The primary source of my preview is www.goducks.com
The Oregon Ducks are looking to make the jump from a winning program and Top 25 contender to an annual participant in BCS Bowl and national title conversations. Fresh off a season that saw UO soar as high as No. 2 in the land behind Heisman Trophy candidate Dennis Dixon and NFL first-rounder Jonathan Stewart, expectations are increased for all who follow.
Last, due to Dixon's injury, Nate Costa would have been summoned out of his redshirt had the sophomore not suffered his own year-ending knee injury in October. That initial confidence in Costa indicates he was the quarterback to beat. However, reinjuring his surgically-repaired left knee last Wednesday, he is out for the early part of the season at the very least.
With Costa out, fellow redshirt sophomore Justin Roper saw the bulk of the first team snaps and performed well in the Spring Game. Roper has the most Division I game experience among the QBs, including a stellar four-touchdown performance in Oregon’s 2007 Sun Bowl victory. However, OU officials state the Roper acquired a concussion during the UW game this week and was replaced by JUCO transfer Jeremiah Masoli.
Masoli stepped in for Justin Roper and threw for 126 yards and two touchdowns Saturday night, helping No. 21 Oregon to a 44-10 victory over rival Washington.
That was the confusing part, now on to RB
In replacing the school’s all-time single-season rushing leader, Jeremiah Johnson has been named is the starter after being billed as “1B” to Stewart’s “1A” on the UO depth chart the past two seasons. Johnson, who split carries with Jonathan Stewart for the last three seasons, had a 44-yard carry on the Ducks' first series, then followed it up with a 4-yard scoring run against Washington.
Junior Andre Crenshaw picked up the slack after Johnson went down last season and is a capable option again this season. Included on his resume is a 113-yard, two-touchdown rushing effort at Washington in 2007.
Junior college transfer LeGarrette Blount is a stout 6-2 and 229 pounds, demonstrating a power style and tackle-breaking ability that should be an excellent complement to Oregon’s stable of speedy tailbacks.
Senior Jaison Williams can be a dominant threat on the outside when he secures the football. Against Washington, he had a 48-yard catch to finish the day with 4 touches for 61 yards and a touchdown.
True sophomore Jeff Maehl only has three games of experience at the position after converting from safety late last season, but he displayed an immediate aptitude in the slot. Against UW, he had 5 catches, ending up with 49 yards receiving and a touchdown.
Senior Terence Scott, another who was pulled out of redshirt status last season, was dinged up for the bulk of his five appearances as he was considered a bit of an unknown quantity. However, Scott led the way with the best receiving performance amongst his peers with 6 receptions for 117 yards and a touchdown.
The O-line is a unit that returns a trio of senior starters in All-America center Max Unger, guard Mark Lewis and tackle Fenuki Tupou. Unger, a potential first round NFL draft pick next spring, is arguably the best pass blocker among Pac-10 snappers. Both he and Tupou were selected to the Outland Trophy preseason watch list.
Fellow seniors Jeff Kendall, who is penciled in at left guard, and Jacob Hucko, likely the new starter at right tackle, give the Ducks one of their most experienced lines in team history.
The defensive line is stocked with veterans, led by senior second team All-American Nick Reed. The nation’s third-leading tackler for loss and Pac-10 sacks leader resumes his role at end opposite junior Will Tukuafu. Tukuafu made a seamless transition from the junior college ranks last year to start 11 times as part of the nation’s top defense in terms of tackles for loss, racking up 8.5 TFLs and 4.5 sacks of his own.
Veteran starters Jerome Boyd and John Bacon are back for their senior years at strong side and middle, respectively, and returning letterwinner Spencer Paysinger, a sophomore, takes over Tuitele’s spot at weakside. Boyd, the team’s fourth-leading tackler from a year ago (79 total), ranked second in tackles for a loss (11.0). A hyper-athletic presence, Boyd can match up with nearly every type of offensive skill player and has shown consistent ability to make plays all over the field.
Bacon, who started the first nine games as a junior before suffering a season-ending knee injury, is expected back at full health, and Kevin Garrett adds experience (25 games in two seasons) and toughness on the weak side.
The biggest reason many onlookers feel that Oregon will have one of the nation’s top defenses in 2008 is undoubtedly its “dream team” secondary. Three of the group’s starters, junior corners Jairus Byrd and Walter Thurmond III, and senior rover Patrick Chung, are on the watch lists for the Bednarik (national defensive player of the year) and Jim Thorpe awards (nation’s top defensive back). Chung, who flirted with entering the NFL Draft following his junior year, is also on the watch list for the Bronco Nagurski Trophy, which is awarded to the best defensive player in college football.
The trio combined for 284 tackles a year ago, led by Chung’s 117. Thurmond’s 75 solo stops were tops among Ducks, and he also boasted five interceptions among his team-high 18 pass breakups. Byrd led the squad with seven INTs and three fumble recoveries (tie).
The new kid on the block, in terms of starting duties, is likely to be junior T.J. Ward at free safety. Ward, a standout on special teams in ‘07, will be challenged by redshirt freshman Javes Lewis and junior Titus Jackson.
That conludes my paraphrasing of the Oregon Ducks Preview
That being said, how does Purdue fair against this team?
Not well, I fear. A basic strengths vs weaknesses perspective says that our strength on offense will play right into the ducks strenght on defense. However, If the much improved Purdue defense can limit the ducks offensive productivity, then the game could stay close. Painter has shown historically that good/great defenses have absolutely shut our offense down. (See Ohio State and Penn State games)
In the end, I think the game will be close but Oregon can squeak by. They are on their 3rd option at quarterback, but a solid RB and WR corp will probably be a little too productive for the boilers.
Silver Lining? This game is at Ross-Aid, we can but numbers up on the scoreboard, and our defense is claimed to be much improved. Maybe, just maybe the boilers can pull one out? A strong showing against the ducks can really jack up the Heisman talk around Painter. The Heisman talk which is limited to only the mid-west currently.
Predictions: Oregon 35, Purdue 24 Oy!
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