At last, we’ve reached the final post in our series taking a quick look at the Pac-12 North heading into this season. Fittingly (or not fittingly), we saved the Ducks for last. And Just a heads up, Peter and I are each writing a post devoted to Oregon. Why? I’m not sure (Ask him.), but I apologize for the double blast of green and yellow.
On that note, as much as it pains me to write this, I think it’s Oregon and everyone else in Pac-12 North. Yes, the Ducks are losing a lot on defense, not to mention some Mariota kid, but they return all their running backs and to me, that still makes them formidable as ever. I will say this: They should be more beatable, though.
Who they lost:
The Ducks had five players taken in this year’s NFL draft, including juniors Marcus Mariota and Arik Armstead — who were both taken in the first round. They were joined by Jake Fisher (2nd round), Hroniss Grasu (3rd), and Ifo Ekpre-Olomo (7th). Due to graduation, they lost two other offensive starters and five other defensive players. What stands out here is the seven defensive starters lost.
Who they return:
Running backs Thomas Tyner and Royce Freeman, plus do-it-all Byron Marshall, lead the returners. They also return good talent at receiver and tight end, including Devon Allen and Johnny Mundt. Also, Darren Carrington and Pharoah Brown (hopefully will be returning from a suspension and injury, respectively And of course, there’s Charles Nelson. The breakdown: they return six starters on offense and four on defense.
As mentioned before, the running backs will carry the Ducks this season. And they have to… Nobody is going to be able to come close to replacing Mariota, and whoever ends up being the starter will probably struggle at first. So the backs will be counted on to take pressure off the QB and open things up for the passing game. The only question here is who starts. Freeman was a stud and put up numbers all season, but Tyner came on strong at the end of the season.
At this point it’s too easy (and cliche) to say QB. Replacing seven starters is never easy to do. So the Ducks’ defense could be in for some struggles this season, especially in the secondary, where they are going to have fill three positions. In the pass-happy Pac-12, that’s not a comforting thought. Plus, not to pile it on, but Oregon will miss Armstead and Tony Washington putting pressure on opposing QBs.
Way Too Early Prognostication:
Oregon is still the team to beat in the Pac-12 North. But Beaver fans can take solace in the fact that the Ducks might be more beatable this season than they’ve been in awhile — due to life without Super Mario and having to replace so many defensive starters. Whether OSU can take advantage of that remains to be seen. That said, Cal and Stanford will probably be the biggest threats to UO. All bets are off though, if Vernon Adams starts and torches up the Pac-12 like he did OSU and UW. Again sorry…
Go Beavs! (RW)