College football is a game with built-in cycles and a tremendous challenge every winter: after the last Signing Day pledge comes in, coaches have to accept the challenge to rebuild and reshape their teams for a new season. How do you say good-bye and replace Josh Huff, De'Anthony Thomas, Taylor Hart and the rest? Here's an inventory of what was lost.
Chicks dig scars, and pain heals: Keanu Reeves and friends have all used up their eligibility, so the Ducks will have to make do in 2014 with Marcus Mariota, Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, and Hroniss Grasu.
Wide Receiver/Passing Game
Bralon Addison immediately steps in to Huff's role as the go-to receiver (61 catches, 890 yds. 7 tds in 2013), but who replaces Addison? Ducks have to identify a reliable #2 target and big-play receiver among several candidates. Huff had 6 100-yard games last season, and 6 times he averaged over 20 yards per catch in a game.
Dwayne Stanford, Chance Allen, B.J. Kelley, Darren Carrington, Devon Allen, Jalen Brown, Tony James and Budda Baker all have talent, but a couple of them have to grow up in a hurry under the watchful eye of Matt Lubick. Look for running backs Thomas Tyner and Byron Marshall to be more involved in the passing game as well (13, 14 receptions last season). All three tight ends return. Pharaoh Brown, Johnny Mundt and Evan Baylis, all flashed potential to become playmakers. Mundt and Baylis each made a nice catch on a seam route in the Alamo Bowl, Mundt for 20 and Baylis for 27 yards.
The Ducks are in great shape at running back next season despite Thomas' departure. DAT wasn't fully reintegrated into the Oregon offense after his injury against Cal in game 4, accounting for just 4 touchdowns after going down, missing four games and ineffective against UCLA at the end of October, little-used in the Alamo Bowl.
Tyner, Marshall, incoming freshmen Royce Freeman and Tony James, reliable sub Ayele Forde, and redshirt freshman Kani Benoit comprise the deepest backfield the Ducks have ever had. Curiously DAT, Tyner, and Marshall all averaged 6.2 yards a carry in 2013. Forde churned out 6.4 in his mop-up role. Despite a late-season injury Mariota scorched defenses for 96 carries, 715 yards, 7.4 yards a carry, 9 tds, including a 71-yard scoring run against Virginia and a career-high 133 yards in the Alamo Bowl.
The sleeper in the running back rotation is linebacker Rodney Hardrick, who carried the ball twice last year, a 66-yard rumble with a fake punt, and 65-yard scoop-and-score with a blocked field goal versus Stanford.
|Taylor Hart||6-6||287||75||3.5||6.5||3 FF, 5 pass BU|
|Wade Keliikipi||6-3||306||34||2||5.0||1 fumble recover, 1 blk kick|
Hart's relentless motor will be the hardest to replace. For all the worry about the loss of five defensive linemen in 2013 (Jared Ebert and Ryan Hagen are the other two), statistically, this group won't be missed provided there is improved linebacker play next year.
A change in scheme or technique seems inevitable unless the Ducks score big in the last 25 days of recruiting: currently the roster doesn't include any of the big defensive tackles needed to play the "3-technique" role played by Keliikipi and Havili-Hemuli. 6-4, 297-lb. Alex Balducci, a junior next year, comes closest.
The Ducks desperately need to close strong at defensive tackle in the next three weeks. Defensive linemen get dinged up, and numbers are essential. Fans can remember the Cal and Stanford games in 2012, when the Ducks got so thin on the d-line that they had to burn Balducci's redshirt; in parts of both games they were fielding 3 freshmen on the defensive line.
|Boseko Lokombo||6-3||229||63||7.0||3.0||1 int, 2 PD, 1 rec, 1 FF|
The entire linebacker group underperformed in 2013, and the hope is that a year of experience and the energy provided by a new defensive coordinator will inspire improved results next season. The emergence of Danny Mattingly and Jimmie Swain inside allows 6-2. 220-lb. Derrick Malone to move outside where he can be more effective. Hardrick and junior college transfer Joe Walker showed progress in the Alamo Bowl. Tyson Coleman earned two starts in the middle of the season but missed the Civil War and the bowl game. Torrodney Prevot and Tyrell Robinson look like rising stars. Both should have a bigger impact as sophomores.
Lokombo had a productive Duck career, but always seemed like a player who was about to burst into a full-blown dominating player but never got there. Blessed with a NFL body and good size and speed, he scored 4 touchdowns on defense and special teams, including a pick six against Andrew Luck in 2011 and a fumble recovery against Arizona State as a freshman.
|Avery Patterson||5-10||189||80||3||6.0||9, PD, 3 career pick sixes|
|Brian Jackson||5-10||197||71||0||1.0||3 PD, spokesman, inspirational leader|
|Terrance Mitchell||6-0||189||59||5||0||12 PD, 1 FF, team leader in ints|
Replacing these three is a tremendous challenge for John Neal and the defense, not just in their statistical production, but their leadership and knowledge of the game.
