With fall camp completed and the Scout team chosen, Oregon begins preparation tomorrow for the first game of the season, Nicholls State, August 31st at 1:00 p.m. in Autzen Stadium. The game will be carried nationally on Fox Sports 1.
On the headset, in the booth: Scott Frost will do a capable job calling plays, particularly because he understands it matters way more who is running them. His personal journey, quarterbacking a national championship team, competing in a Heisman race, crafting a career in the NFL, learning his trade from Kelly, Parcells, Osborne and Walsh, makes him a perfect mentor for Marcus Mariota. (goducks.com photo)
The Ducks had a great fall camp. They avoided major injury, worked at a brisk pace, sorted out position battles, and reestablished the tempo and temperament that have made them one of college football's best teams for the last five seasons.
Oregon's won 12 games in each of the last three seasons, won two BCS bowls, and been to a national title game. The only goal left is to win one.
An organization doesn't build a 135,000 square foot, $68 million operations center to finish second.
The Ducks want to win now, and they have the system, the talent and coaching staff to do it.
Nationally, there are questions about the Ducks. Robert Smith of ESPN predictably gives Stanford the edge in the PAC-12, because of their defense. "Defense wins championships," he said on College Football Live, forgetting that the Ducks play defense too, and in the two years previous to last season Oregon scored 105 points on the Stanford defense, winning by three touchdowns.
Other analysts point to absence of Chip Kelly as the reason Oregon will slip back in 2013. Many Duck fans thought so too prior to fall camp. But after carefully watching and digesting every scrap of news that came out of fall practice, it's evident that this is going to be a special year.
Kelly's leaving will be an asset. Not because The Visor wasn't a good coach; he was a superb one, a coach who could have become one of the legends of college football had he stayed in Eugene. NFL millions lured. That, and the challenge of coaching at what people call "The Highest Level." It isn't. The NFL is a league run by players and agents and general managers and the league office. For coaches it's a thankless grind. A college coach can shape every aspect of his program and infuse it with his personality. There's room to run a unique scheme and pace. In the NFL, everything is scripted, legislated and copied. It's the Assassin's Creed of football, a mercenary world where everybody dies. The true pinnacle of coaching is in small college towns where men with organization, drive and vision can craft a 30-year career in one place and have a street named after them and a monument in front of the stadium. The NFL is a coaching scrap heap, a chop shop where players are injected with painkillers and sold like spare parts.
This Oregon team will benefit, at least in the short term, from Kelly's defection, simply because it demands that the leadership and drive for this season has to come internally. Kelly taught them and shaped them. Now Marcus Mariota, Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Hroniss Grasu, and Brian Jackson have to lead this team and infuse it with THEIR personality. They have to step out of Kelly's rotund shadow and be their own men. They'll assert themselves. They'll prevail.
For this particular group, with its powerful internal leadership and incredibly deep talent pool, Kelly's leaving will challenge each of them to make themselves great. They won't look to the sideline for inspiration. They'll look to each other.
Marcus Mariota gets more at ease in the spotlight with every interview. He still deflects attention and shares credit, but in four short weeks he's grown more relaxed, working his way through the questions as deftly as he works through progressions. Kelly's leaving forces him to command the offense, and he will.
Mariota's had a fabulous camp. He's been tested daily by the best secondary in the country, and he's zipped the ball into windows that are tighter than anything he'll face in September and October. The weapons around him are astounding. It's a ridiculous video game array of talent. A veteran offensive line anchored by three future NFL players. A tight end who'll become the most coveted prospect at his position after the NFL combine. The fastest, most elusive, most exciting all-purpose back in college football. Two shifty receivers from Texas who were high school quarterbacks, smart and cool under pressure. Two veteran receivers with exceptional maturity and discipline. A quartet of tall, fast young pass catchers that are threatening to emerge at any time.
Everywhere on this team there is the guy, and there's a behind the guy with the same character and drive. Ultimately that's why this team doesn't have any limits. They were all chosen with such care and trained so positively. They are so thoroughly committed to the process and so passionate about it. It's a team you can believe in, a team in every sense of the word.
On Tuesday new receivers coach and passing game coordinator Matt Lubick spoke to KEZI-TV about what's unique about coaching at Oregon. Josh Huff calls him "the man who's going to take the receivers to the next level." Lubick said, "I can't emphasize what a fun program it is to be a part of. You've got guys that want to get better, guys that want to be coached."
He added, "We coach it hard but we coach it positive."
