Why The 2016 Oregon Ducks’ Offense Will Dominate The Pac-12
Thursday, June 30, 2016
In years past, there has been a key piece missing for the offense; a tight end, running back, quarterback or receiver away from the offense being elite on the air and ground. This year, the question is going to be the offensive line. Can they stand up against the pressure that teams are going to bring? Unless Tyrell Crosby and Cameron Hunt are supplanted at the tackle positions, the Ducks will be green in the middle of the offensive line and experienced at both tackle positions. For my sake though, let's assume the offensive line is a strength this season.
The Ducks return arguably the best running back in the Pac-12, with all-due respect to the little guy down south. I like my running backs to score touchdowns and avoid injuries by not being part of the return game (ask De’Anthony Thomas about that). His freshman year, Royce Freeman went for 1,365 yards and 18 touchdowns. He followed that campaign up with 1,836 yards and 17 touchdowns last season. I don’t like to project stats from past seasons, but I won’t be surprised to see ‘Rolls Royce’ cruise to 2,000 yards and 20 touchdowns. Similar numbers to the bruising Derrick Henry, who battered his way to 2,219 yards and 28 touchdowns. Freeman causes the defense to load the box, or they will get gashed by the star running back. Or get hit down the middle because the receiving core is loaded.
I thought last year’s wide receiving core was going to be the best in school history. That never came to fruition because of injuries, a suspension, and a damn math test. Byron Marshall was projected to be a stud after rushing for 1,038 yards his sophomore year, then playing receiver and catching 1,003 yards his junior year. He only saw action in four games last season. Devon Allen wasn’t the same guy we saw run away from offenses his freshman season for 684 yards and 7 touchdowns. Everyone knows the story of Pharaoh Brown. Losing him at the end of the 2014 season looked disastrous for his football career. Vernon Adams didn’t get the time the coaches would have liked for him to practice with his teammates. Even though he looked good until his broke his index finger and once he was healthy later in the season.
We can book-end Darren Carrington and Dillon Mitchell this season. Carrington was second in receiving on the team in a season that he played in only seven games because of suspension. He is a freak, and now the team adds another freak of nature at receiver in Mitchell. He is only a freshman, but Mitchell is special. I might be a little ahead of myself on this one, but I will go ahead and say he is going to be the best wide receiver that Oregon has ever seen. True freshmen don’t just walk onto the scenes every day and blow up Spring Games the way he did. Add Dwayne Stanford and his size and experience, a healthy Devon Allen who proved himself to be 100 percent by winning his second 110-meter hurdles title, Pharaoh Brown, and Evan Bayless … How do you stop this offense? I wouldn’t want to be a defensive coordinator in the Pac-12.
This year's quarterback competition isn’t as one sided as last season, in theory. Nobody knew how abysmal Jeff Lockie would play when he got into the game. Making any time that Vernon Adams wasn’t in the game a crap-shoot of whether Lockie or Taylor Allie would throw an interception in the red zone or touchdown. Both options seemed equal at times. Travis Jonsen and Dakota Prukop both look like viable options this season. I am not going to try to handicap the quarterback competition. I just know that I am not as worried about the quarterback position as I am the offensive line, with either player under center. Jonsen has more experience in the Oregon offense and Prukop has the experience overall being a fifth year senior transfer.
Another weapon that should be back in play is the fast paced action of Oregon. Adams didn’t have the grasp of the playbook or timing that a player who was there for spring football, summer workouts and all of fall camp would. That pace causes players on defense not to be set before the snap of the ball, or go down with an injury just to get up a few minutes later and be miraculously fine moments later.
Nobody knows about that defense yet, but I would be surprised if there were two years in a row that Oregon played statistically the worst defense in school history. Giving up 37.5 points per game was the most allowed by any defensive unit in Oregon football history. New defensive coordinator Brady Hoke and his 4-3 defense should help the offense.
No matter who is at quarterback this season, the Ducks will have a better season than last year with a healthy receiving corps, better defense, an All-American running back, and two quarterbacks who can run the offense (we hope).
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