Oregon football preview for 2016, including keys to success for the Ducks, best players and season prediction.
What You Need to Know About the Oregon Offense
The Ducks have averaged at least 43 points per game in each of the last five seasons, a rather remarkable run of potency. But there’s a slight uptick in uneasiness this year, as Oregon breaks in a new coordinator (Matt Lubick) and a new quarterback – likely Montana State transfer Dakota Prukop – for a second straight year.
The staff will overcome the loss of Scott Frost to Disney World, since Mark Helfrich’s fingerprints are all over the playbook. But Prukop is a greater unknown, especially since he was unable to slam the door on the spring challenge of redshirt freshman Travis Jonsen.
Whoever gets the nod will join an embarrassment of riches in the huddle. The Ducks are teeming with skill position possibilities, from the deep, Royce Freeman-led ground game to playmaking receivers Darren Carrington, Devon Allen and Dwayne Stanford. Plus, TE Pharaoh Brown returns from a serious leg injury that cost him 2015, jackrabbit Charles Nelson is fully committed to offense and true freshman WR Dillon Mitchell will be impossible to keep out of the rotation.
There’ll be some shuffling up front, with the line replacing two starters. Tyrell Crosby is the anchor at left tackle, while young C Jake Hanson is one of three redshirt freshmen who impressed in the spring. Two-year starter Cameron Hunt will be in the lineup, but where? He could slide out from right guard to right tackle, though there’s hope decorated Dayton transfer Zac Morgan can nab the open tackle job this summer.
Key To The Oregon Offense
QB job won’t be handed to Prukop. By all accounts, senior Dakota Prukop was lured out of Montana State to take the baton from Vernon Adams and run with it. And he might very well do just that. But not without a challenge this summer that few saw coming. Redshirt freshman Travis Jonsen and, to a lesser extent, true freshman Terry Wilson, made sure in the spring that the quarterback battle would not be a coronation. The staff expects all three hurlers to take a quantum leap between now and the next practice. And while Prukop remains the favorite, Jonsen made this race very interesting in March and April.
What You Need to Know About the Oregon Defense
Last season was an unmitigated disaster on defense for the Ducks, which allowed more points and yards per game than any other Pac-12 team. Mark Helfrich reacted predictably—and decisively—demoting coordinator Don Pellum and replacing him with former Michigan head coach Brady Hoke. Hoke has a tall order ahead in 2016. His first steps in the spring were to familiarize himself with the defenders he inherited and begin installing a 4-3 base.
Step 2 in the summer will be to formalize a two-deep that can begin attacking the backfield up to his expectations. Adding to the challenge is the loss of most of the front seven, primarily first-round San Francisco 49er pick DeForest Buckner. Oregon will feature a slew of new faces near the line of scrimmage, headlined by ends Henry Mondeaux and Torrodney Prevot, who are both positioned for breakout years as pass rushers.
Every starting linebacker either graduated or changed position, so there’ll be a very new look on the second level. Ironically, it’s the beleaguered secondary that could be a strength in 2016. Everyone returns, including S Tyree Robinson and CB Arrion Springs, and young corners Malik Lovette and Ugo Amadi have flashed high ceilings.
Key To The Oregon Defense
Crash course in the 4-3. The defense is getting overhauled, with first-year coordinator Brady Hoke serving as the architect of the new look, aggressive philosophy. Select Ducks are changing positions, assignments will be different and everyone is being asked to raise the level of their game. Restocking the D-line two-deep will be particularly challenging, since more bodies are now needed and three of last year’s producers, DeForest Buckner, Alex Balducci and Tui Talia have graduated. Emerging as the headliner of the group is junior Henry Mondeaux, breakout candidate at strongside end.
Oregon Will Be Far Better If …
The secondary plays up to its experience level. The Ducks will feature no shortage of veterans on the last line of the D, including safeties Tyree Robinson and Reggie Daniels and corners Arrion Springs, Chris Seisay, Ugo Amadi and Ty Griffin. But a year older must also mean a year better after the team yielded 35 touchdown passes and more than 300 yards a game through the air. The staff felt comfortable moving dynamic all-around athlete Charles Nelson to wide receiver, which looks like a vote of confidence for the defensive backfield.
Best Offensive Player
Junior RB Royce Freeman. In a year that Christian McCaffrey, Leonard Fournette and Dalvin Cook will gobble up most of the running back headlines, there’s no reason for Freeman to be left out of the discussion. He’s been a dominant back in each of his first two seasons, finishing 2015 with nine 100-yard games in a row. Plus, Freeman is an above average receiver, with the size, leg drive and the assertive downhill running style to wear down opposing defenses in the latter stages of games.
Best Defensive Player
Junior S Tyree Robinson. While there are certainly other candidates on defense who’ll get a shot to earn this designation by the end of the year, Robinson begins 2016 as the Ducks’ most accomplished defender. At 6-4 and 205 pounds, he possesses an uncommon mix of size and range, the building blocks of a player who can impact the run and pass defense. Everyone associated with Oregon needs more from the secondary in 2016, and Robinson is planning to be the catalyst of the unit from strong safety.
Key Player to a Successful Season
Senior QB Dakota Prukop. Sure, the defense has flashing warning signs, and a quarterback the caliber of Marcus Mariota isn’t necessary to make this offense go. But Oregon went the FCS route for a second straight year because the staff wasn’t confident of the holdovers in the aftermath of Vernon Adams’ graduation. And if Prukop stumbles en route to the top of the depth chart, the Ducks will be forced to mount a Pac-12 title challenge with a rookie at the most important position on the field.
[RELATED: Top 10 Oregon Football Players For 2016]
The Season Will Be a Success If …
Oregon gets back to winning the Pac-12 title. During his four seasons in Eugene, Chip Kelly pushed the bar into a different zip code for this program. And if Mark Helfrich is unable to maintain the standard set by his predecessor, avoiding mounting pressure will be impossible. The Ducks are now expected to win the conference and compete for playoff berths. Period. And after winning less than 10 games for the first time in eight years, this program needs to make a statement to show that the dynastic stretch has not come to an end.
Nov. 12 vs. Stanford. At Nebraska is compelling, even more so if Scott Frost was still on staff. Hosting USC will be a big deal. And the Civil War is particularly appealing for the locals. But for Oregon to achieve its 2016 goals, it must defeat the Cardinal, the defending Pac-12 champion. The winner of this 21st century rivals has gone on to capture the conference crown in four of the last five years. And while last fall was an exception, recent history indicates the Duck-Cardinal survivor is a safe bet to go on and take the North Division.
Oregon Football Stats From 2015
– Points per game: Oregon 42 – Opponents 22
– Sacks: Oregon 38 – Opponents 39
– Time of possession: Oregon 27:15 – Opponents 32:45
Oregon Football Prediction For 2016
What’s going to happen to Oregon football this season? Check out what the final record is going to be …