The Ducks have a wealth of talented young defensive backs, and a lockdown veteran presence in Ifo Ekpre-Olomu on one side. Hard-hitting safety Erick Dargan returns, and Dior Mathis played in all 13 games. Dominique Harrison has already enrolled for winter term; the cornerback from Contra Costa College was Defensive Player of the Year in the Bay Valley Conference as a sophomore. 5-star recruit Arrion Springs will make a bid to play right away. Chris Seisay, Tyree Robinson, Reggie Daniels and the Amoako brothers have all waited their turn, and linebacker/safety Oshay Dunmore is one of the best athletes on the team.
Whoever emerges, Neal will be teaching on the fly in 2014, and Connor Cook and Michigan State come to town on September 6th.
Great analysis, Dale - love the charts. As with every year, a few weeks before signing day, and a ? DC on the horizon, it almost keeps me up at night - almost. Sure hope the Ducks land 2 more solid DTs, even 3 is possible. Glad Ragin's now a Duck but have to wait a year for him on the field. I expect significant upgrade in LB performance next season. And if Lockie and/or Rodrigues stay on, love to see one or both of them game-ready by late August vs. South Dakota going forward. Can't put all the eggs in the Mariota basket. Finally, I want to see more innovation on both O and D, the team needs to evolve and Helf/Frost, along with the new DC, need to lead that charge.
I think we will have a fine team next year but we will miss DAT. I don't know that I have ever seen any offensive weapon as dangerous as him. Of course I am biased, yesterday I watched the 30+/- minute video that Dale posted of DAT's highlights. Regarding the backup QB's, we will never know if they get no significant and meaningful time.
The defense needs a dynamic leader (Todd Orlando) who can get the most out of the talent we have. We need to add beef on the defensive line. JUCO guys who can start right away would be good. I think the linebackers will improve this year and Walker will be a standout. I feel much better about the secondary with Ifo staying. The offense will be fine and the defense will be also, with the right DC.
Despite the introduction of Mahalek, I have some concerns about our back up QB situation. While nobody has voiced concerns from the coaching staff, sometimes actions speak louder than words. The fact Mariota played several games with a sprained knee gives the impression there's at minimum a pretty significant drop off at the backup QB spot or at least some questionable decision making abilities under pressure. While I understand Mariota's healthy return is a great thing, I personally have serious concerns about our back up plan.
I agree on the rebuild, but view that as not such a bad thing.
We are getting a new DC, and most likely a new/different scheme. At least to some extent.
So replacing/reloading 3/4s of the defensive players at the same time may work out for the best.
Breaking old, established habits will be less of an issue for the younger players, who haven't worked under Aliotti's complex schemes for as many snaps as the old guard.
The scheme may change, the formations may change, and the players will change.
But I have faith that the Men of Oregon will retain their culture, and winning ways.
I'm REALLY looking forward to 2014 Oregon football.
Now I just have to figure out what to do for the next 6.9 months!
Thanks Dale. It's a lot to replace for the Ducks. So many question mark positions. (Compared to this season, when IMO it was only the linebackers.) I think it's going to be a rebuilding year, especially on defense. Fingers crossed that things jell for our boys.
@duckified APOLOGIZE FOR RESPONDING TO DUCKIFIED POST BUT CAN'T USE THE BOX PROVIDED FOR A DIRECT RESPONSE TO COLUMN -CAN THAT BE FIXED? My isues for next year are 1) offensive line which in the past produced great holes for running and allowed Oregon to be a run first team and not so reliant on a passing/out of this world running qb 2) John Neal, if he is still here will reload in the secondary as position coach or DC 3) dline is very worrisome as getting pretty thin at tackle 4) linebackers not only underperformed but will be beat out by just about any combination of red shirts available from he practice squad so there will be better athletes but less experience at lbacker-this could have been avoided by pulling the shirts off a couple of practice squad/redshirts. My biggest concern is coaching where play calling was frankly predictable in a way it hasn't been in a log time and usually involved having MM bail out the offense because it was saddled with so many 3rd and longs.
The next 6-9 months will certainly be a challenge... I know I can't wait. Hope I don't get hit by a bus in the meantime because 2014 seems to be the year we get it done.
Thanks gd. I actually think they are in very good shape for 2014. They return about 105 starts on the offensive line, and 3 tremendous leaders. They return 10 of 11 starters on offense. The defense will have to be rebuilt, but there's a lot of depth and athletic ability, and I feel their about to make an impact hire at defensive coordinator. I'm very optimistic, but then again I always am.
@sozeduck@duckifiedFortunately, the Oline has a great leader in Grassu. I hope he works the guys like a Marine drill sergeant. Someone has to step up as a leader for the linebackers. I would like to see Orlando's fiery approach to defense. Play calling does have to be more innovative on offense. I would like to see Tyner and Marshall both in the backfield at the same time on either side of MM part of the time.