Chip Kelly is gone. But what he's left in place here is remarkable in its vision, its discipline and talent. They'll miss him, but they'll get along without him. He taught them how to be great. They all understand how to finish the job.
In 2013, the Ducks are going to the national title game. It won't be because of one player or one game. It's not a matter of lucky rolls of the dice or being spared the inevitable obstacles and adversities of football. They'll beat Stanford. They'll be poised, motivated and prepared when they go to Washington. Mariota will throw touchdowns. Byron Marshall will run harder and better than anyone outside the Willamette Valley and his hometown of San Jose realizes. The corps of linebackers will rely on their coach, their strong defensive line and hard-hitting secondary. There won't be a stumble, a lapse, or a failure to focus on the next day and the next game. They've been patiently learning that lesson for five years.
Ultimately Orego's success or failure won't be determined by the coach who left. It will be determined by the coaches who stayed and the 85 players who've learned to think and prepare like champions.
It's going to be the most wonderful, amazing year of football you have ever seen.
The fall camp highlight video from Oregon Gridiron:
Best article yet, Dale. I literally got chills reading it. Can't wait to read some of your thoughts once the games begin!
Great article Dale and what a great blog you do in general. It is amazing to have a sports blog without obnoxious punks ranting daily. Unfortunately it is big league football and some people will get hurt and this is where the Ducks shine, deep at every position. Next Man Up!!!!
Well said Dale, I absolutely can't wait to get this thing started!!! Go Ducks Win The Day all the way to a national championship! You are so right about all the talent this team has, next man up is more than a saying it is a reality. This team has enough talent to overcome the loss of most players because in most cases the backups are just as good as the starters. Bring on the sacrificial lamb (Nichols State) and lets get this thing started!!
I'm holding you to it, Dale. And I happen to agree. Funny how now, without Kelly, what he (along with the others who remained + Phil) have built is now bearing a full bumper crop of fruit.
Damn Dale, that was amazing. Read it twice because I like goose bumps. Really really really good.
"It's going to be the most wonderful, amazing year of football you have ever seen." Luv that!! Rockne-esque. (sp)
What the hay, I'm gonna read it again.
Go Ducks WTD
" And the same backfield, Jimmy, you and Collins, Chevigny, and Niemiec. Now-w the success of any team men is based on team-play -- the same as you've shown all year --: Sacrifice; unselfish sacrifice! These are the fellows they say are pretty good; but I think we're better! And I think if we get ourselves keyed up to a point, and when we're confident of that ... why-y-y the results will take care of themselves.
All right, now. On the kickoff -- if we receive, the zone men will drop back to the receiver and block long -- that old Notre Dame style. If we kickoff -- which the rest of the teams want -- let's run down fast -- just as fast as you can run. And then we go on defense. And on defense -- I want the center in and out of that line -- according to the situation. Use your old head! And I want you guards charging through as far as you can go -- on every play. Expect the play right over you every time --.
And the tackles -- I want you to go in a yard and a half -- and then check yourselves. Spread your feet -- squat down low -- and be ready with your hands and elbows, so you won't be sideswiped. But I want the ends in there fast every play. Every play, but under control. And you men in the backfield there, I want you to analyze it before you move. If they throw a forward pass, a zone pass, wait ‘til you see the ball in the air -- and then go and get it! And when we get it, boys, that's when we go on offense. And that's when we go to ‘em -- and, don't forget, we're gonna pick on one last one tackle that is weak.
We're going inside of ‘em, we're going outside of ‘em -- inside of ‘em! outside of ‘em! -- and when we get them on the run once, we're going to keep ‘em on the run. And we're not going to pass unless their secondary comes up too close. But don't forget, men -- we're gonna get ‘em on the run, we're gonna go, go, go, go! -- and we aren't going to stop until we go over that goal line! And don't forget, men -- today is the day we're gonna win. They can't lick us -- and that's how it goes... The first platoon men -- go in there and fight, fight, fight, fight, fight! What do you say, men!
I agree whole heartedly, Dale! This Duck team is going to dominate, mainly because the defense this season is finally going to be on par with the offense. Seriously if everyone stays healthy, they will beat Alabama or anyone in the MF'n country that lines up across from them in January. They're going to surprise a lot of people...
Also, on a TOTALLY related topic.
