2012 Pac-12 College Football Preview: Oregon Ducks
The Oregon Ducks are coming into a 2012 season ranked fifth in both the preseason USA Today Coaches Poll and the AP Top 25 Poll.
After winning three straight Pac-10/12 Championships, the Ducks are expecting much of the success that they have become acquainted with in recent years to continue in 2012. Over the past three years, the Ducks have compiled 34 wins to only six losses, with their latest victory coming against Wisconsin in one of the most thrilling Rose Bowls in history.
Coming off of a Rose Bowl victory, the Ducks are loaded with talent that should make them one of the most dangerous teams in 2012.
However, a more competitive Pac-12 conference is waiting to play spoiler to the Ducks’ chances of securing a fourth straight conference championship.
Improving teams like Washington, Washington State and Cal will throw all they have at the reigning conference champions, trying to unseat them from their current throne.
And then there are the USC Trojans.
USC will be coming off of its postseason ban in 2012 and are primed for a magical season of its own. Stars such as Matt Barkley, Robert Woods and T.J. McDonald will all be leading a preseason No. 1 Trojan team down the field.
Without a doubt, this will be one of the most exciting seasons in the history of Oregon football.
And so, without further delay, here is your 2012 Oregon Ducks football preview.
Head Coach: Chip Kelly (New Hampshire ’90)
Record at school: 34-6 (3 years)
Career record: 34-6 (3 years)
• Mark Helfrich (Southern Oregon ’96) Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks
• Nick Aliotti (UC Davis ’76) Defensive Coordinator
• Steve Greatwood (Oregon ’80) Running Game Coordinator
• Jerry Azzinaro (American International ’81) Defensive Line
• Gary Campbell (UCLA ’73) Running Backs
• Scott Frost (Nebraska ’97) Wide Receivers
• John Neal (BYU ’80) Secondary
• Tom Osborne (Washington State ’83) Special Teams/Tight Ends
• Don Pellum (Oregon ’85) Linebackers
9/01/12 – vs. Arkansas State (Eugene, Oregon)
9/08/12 – vs. Fresno State (Eugene, Oregon)
9/15/12 – vs. Tennessee Tech (Eugene, Oregon)
9/22/12 – vs. Arizona (Eugene, Oregon)
9/29/12 – at Washington State (Seattle, Washington)
10/06/12 – vs. Washington (Eugene, Oregon)
10/18/12 – at Arizona State (Tempe, Arizona)
10/27/12 – vs. Colorado (Eugene, Oregon)
11/03/12 – at USC (Los Angeles, California)
11/10/12 – at California (Berkeley, California)
11/17/12 – vs. Stanford (Eugene, Oregon)
11/24/12 – at Oregon State (Corvallis, Oregon)
The Oregon Ducks had a relatively calm offseason compared to their previous offseasons that saw their school riddled with scandals and player violations.
Oregon did, however, have its fair share of surprises.
Besides the “normal” NFL draft departures Oregon fans expected, Darron Thomas shocked the Duck fanbase when he declared that he would forgo his senior season and test the NFL waters, thus leaving in place a budding quarterback competition.
And, up until this past weekend, Bryan Bennett and Marcus Mariota were battling it out for the starting position.
After much competition and both being heralded as great athletes worthy of leading the prolific Oregon offense, Marcus Mariota was named the starting quarterback.
The Ducks also brought in yet another top recruiting class loaded with players ready to make an immediate impact.
Though there was speculation that the NCAA would come down hard on Oregon with sanctions, that speculation was quickly dispelled as ludicrous and word has yet to come from either the NCAA or Oregon about pending sanctions.
The Oregon offense should be just as potent as ever, even with Marcus Mariota as the new starting quarterback in place.
Much of this offensive potency can be linked to returning stars De’Anthony Thomas and Kenjon Barner. Excelling at their positions in 2012, these players have already proven that they have what it takes to put up gaudy offensive numbers.
With these two leading the charge at running back, Marcus Mariota should be able to ease into the Oregon offense with a fairly nice ease.
Questions do remain, however, about the kinds of production the Ducks will receive from their wide receiver position.
While they do return Josh Huff, the loss of Lavasier Tuinei to the NFL and Justin Hoffman to injuries (concussions) left some uncertainty surrounding the Oregon receiving corps. That uncertainty has been calmed, at least a little, by the production of Bralon Addison, B.J. Kelley and Devon Blackmon during Oregon’s preseason camps.
The tight end position is currently the only position that has not listed a starter yet and will remain an interesting competition to watch during the beginning of the season.
Despite some uncertainty at a few positions, don’t expect Oregon’s offense to skip a beat as the talent is in place to make this offense one of the most prolific in the nation once again.
Though Oregon’s offense usually receives all the attention, it is Oregon’s defense that could make the 2012 season one of the most special in school history.
Riddled with returners all across the defense, this unit is stacked with the talent necessary to stop offenses right where they get started.
Fueled by a potent defensive line, this Oregon defensive unit will be one of the most intimidating in school history.
Returning stars such as Dion Jordan, Ricky Heimuli, John Boyett, Michael Clay and Kiko Alonso all contribute to the defensive prowess that Oregon will be supplied with this season. A stable of incoming talent also provides the Ducks with the depth to succeed should injuries become an issue.
Defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti has always been known for his special blitz packages and attacking style of play and that should not change in 2012.
Just about every defensive unit has improved for the Ducks during the offseason, and the defense as a whole will be the key to whether or not Oregon can claim a fourth straight Pac-12 title.
The Ducks’ 2011 special teams unit definitely had its ups and downs. With brilliant kick returns from De’Anthony Thomas and punting from Jackson Rice, the Ducks’ punt coverage and punt return units flourished in 2011.
On the other side of special teams, place kicking especially, the Ducks were a little unfortunate. Alejandro Maldonado was inconsistent as a place kicker and cost the Ducks a chance at overtime against the Trojans, a game that could have propelled them straight back into the BCS National Championship race.
In 2012, expect all facets of Oregon’s special teams to be much improved from their 2011 versions.
The kickoff coverage, kickoff return, punt coverage and punt return units should all be stellar as each returns key pieces of the puzzle. Punter Jackson Rice will be entering his final season with the Ducks, looking to finally win the Ray Guy award.
All-around player De’Anthony Thomas will be returning punts for the Ducks and looks to be just as special this year as last.
In terms of place kicking for this season, the Ducks have Rob Beard instead of Maldonado listed at PK. A year of more refinement can only improve the Ducks’ chances at placing more kicks between the uprights.
Trying to separate myself from all biased opinions, I really do believe the Ducks have what it takes to run the table and get to the national championship and win the day.
An extremely potent offense combined with the best defense in Chip Kelly’s era should yield the tools necessary to take down every team that they face.
Marcus Mariota, though young and inexperienced, has shown flashes of greatness in his short tenure at Oregon and is poised to be the next great Duck quarterback.
For those who don’t believe a rookie QB could lead the Ducks to a national championship, Darron Thomas did just that in his first season as a QB at Oregon, and Mariota has already shown that he is better than Thomas in several areas.
Get ready, Duck fans, this could be one special season.