Questions heading into 2012?
If there’s one thing we do know, it’s that that this team is going to be good.
How good, however, is speculative at best. There are a handful of things that remain unanswered in Eugene at this point in the offseason.
5) Will the Ducks Defense Outplay The Team’s Offense?
With LaMichael James gone to the NFL and a new quarterback running the offense, the Oregon defense could receive more attention than they’ve seen since Chip Kelly’s arrival in 2009.
The defense is well-conditioned and has a handful of veteran leaders ready to take control. They’re going to be very good, and whenever the offense stutters, they’ll be there to carry the team on more than one occasion.
The Ducks’ offense is still going to be good, and there’s a chance they could be just as great as they’ve been the past few seasons, but if the team is going to find success next year, it could ultimately be the defense that pushes the team to the next level.
4) Can Byron Marshall be the Team’s Third-String Running Back?
Following the departure of LaMichael James and the transfer of Tra Carson, the Oregon running core will be unusually shallow heading into the 2012 season.
At this point, the answer has to be true freshman Byron Marshall.
According to Aaron Fentress of The Oregonian, Byron Marshall claimed back in January that he was not going to Oregon to redshirt. Fentress reported in August that the freshman has “made a strong impression during camp,” and that he is considered to be the favorite at this point for the third-string position.
Walk-ons Ayele Forde and Kenny Bassett are also possibilities.
3) Which Wide Receiver Will Step Up?
The Oregon Ducks have plenty of talent at the wide receiver position, but nobody on the roster outside of De’Anthony Thomas has proven to be a standout player at that position.
Despite his explosiveness and playmaking abilities, Thomas is not a go-to option on the outside.
The most likely candidate as the No. 1 receiver has to be Josh Huff. If he can stay healthy and keep his head on straight, he could be a big-time threat any time the ball is thrown his way.
If Josh Huff can’t get it together, there are a number of players who can step in and take his place, but the question is, who will it be?
2) Can the Ducks Defeat the USC Trojans?
The question of whether or not the Ducks can beat the USC Trojans is a reasonable one, and it becomes even more difficult to answer when imagining how the two teams could match up twice during the 2012 season.
The Ducks and Trojans are the favorites to win their respective divisions and meet in the Pac-12 Championship, but their first matchup will come on Nov. 3, in what could realistically be a top-5 battle between two undefeated contenders.
USC quarterback Matt Barkley is a Heisman favorite, and the Trojans are looking to make some serious noise in their first year of bowl eligibility since his collegiate career began.
The Trojans are a dangerous team, and if the Ducks want to contend for a title of their own—whether it be Pac-12 or BCS—they’re going to have to get through USC.
1) Who Will Play Quarterback?
This is the big one.
With less than three weeks until the college football season kicks off, the Oregon Ducks apparently still have no idea as to who will be taking snaps under center next year.
If you’re a fan of the Ducks, know one thing heading into next season: whichever player makes the cut, he’ll be ready.
Kelly had a similar decision to make two years ago when it came down to Nate Costa and Darron Thomas. Kelly chose Darron Thomas, and the team made its first appearance in the BCS National Championship game.
This isn’t to say the Ducks are headed to the big stage simply because Kelly knows what he’s doing, but with both quarterbacks displaying dual-threat abilities in the Spring Game this year, it’s safe to trust that Kelly will make the right choice, and that the Ducks will be in good hands in 2012.