Oregon’s Culture is its Biggest Weapon in 2015
Wednesday, August 19, 2015
There everyone was, on a Friday afternoon, tripping over themselves to be the first one to report whether a fifth year college senior from Eastern Washington had passed a math test required for graduation so that student could exploit a loophole in the NCAA system akin to professional free agency and join the Oregon Ducks in practice.
He passed, Vernon Adams did. Not without a false alarm from Ducks blog Addicted to Quack first, but Adams passed, and he’s in Eugene right now.
Adams, if you’re unaware, is a transfer from Eastern Washington – the same team that beat Oregon State and gave Washington a run for their money last season. Adams is using a rule that allows graduate students to play immediately at the school of their choice if that school offers a graduate program that their previous school does not.
Adams is a talented football player – that much is obvious – but for whatever reason, he failed a math class and showed up late to practice in a program that values speed, efficiency, and accountability more than anything.
Point being, he’s playing from behind. The Ducks have a level of familiarity with and loyalty to Jeff Lockie, the backup last season, which will make it hard for Adams to ascend to the top job quickly.
Adams is almost certainly a better quarterback than Lockie, but if you want to believe in Oregon football this season, the best card in your hand is the one that trumpets the culture that Mark Helfrich has done a remarkable job of retaining and refining as he enters his third year at the helm in Eugene.
That culture would suggest that Lockie is the favorite to start, and, in contrast to the general hysteria over Adams’ arrival, is entirely admirable.
That starts with Mark Helfrich, who has exceeded almost every expectation as he heads into his third year at the helm of the program. The Oregon native is extremely well liked – much more so than Chip Kelly ever was – and he’s taken what Kelly has built and fortified it.
Chip’s first year, if you remember, was a total disaster off the field. Players were in trouble every five seconds – Masoli, LaMichael, LaGarrette, Cliff Harris – and that experience in what otherwise was a banner year for Oregon football, shaped its coach and his program immeasurably.
Kelly’s last years in Eugene were about getting teams and players that would buy into his message wholeheartedly. Kelly has continued to demand total buy-in in the NFL with the Philadelphia Eagles, a requisite that has opened Kelly up to the charge of racism – which, in this case, is absolutely laughable.
Kelly left behind a program that was already tight-knit, but Helfrich has defined Oregon’s values even more clearly in his time in charge. It helped, of course, to have Marcus Mariota at quarterback for the first two years, but the Ducks are in a good place to continue on without him.
If Vernon Adams wins this job, you’ll know beyond a shadow of a doubt that he earned it. Not just with his play on the field, but with his attitude, leadership, and desire off it. That’s a comforting feeling in a sport where teams are frequently derailed by snowballing bad decision-making and weak coaching.
Jim Mora might be a good coach at UCLA, but he’s never built a similar kind of culture at any of his stops in college or the pros. No one at USC has done it since Steve Sarkisian, and Arizona State’s Todd Graham hardly has the résumé or people skills to make his program all about culture either.
Oregon has that culture right now. It’s one of hard work, selflessness, and focus. Helfrich (again, thanks mostly to Mariota) has the credentials as a head coach to enforce the values of that culture. DeAnthony Thomas knows – he was frozen out in his last year at Oregon for taking teams, preparation, and assignments lightly.
Adams will have to win this team over. Now that he has finally finished the most publicized college math course ever and is in camp, the hysteria stops. He’s going to have to prove that he can fully embrace the mantle of Oregon quarterback.
The rest of the team, starting with Lockie, will ensure that – and that’s how atmosphere becomes culture, and rolls from player to player and class to class.
This is going to be a fun season for Oregon. There are going to be fewer walkovers, more competitive games, and more adversity, but there’s no reason that this team can’t compete for a national championship again.
Outside of Mariota, this group is just as (if not more) talented than last year’s team. Quarterback is a big question, but it’s most likely going to resolve itself.
This program is in good hands. The games can’t start soon enough.
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How will the Ducks fair without Mariota?
