Oregon Football 101: Preseason Crash Course

Everything you need to know about Oregon Football before Autzen re-opens on September 3, 2016.

It’s been a beautiful (and HOT) couple of weeks in Oregon so with Autzen’s doors opening in just 11 days, even the most committed Ducks fans may be finding themselves out-of-the-loop and scrambling to get caught up on all things Oregon Football.

Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.

Chances are you’ve been able to catch some things here and there but here is a crash course to get you fully in-the-know and excited for kick off!

Oregon Football is in its 3rd week of Fall Camp and will begin prepping this weekend for its season opener against UC Davis at 2pm on September 3rd. Say what? Yes, Its here, folks!

The Polls

As the Ducks enter game one, the first thing to know is that the pre-season AP Poll has Oregon ranked at #24. The jury is still out about whether or not that’s a fair ranking. Either way, seeing the lowest ranking they have in years should add some fuel to the fire- especially with conference foes, Stanford, USC, UCLA and Washington ranked higher than the Ducks. (Ps. The Huskies haven’t beaten the Ducks in over a decade.)

New Coaching Staff

With former Offensive Coordinator, Scott Frost’s departure to Central Florida, Wide Receivers Coach, Matt Lubick, was promoted to fill his shoes. Lubick has been coaching since 1995 and as WR Darren Carrington recently said, “He has as a lot of tricks up his sleeve.”

After Oregon’s dismal defensive performance last year, change was inevitable. Though still highly respected, former Defensive Coordinator, Don Pellum, was returned to his position as Linebacker’s Coach, while former Michigan Head Coach, Brady Hoke, was hired as Oregon’s new Defensive Coordinator.

Under Hoke, Oregon’s defense is seeing a number of changes (more on that below), including a more aggressive mindset.

Also in the wake of Scott Frost’s departure, a new Quarterbacks Coach was found in David Yost, who most recently served as a Wide Receivers Coach at Washington State, where his receivers set numerous records. Before that, Yost helped develop quarterbacks at Missouri, most notably, Blaine Gabbert, a first round NFL draft pick in 2011.

Offense

By far, the biggest Fall Camp story line centered on the quarterback position. Falling in last season’s footsteps, Oregon looked to the FCS and signed Montana State’s starting quarterback, Dakota Prukop, who unlike Vernon Adams Jr., was present for all of Spring Practice, Summer workouts and Fall Camp. Though it seemed a close battle was playing out between Prukop and redshirt freshman, Travis Jonsen, it’s become fairly obvious that Prukop will get the nod. He is said to be more the more consistent and mature quarterback at this time- likely due to his significant game time experience.

Although it is believed that Jonsen will be Prukop’s backup, it seems Jonsen may have found himself in a new battle. Eugene Native, quarterback, Justin Herbert, has reportedly excelled in his first weeks with the team. Not one, but two starting receivers (Nelson and Carrington) have said Herbert has the best touch of all the quarterbacks. He has reportedly blown everyone away with his ability to pick things up enough to compete for a top spot.

Coach Helfrich said this week he plans to name a starter next week, but again, all signs point to Prukop.

Running Backs & Receivers

By far, both of these positions have the strongest and most talented depth on the roster.

Royce Freeman will obviously carry much of the running backs’ load and told reporters at Media Day that he’d like to play “every down.” That being said, Freeman will have some help. So far, Kani Benoit, Tony Brooks- James and Taj Griffin are expected to help carry most of that load.

And then there’s the receivers and tight ends.

It’s safe to say, this might be one of the most talented group of receivers Oregon has seen in a really long time. So much so, Darren Carrington said last week that coaches aren’t focusing on them much and instead focusing their attention at other more inexperienced groups.

Among this group are: Darren Carrington (last season’s 2nd leading receiver), Charles Nelson (the most versatile player on the field who is now expected to solely focus on offense and special teams), Devon Allen (who just competed in the O-L-Y-M-P-I-C-S) and Dwayne Stanford (another favorite target last season).

Add to this list several talented tight ends including, Pharaoh Brown, Evan Baylis and Johnny Mundt and you’ve got several guys who should make the quarterback’s job a whole lot easier.

Offensive Line

Perhaps one of the most underrated story lines going into this season has been the offensive line, who is very young but said to be very talented. Aside from veterans, Cameron Hunt and Tyrell Crosby, who will anchor this group, all other positions, including center, will be filled by first time starters. That center position will be critical, especially with a new quarterback in the mix. It is expected that redshirt freshman, Jake Hanson, who is said to have been outstanding through the Spring and now Fall Camp will fill that spot.

Granted, the real test will come at game time, but look for this group to do good things. There must be a reason the offensive line was the top commodity when Oregon coaches drafted their teams for the Spring Game scrimmage.

Defense
Next to the quarterback position, the Oregon defense, now spear-headed by Coach Brady Hoke, is the biggest question mark headed into game one.

Hoke has spent the past several months changing Oregon’s defensive mentality from that of a “bend don’t break” approach to one that is much more aggressive.

In addition to becoming the hunter rather than the hunted, Hoke has implemented a new defensive scheme which includes moving from a 3-4 to a more classic 4-3 system.

Whereas Oregon tends to be more modern in it’s approach, Hoke brings a bit of a classic, smash-mouth football vibe. This balance should come in handy when facing teams like, say. . .Stanford and USC.

Hoke’s new system will mean the team will rotate through a number of line backers and defensive backs. Look for guys like Tyree Robinson and Juwaan Williams and Johnny Ragin III, Arrion Springs and Ugo Amadi, to be huge play-makers this year.

Departures

In what could be a good sign (that depth is so strong), several key players have left the program for a variety of reasons during the past several months. Among them, receiver, Kirk Merritt and just this week, safety, Chris Seisay.

Of course there are many other things we could go over, but this should be more than enough to help you confidently throw up your O’s!

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