Key returning starters: RB Royce Freeman, LT Tyrell Crosby, WR Darren Carrington
In a familiar refrain, the Ducks’ offense will again feature one of the best running backs in the nation in junior Royce Freeman, a darkhorse Heisman candidate. Oregon also has a stable of speedy receivers—will Olympic hurdler Devon Allen, a huge piece of Oregon’s 2014 offense, come back for 2016 after a trip to Rio?—but it comes down to who is actually throwing them the ball. The FCS-to-Power Five route worked in 2015, and Oregon is hoping it can repeat that success with transfer Dakota Prukop.
Key returning starters: DE Henry Mondeaux, S Tyree Robinson
The entire secondary returns, which can be looked at two ways: Good because experience is nice, but bad because the Ducks were the Pac-12’s second-worst team at defending the pass in 2015. The addition of former Michigan head coach Brady Hoke as defensive coordinator (2015 DC Don Pellum has gone back to coaching just linebackers) means the Ducks will switch to a 4–3 and, theoretically, get more pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
Leader in rushing: Freeman. He’s 5’ 11”, 230 pounds and never stops moving his legs. Good luck tackling him.
Leader in receiving: Carrington. He’s the Ducks’ most explosive playmaker … if he can stay out of trouble, and on the field.
Leader in tackles: A.J. Hotchkins. The nation’s top-ranked junior college inside linebacker will have to contribute immediately, because Oregon lost its top three tacklers from 2015.
Leader in interceptions: Robinson. Now that he’s settled at safety, Robinson should improve on his three picks from last season.
Opposing coach's take
“They’ll be interesting because they hinge on an unknown at quarterback [fifth-year senior Dakota Prukop], but the last time that happened [with Vernon Adams in 2015], it turned out pretty well. Their tailback, Royce Freeman, is special and underappreciated. He’s that unique combination of size, strength and speed, and he’s just a flat-out stud. Their wideouts are good too, but Oregon wants to run the ball first; that’s always been their M.O. Their tempo is an advantage too. When they first started playing with it, no one knew it or understood how to replicate it. Now eight teams in the conference run it, but Oregon is still going faster than everybody else.
New DC Brady Hoke is a big personality and a good coach. He’ll be good for them. They’re changing their scheme to a 4–3, but that staff has done a good job recruiting—kids still love the success and the uniforms—so they’ll be able to figure out what their personnel is and use it to their advantage. But the first few games, no one can be sure what to expect. The secondary was young last year, so they should be better, but without [2015 Pac-12 defensive player of the year] DeForest Buckner, no one on the defense is scary.”
Last year FCS transfer Matt Hegarty started at center, but he’s gone and now Jake Hanson, a 6' 5", 288-pound redshirt freshman who played tackle at Eureka (Calif.) High, will have to handle the snapping and line calls. Hanson looked good in the spring, but how he functions in live game action will impact the Ducks’ season.
|Sept. 3||UC Davis|
|Sept. 17||at Nebraska|
|Oct. 1||at Washington State|
|Oct. 21||at California|
|Oct. 29||Arizona State|
|Nov. 5||at USC|
|Nov. 19||at Utah|
|Nov. 26||at Oregon State|
Top 25 rankings
|24||San Diego State|