet another consistent weapon to use throughout the 2012 season.
Behind Barner will be do-it-all playerDe’Anthony Thomas.Known for his explosive capabilities, Thomas will share time at both the running back and wide receiver position. Expect this talented athlete to blow by defenses once again in 2012 as he gains even more experience in the college football arena.
Though some may state that depth may be an issue at running back for the Ducks, incoming freshman Byron Marshall should be available if Barner or Thomas go down, and players like Ayele Ford and Kenny Bassett have shown coaches that they can be viable backups.
If there is one weakness on the Oregon Duck offense this season, it could be their uncertainty surrounding their wide receiver corps.
Though the Ducks do return Josh Huff, who should have a more impressive season than last after some ball handling issues, their other wide receiver slots are essentially left in question this season.
Just like depth at running back, however, the wide receiver issues do not revolve around whether there is enough talent at the position. The issues revolve around who is actually going to see enough playing time to produce that talent and get comfortable in the system.
Emerging players like B.J. Kelley, Devon Blackmon, and Bralon Addison should see some playing time, but expect that time to be served on a rotational basis.
The offensive line will once again be a strong point for the Oregon Ducks. The O-line returns a bevy of players that have already contributed significantly, allowing the Oregon offense to not skip one beat.
Incoming players also boost the chances that this offensive line has the potency to play at a big time level.
Defensive Line and Linebackers
The defensive line and linebacking units for the Ducks look to be the strong points on an Oregon defense that will be one of the best in program history.
Anchored by Dion Jordan and Taylor Hart, the Duck defensive line should continue to get into the backfield and put pressure on opposing offenses. Newcomer Arik Armstead has proven throughout camp that he is the real deal and should make an immediate impact for the Ducks.
In terms of linebackers, the Ducks should boast one of the more impressive units with players like Michael Clay and Kiko Alonso leading the charge.
The Oregon secondary could be a question mark for the Ducks, but after a year of experience, Terrance Mitchell looks to continue the impressive streak of play that he had towards the end of the 2011 season. Opposite him will be Ifo Ekpre-Olumu, a talented young man who has also shown vast improvements.
John Boyett,now entering his senior season, will look to cap his final year with the Ducks by improving upon his already impressive play.
The Oregon special team return and coverage units were some of the best in the nation last season. With De’Anthony Thomas returning kicks, virtually anything is possible for the Ducks this season.
In terms of place kicking, an area where the Ducks struggled last season, Rob Beard is currently listed as the place kicker, replacing Alejandro Maldonado who assumes the role of kicking the ball off.
Punter Jackson Rice will also be in his final season for the Ducks looking to finally capture that elusive Ray Guy Award.