When you look back at the 2014 Oregon Ducks, it’s hard to say they failed after winning thirteen games and earning a spot in the inaugural College Football Playoff. But their early season defeat to eventual Pac-12 South champ Arizona can be traced back to one stupid penalty; an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty to for over celebration after a sack on third down. Arizona proceeded to take advantage and score the go ahead touchdown in the final minutes but looking back, we don’t know how they would have fared on 4th down had there never been a penalty. Either way, that was last season and this season the Ducks are looking to reload, not rebuild.
Offensively, it’s easy to look at all the skill players in awe because Oregon has stockpiled talent at running back and wide receiver as good as any team in America over the last decade but only two offensive lineman return from last year’s team which could cause trouble for the Ducks’ offense early on in the season. Taking the snaps will be senior transfer Vernon Adams, who finally was able to practice with the team about a week ago once he finished his degree at Eastern Washington. Adams was a legitimate star player in the FCS ranks and in just two and a half seasons he tossed 110 touchdowns and threw for over 10,000 yards. He isn’t the biggest guy on the field but he can sling the bean and is quick enough to evade the rush. The question is, ‘can he do it at this level?’ That remains to be seen. Senior Byron Marshall and sophomore Royce Freeman are thoroughbreds just ready to be let out into the pasture to run. Both can line up in the backfield, split out wide and go in motion with the best of them. A pair of junior wide receivers will hold down the outside for the offense and junior tight end Evan Baylis is a sleeper for becoming a star player in this Ducks offense.
On defense, Oregon returns six starters including three players who recorded 80 or more tackles in 2014. Safety Reggie Daniels, defensive end DeForest Buckner and middle linebacker Joe Walker all return and look to improve on their yards per game allowed statistic that rose way over 400 yards last season. Buckner will line up opposite freshman Canton Kaumatule who at 6-foot-7, 295 pounds can be one of the most dominate ends in college football. Inside on the line will be senior nose guard Alex Balducci (6-foot-4, 310-lbs) who can be an absolute wrecking ball to opposing offenses. Three of the four linebackers from last season return and all three recorded 40 or more tackles last season (Senior Rodney Hardrick, senior Joe Walker & senior Tyson Coleman) with the lone newbie being senior Christian French. If he doesn’t earn the nickname ‘Mr. French’ or hasn’t already, it will truly be a Greek tragedy. Attrition depleted the defensive secondary after last season and Daniels, the team returning leader in tackles, is the lone returning starter. Two sophomores are slated to fill the vacant corner back positions in Arrion Springs and Chris Seisay who were highly recruited out of high school but this will be their first chance to show what they can do in the pass-happy Pac-12. Lining up at the other safety spot will be sophomore Tyree Robinson who much like the two young corners, needs to perform as a first year starter.
The Ducks open the season at home against Vernon Adams’ former team, the Eastern Washington Eagles who finished 11-3 last season with Adams at the helm. Week 2 brings the back end of the home-and-home series with Michigan State where the Ducks get to travel to East Lansing to take on the Spartans who Oregon beat pretty handily in the second half in last season’s game. Oregon will finish out September with the Georgia State Panthers at home, a team that has only won one game in its FBS history and that was against an FCS team, and the conference opener against a pretty good Utah team who had Oregon on the ropes for two and a half quarters in 2014. October opens with a road trip to lowly Colorado, then back home to take on Washington State who has yet to get their act together but seem to give Oregon trouble each year and then back on the road to Seattle to face the Huskies. The Oregon rivalry with Washington is one of the nastiest ones that most people never hear about. These two programs absolutely despise one another and if I were Washington, I’d hate Oregon too after being beaten 11 straight times. The Ducks get their bye week on October 24th but then travel down to Tempe, Arizona, to take on the Arizona State Sun Devils on Thursday night. Many have the Sun Devils picked to win the Pac-12 and some have them making the College Football Playoff. If Arizona State is as good as advertised, this could be one of those classic October Pac-12 games in which Oregon hasn’t had much good fortune. November begins at home with Cal who will be better in 2015 but how much remains to be seen before the big road trip to Palo Alto, California, to take on the Stanford Cardinal who have proven to be the antithesis of Oregon Ducks football. It won’t get much easier the following week when the preseason favorite to win the Pac-12 USC Trojans visit Autzen Stadium. Oregon will then finish the regular season on the final Friday night of November against hated in-state rival Oregon State in the annual Civil War game.
Let’s be honest, the Oregon Ducks have one of the most talented rosters in all of the country and will reload this season. How will the inexperienced players on defense perform? How will the new quarterback replace the most decorated player in school history? These are questions that have been asked about Oregon all off season but I’m sure that when the season finally kicks off, even though it will be new names, faces and uniforms, the Ducks will look exactly like we remembered them; fast.
2015 Oregon Ducks Schedule
Sept 5th Eastern Washington
Sept 12th at (5) Michigan State
Sept 19th Georgia State
Sept 26th Utah
Oct 3rd at Colorado
Oct 10th Washington State
Oct 17th at Washington
Oct 24th BYE WEEK
Oct 30th at (15) Arizona State (Thurs)
Nov 7th California
Nov 14th at (21) Stanford
Nov 21st (8) USC
Nov 27th Oregon State (Fri)