The Ducks have been extremely fortunate to have had one of the greatest quarterbacks in college football leading their offense over the past few seasons. But with him now in the NFL there will undoubtedly be an adjustment period. Can the Ducks overcome losing the reigning Heisman trophy winner? Only time will tell.
Will the Beavers finally be able to step out of the Ducks’ shadow?
Over the past few seasons the Beavers have been commonly referred to as the Oregon Ducks’ “little brother.” It’s been close to 8 years since the Beavers last defeated Oregon in the Civil War, and it’s been even longer since they’ve had the type of success the Ducks have recently experienced. Although this year’s Civil War will be played in Eugene there’s still a chance that they could pull off an upset over the Ducks.
Will the Ducks’ receiving core live up to expectations?
This year’s receiving core is deep, fast and tall. There’s no doubt that the Duck’s receivers could give almost any team’s secondary headaches if they can put it all together on the field. If Devon Allen and Bralon Addison come back healthy, and Darren Carrington decides to stop smoking marijuana before big games, the sky’s the limit for the Ducks’ offense.
Who will take more snaps between Jeff Lockie and Vernon Adams?
One of Oregon’s most prized offseason acquisitions is Vernon Adams Jr. Although he hasn’t been around the team as much as Jeff Lockie has it’s still possible that he wins the starting quarterback position. Both quarterbacks have pros and cons when it comes to starting. The only difference is that Oregon’s coaching staff knows what Lockie’s pros and cons are while they have almost no idea what Adams’ are. We’ll have to trust Mark Helfrich when it comes to who starts on September 5th.
Photo via Vernon Adams Facebook page (image cropped)
Who will take the scoring load with Joseph Young now in the NBA?
Joseph Young was an offensive force last season for the Ducks’ basketball team. He not only led the team in scoring, he also won the Pac-12 Player of the Year award. He had a tendency to come up with big plays just when his team needed them the most. With him now in the NBA the team desperately needs someone to step up and take over where Young left off.
Will Russell Wilson and the Seahawks agree to a new contract before the start of the regular season?
One of the Seahawks’ biggest question marks is whether or not they will be able to agree on a new contract with Russell Wilson. Wilson has led the team to 2 Super Bowl appearances and apparently wants to be one of the highest paid players in the NFL. The only issue is that the Seahawks don’t want to fork up that kind of cash. If this remains unsettled heading into the regular season it could provide plenty of distractions for the team.
Can the Seahawks move past their Super Bowl blunder?
Obviously the Seahawks’ last play of the Super Bowl didn’t turn out the way that they would’ve liked. The bigger issue is the fact that losing a game of that magnitude can have lingering affects on a team. Will the Seahawks let that loss affect them this season, or will they use it as motivation moving forward?
How will Jimmy Graham fit in with the Seahawks’ offense?
One of the Seahawks’ biggest offseason acquisitions was Jimmy Graham. Seattle brought in the former Saint to help Russell Wilson and the rest of the receiving corps this upcoming season. It’s no secret that the receiving core was one of the team’s weaknesses last year, so hopefully the addition of Graham will help the team make it back to the Super Bowl.
Photo via Jimmy Graham Twitter page (image cropped)
Will Marshawn Lynch begin slowing down?
Running backs have a tendency to break down rather quickly in the NFL. It’s rare that you see a running back continuing to be effective well into their 30’s. With Lynch recently signing a new contract Seattle must believe that he can be effective for the next 2-3 years. By the time his contract expires he will be 32.
Will Damian Lillard be able to lead a young Blazer team?
This was one of the most stressful off-seasons that the Blazers have endured in quite some time. After not knowing LaMarcus Aldridge’s intentions for the past few years he finally made the decision to leave Portland and join the Spurs in San Antonio. With Aldridge officially gone it’s now up to Damian Lillard to lead this young team.
Who will Damian Lillard’s sidekick be?
With Damian Lillard being the lone starter who has seen playoff action he will desperately need someone else to step up. Will it be C.J. McCollum? Meyers Leonard? Or maybe one of the newcomers? If this team wants to experience any type of success this season they need a sidekick for Lillard.