I love watching the funny portion of our guys during practice. They LOVE this game and they express that when they work HARD and play HARD during practice. They shed blood sweat and tears and have fun doing it. What Josh Huff said in the video of their fall camp sums it up in my opinion. The worst part of practice is the warm up. You can interpret that in various ways but how I see it, is the warm is the really the only part of practice where they arent actively play football or working on their football skills .They love the game, and playing it is what brings them the most joy, and watching them play and succeed is what brings all of us here at Duckstopshere the most joy.
Dale epic use of the Assassins Creed series. Just saying. Haha
One thing, While I'm fairly certain Devon Allen will redshirt, I am really excited for him in this program. He isn't just a sprinter playing football either. This guy is pretty thick. I see big things for him. I see the pieces from their camp on goducks and Allen is almost always mentioned for making a play. He has elite level speed, and, dare I say it, Jeff Maehl type hands. I love the idea of him in space just like DAT, maybe not as explosive and, but no slouch in that department.
Fantastic article. This is the perfect script for James Earl Jones to narrate a good Duck motivational video with.
Dale, you are the best.
The Best Damn Sports Story Ever. Go Ducks!
"For this particular group, with its powerful internal leadership and incredibly deep talent pool, Kelly's leaving will challenge each of them to make themselves great. They won't look to the sideline for inspiration. They'll look to each other." - Dale Newton, August 2, 2013.
@WallyBalls Really appreciate it Wally. We'll have "wall to wall" coverage of Ducks game day and college football Saturdays. My friend A.J. Jacobson of Duck Sports Authority said he might use me as part of their coverage team with media access--have to get in touch with him and see if that's going to happen. I write a twice-weekly column on recruiting for DSA.
@SonomaDuck SD, glad you could get through after the technical difficulties earlier. Really appreciate your support. It is a blessing to have such a civil yet passionate tone here. I give all of you tremendous credit for that.
@theduckforpresident Anxious to see what kind of execution and discipline the Ducks demonstrate against Nicholls. It's a name-your-score game, but the key is how they perform and prepare in their first opportunity to play someone, even though their own scout team probably has more talent.
@1pac12fan 1P12--thank you. Appreciate it.
@Duckbill Maintaining that hunger, the chip on the shoulder might be more important than the absence of Chip. This isn't a team to get complacent. They push each other.
@rgyle It is all coming together, Arg, and I have the feeling that this needs to be the year. They're likely to lose as many as 5-7 key players to early entry into the NFL Draft next spring. Certainly they'll reload and a lot of talent remains, but THIS is the year they have so many weapons and such great leadership, coupled with a favorable schedule. (A road game to Stanford, while facing a good team, isn't as daunting as some simply because The Cardinal don't have a big home field advantage. It's not an intimidating stadium.)
@goducks58 I've had a pretty good track record with outrageous predictions. We'll see if Juju smiles.
@speedexplosion Thank you and welcome SE. This team is so deep and resilient they'll even be able to deal with a certain number of injuries.
@clostrom Clos--key point about the defense. That's the group that the prognosticators are underestimating the most.
@Mahunashizzle Mahuna, the video was beautifully shot, and it provided one of the best looks I've ever seen of a team during camp without giving away any secrets. "Hard knocks" without the tedious melodrama.
@Mahunashizzle Liked Allen's tape a lot, and have heard good things about him all through camp. At the very least it is good to have a player like that available if the Ducks lose somebody during the year, the "how are we going to replace..." situation. Maehl of course emerged the end of his true freshman year, switched from defensive back to offense in November. Four catches for 86 yards and a td in the 2007 Civil War, 2 for 30 versus UCLA, 18-yard run in the Sun Bowl.
Allen will have an impact whenever the coaches think he's ready. A great asset.
@RLWirtz Thanks RL. I thought about it long and hard. and I really felt it was time to just go ahead and say what everyone ought to be thinking. Drink the kool-aid. It's delicious. Only it's not really kool-aid it's a nutrition-packed smoothie of excellence.
@zduckfan Every three months or so I stick my neck and write something really outrageous. Glad you enjoyed the story. In three more months we find out if I'm an idiot or not.
@nyduck @Dale Newton @theduckforpresident True, NYD, they will certainly go plain vanilla, but penalties, turnovers, focus and energy will be the things we'll be looking for, plus who plays and who doesn't.
If a player doesn't take the field in this game it becomes emphatically evident the Ducks intend to redshirt him. We'll likely see 3s, 4s and walk-ons by the fourth quarter, which is a good thing for team morale and development.
@Dale Newton I'm writing up something for your consideration. If you turn out to be an idiot, I shall be in good company.