The mostly mighty Ducks of Oregon have had a hard time getting past the Stanford Cardinal the past couple of years. Maybe this season will be different and the November 1st shootout between these 2 schools should be one of the better games of 2014.
However, I am going to say that the entire Pac 12 is seemingly on the rise and the conference is getting stronger overall. The next few years should be interesting. I really like Jim Mora at UCLA and Sarkisian should knock it out of the park at USC. Not to mention Graham at ASU and Rich Rod at Arizona. The Pac 12 has made great strides and the champions could be a contender for the whole ball of wax for years to come.
Marcus Mariota (6-4,210) is one of the nation’s best QB’s and would have been a top pick in 2014’s NFL draft. Instead, he chose to return to college football which I applaud him for. I do hope this works out well for him. Or, maybe Mariota knew his offense had nearly everybody coming back this season and he would have a shot at an incredible season.
As an acknowledged college football maniac, I am very glad that Mariota decided to return to Oregon for another year. Super players and super teams just make the game that much better.
Probably most people either never knew this or have forgotten, but Johnny Manziel was in the same recruiting class as Marcus Mariota and they were both committed to Oregon. Manziel changed his mind and went to A&M. I saw Manziel play for Kerrville against Cibilo Steele and I have no idea what college coaches were thinking or recruiting services. The kid was a killer even then and they beat Steele. Kerrville was 4A and Cibilo won the state championship in 5A. Manziel was rated a 3 star, and I guess those recruiting experts are too hung up on size. I have had my own recruiting lists for years and it’s not exactly a science.
Wonder what would have happened had Manziel stuck with his commitment to Oregon?
Back to the present moment and the Marcus Mariota of 2014. In 2013, Marcus threw for over 3600 yards. He didn’t miss a beat between the coaching changeover from Chip Kelly to Mark Helfrich and that’s really not surprising since Helfrich came from within the system.
I was more surprised that Chip Kelly left for the NFL and won his division with the Philadelphia Eagles. I keep getting distracted, but Mariota threw for 31 TDs a year ago and only 4 Ints. He also rushed for 715 yards which could have been much higher if not for injuries. He is a strong runner in the mold of Nick Marshall and Braxton Miller. Actually, he reminds me more of Colin Kaepernick. He has the cannon arm and the sprinters speed.
As far as I know, Oregon never named an official back up to Mr Mariota a year ago and played freshmen Jake Rodriques (6-3,220) or Jeff Lockie (6-2,195). Both are back for their sophomore years and will continue to battle it out for 2nd team and for next year’s starting spot.
I’ve got my dollar on Jake Rodriques, but hopefully Jeff Lockie vehemently disagrees with my opinion and does his best to prove me wrong. I like a guy with a lot of heart.
Also might want to throw in fellow freshman and Texan Damion Hobbs (6-2,195). He hails from perennial Texas high school powerhouse, Cedar Hill in the Dallas area.
Fast and shifty Byron Marshall (5-10,201) returns at RB with his 1038 yard and 14 TD season. Also returning at RB is similar built and talent Thomas Tyner (5-11,200). The Ducks have Ayele Ford (5-7,185) also back in the mix. Big true freshman RB Royce Freeman (6-0,225) out of Imperial, Ca, could play in a hurry and so could scat back Tony James (5-9, 175) from Gainesville, Fla. Both are highly recruited and ready to go.
They do lose De’Anthony Thomas but he was more of a situational back and return man.
Biggest loss on the offense for Oregon is top receiver Josh Huff who had over a grand in reception yardage in 2013 and one of his sidekicks last season, Daryle Hawkins.
But, they do return Bralon Addison (5-10,190) who had a really good year himself with 61 catches for just under 900 yards.
The Ducks will need some other WRs to step up like redshirt freshman speedster Devon Allen (6-0,180) or for hot shot recruit Jalen Brown (6-2,185 from Phoenix to be as good as expected.
TE should be a team strength with John Mundt (6-4,235) and Pharaoh Brown (6-6, 235) returning. This dynamic duo had 26 catches a year ago for 5 TDs.
Evan Baylis (6-6, 245) was a true freshman a year ago that started at least one game and caught 4 passes. Koa Ka’ai provides depth and good size at 6-4,255.
Another team strength should be the Offensive line. Tyler Johnstone (6-6,290) was the LT a year ago and is back. Jake Fisher (6-6,295) started at the other tackle but we may want to watch out for Arik Armstead here. Talk has been of moving him to offensive Tackle where he could become one of the nation’s elite Offensive linemen.
Cameron Hunt (6-4,270) started some as a true freshman at the one guard and Hamani Stevens (6-3,300) should be back at the other while dependable Center Hroniss Grasu (6-3,295) also returns.
Oregon offense should be as good as always.
Defense is usually another story at Oregon. Almost an afterthought at times is the defense’ spot at Oregon.
Arik Arnstead (6-8,280) was one of the very elite recruits in the country a couple of years ago. His brother, Armand, was a star at USC and now for the New England Patriots. Arik wanted to play basketball in college as well as football, but has decided to quit basketball and concentrate on football.
He has failed to live up to expectations as of yet. He needs to either step up at DE or move to the OL. Either position he has unlimited potential. I would like to see him at OT.
He needs to make a move now if he plans on declaring for the NFL.
Tony Washington returns at DE/OLB and he had a big year in 2013 with 7.5 sacks.
DeForest Buckner (6-7,270) returns at tackle and Alex Balducci (6-4,290) expected to take over at the nose position. Look for the #1 ranked JC DE product, Tui Talia (6-4,265) to play at DE or DT.
Linebacker should be in much better shape. Derrick Malone (6-2,220) and Rodney Hardrick (6-1,230) were amongst the leading tacklers. They did lose Bosoko Lokombo, but Tyson Coleman (6-1,220)should fill in. Torrodney Prevot (6-3,215) is an up and coming star from the state of Texas.
4 star recruit Jimmie Swain could make an instant impact here.
At one corner spot, Ifo Ekpre-Olomu (5-`0,`90)is one of the best. The rest of the secondary is rather questionable and spring ball may reveal more. Dior Mathis (5-9,180) and Troy Hill (5-11,180) should battle it out for the other corner.
FS should be Erick Dargan (5-11,205) Terrance Mitchell (6-1,190)and Issac Dixon (5-11,195) should help out.
Oregon should be good again in 2013, but what’s new. They will be tested early by Michigan State and Stanford will be standing in their way again. If they can beat the Spartans and the Cardinal, they could have a shot at going all the way.