Will the Blazers be able to move past LaMarcus Aldridge?
Whenever a team loses one of the best players in all the NBA there’s no doubt that there’s going to be an adjustment period. Instead of the off having the offense flow through LaMarcus Aldridge it will now run through Damian Lillard. This won’t only be an adjustment that the players will have to grow accustomed to, but also the coaching staff.
Can Meyers Leonard and C.J. McCollum continue improving?
If there’s one bright spot for the Blazers’ last postseason it’s that Meyers Leonard and C.J. McCollum showed drastic improvements. Leonard was an efficient 3-point shooter who could draw defenses out on him, while McCollum showed the ability to score the ball at will. Hopefully these 2 guys can continue improving this upcoming season.
Will Alex Morgan and Tobin Heath be able to lead the Thorns to the playoffs?
Alex Morgan and Tobin Heath are coming off of a World Cup victory. After going head-to-head with some of the best teams in the world there’s no question that Morgan and Heath have learned some invaluable lessons that they can share with the rest of the Thorns. It’s fairly uncommon for any club team to have 2 athletes who started on a World Cup team. Hopefully they can use that to their advantage as Portland continues with their season.
Can the Timbers fix their scoring woes?
After starting off the season in a rather sluggish manner the Timbers went on one of the longest winning streaks in franchise history. They currently stand as one of the best teams in the Western Conference even though they’ve had issues when it comes to scoring. If the Timbers have any hopes of advancing into the postseason they need to figure out how to score the ball more frequently.
Will Joseph Young be able to contribute to the Pacers this season?
Joseph Young has the potential to be one of the most successful Ducks in the NBA. He experienced plenty of success in college that made him the 43rd overall selection by the Indiana Pacers during this year’s NBA Draft. The first obstacle that Young must overcome is simply making the roster. Young had an outstanding Summer League that helped increase his chances of playing for Indiana during the 2015-2016 season.
Photo via Joseph Young Twitter page (image cropped)
Will Gary Payton II follow in his father’s footsteps?
It’s almost a guarantee that Gary Payton II has his eyes on the NBA. After all, how could you not when your father was one of the most iconic players to have played for the Seattle Supersonics? If he truly wants to make his dream a reality he has to prove to NBA teams that he has what it takes.
Photo via Gary Payton Twitter page (image cropped)
Will Royce Freeman emerge as a Heisman candidate?
The University of Oregon has been blessed with numerous football players that have turned out to be Heisman candidates. Dennis Dixon, LaMichael James and Marcus Mariota have all been nominated for college football’s most prestigious award. There have already been some rumblings that Royce Freeman could be the next Duck to be up for the Heisman. He had a breakout season as a true freshman. If he continues to dominate there’s no doubt the sky’s the limit for the true sophomore.
Can Marcus Mariota lead the Titans franchise?
Marcus Mariota is one of the most successful quarterbacks to have come through the University of Oregon. With him now in the NFL many are curious as to whether or not he can come in and contribute right away. The Tennessee Titans are in need of a franchise player, and Mariota could very well be that guy. We wont know for sure until this upcoming season.
Will Chip Kelly’s offseason moves pay off?
Chip Kelly made a plethora of off-season moves that have many analysts scratching their heads. He traded away one of the most effective running backs in the NFL as well as his starting quarterback. What he got in return were two players who are both coming off of ACL injuries. If Kelly has a plan it better work out soon otherwise he could quickly find himself unemployed.
- What Losing Mariota Means To The Ducks
- The Post-Mariota Oregon Ducks No Longer Considered National Championship Contenders
- Ten Injuries That Could Have Cost The Ducks and Bucks Their Season
- Close, But Not Close Enough for the Ducks
- No Mariota, No Problem: Oregon Ducks Season Preview
- Are the Ducks Losing Their Innovative Edge?
- Oregon Ducks Football Finds New Face in Royce Freeman