August 16, 2010

Top 25 Team Previews

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Top 25 Athlon Team Previews: Oregon Ducks

2009 Record: 10-3 (8-1 in Pac-10)
Head Coach: Chip Kelly
LaMichael James :: Steve Dykes/Getty Images
2010 Schedule
Sept. 4 New Mexico
Sept. 11 at Tennessee
Sept. 18 Portland State
Sept. 25 at Arizona State
Oct. 2 Stanford
Oct. 9 at Washington State
Oct. 21 UCLA
Oct. 30 at USC
Nov. 6 Washington
Nov. 13 at California
Nov. 26 Arizona
Dec. 4 at Oregon State
2009 Results
Sept. 3 at Boise State L 8-19
Sept. 12 Purdue W 38-36
Sept. 19 Utah W 31-24
Sept. 26 California W 42- 3
Oct. 3 Washington State W 52- 6
Oct. 10 at UCLA W 24-10
Oct. 24 at Washington W 43-19
Oct. 31 USC W 47-20
Nov. 7 at Stanford L 42-51
Nov. 14 Arizona State W 44-21
Nov. 21 at Arizona W 44-41
Dec. 3 Oregon State W 37-33
Jan. 1 Ohio State (Rose Bowl) L 17-26
2009 Rankings
OFFENSE PER GAME Pac-10 NAT'L
Scoring 36.1 ppg 1 8
Rushing 231.7 ypg 1 6
Passing 180.3 ypg 9 98
Total 412.0 ypg 2 33
DEFENSE PER GAME Pac-10 NAT'L
Scoring 23.8 ppg 4 51
Rushing 128.7 ypg 6 42
Passing 207.6 ypg 4 44
Total 336.3 ypg 4 35
TO MARGIN PER GAME Pac-10 NAT'L
+2 +0.15 5 51
2010 Projected Rosters
OFFENSE
WR Jeff Maehl (Sr.) Keanon Lowe (Fr.)
WR Lavasier Tuinei (Jr.) Justin Hoffman (So.)
WR D.J. Davis (Sr.) Josh Huff (Fr.)
LT Bo Thran (Sr.) Darrion Weems (Jr.)
LG Carson York (So.) Ramsen Golpashin (Jr.)
C Jordan Holmes (Sr.) Max Forer (Sr.)
RG Mark Asper (Jr.) Ryan Clanton (Jr.)
RT C.E. Kaiser (Sr.) Nick Cody (So.)
TE David Paulson (Jr.) Brandon Williams (Jr.)
QB Darron Thomas (So.) Nate Costa (Sr.)
RB LaMichael James (So.) Kenjon Barner (So.)
DEFENSE
DE Terrell Turner (Jr.) Dion Jordan (So.)
DT Brandon Bair (Sr.) Taylor Hart (Fr.)
DT Zac Clark (Sr.) Wade Keliikipi (Fr.)
DE Kenny Rowe (Sr.) Tyrell Irvin (Sr.)
SLB Josh Kaddu (Jr.) Bo Lokombo (Fr.)
MLB Casey Matthews (Sr.) Bryson Littlejohn (Sr.)
WLB Spencer Paysinger (Sr.) Michael Clay (So.)
CB Talmadge Jackson III (Sr.) Scott Grady (So.)
CB Cliff Harris (So.) Anthony Gildon (Jr.)
S John Boyett (So.) Javes Lewis (Jr.)
S Eddie Pleasant (Jr.) Marvin Johnson (Sr.)
SPECIAL TEAMS
1 Alejandro Maldonado (Fr.) KR Kenjon Barner (So.)
1 Jackson Rice (So.) PR Kenjon Barner (So.)
RETURNING LEADERS
Passing: Nate Costa (147 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT)
Rushing: LaMichael James (230 car, 1,546 yds, 14 TDs)
Receiving: Jeff Maehl (53 rec, 696 yds, 6 TDs)
Tackles: John Boyett (90, 62 solo)
Sacks: Kenny Rowe (11.5)
Interceptions: Talmadge Jackson III (4 for 73 yds)
MORE FROM ATHLON
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PLAYERS TO WATCH

LaMichael James, RB: All he did as a freshman was post the second-best rushing total in school history.

Jeff Maehl, WR: His 12-catch performance in the double-OT win at Arizona signaled Maehl's arrival as a star.

Kenny Rowe, DE: He led the team with 11.5 sacks, including three in the Rose Bowl.

IMPORTANT LOSSES

Jeremiah Masoli, QB: Masoli might have been a Heisman contender until an offseason arrest and a marijuana citation led to his dismissal from the team.

Ed Dickson, TE: The Ducks will be hard-pressed to replicate Dickson's blend of size and athletic ability.

Will Tukuafu, DE: Numbers didn't tell the entire story of this respected leader's contributions to the defense.

NUMBERS GAME

5.5: Jeremiah Masoli averaged 5.5 yards per carry in 2009, which was key to keeping defenses off-balance and won't easily be replaced in 2010.

OFFENSE

After the 2009 season ended with Oregon in the Rose Bowl, the Ducks were projected as a top five team for 2010. Masoli and James even earned some early Heisman Trophy buzz. That all changed this winter when Masoli was arrested for burglary and dismissed from the team, and James got into a fight with an ex-girlfriend and drew a one-game suspension.

The Ducks return a wealth of talent on both sides of the ball, but the loss of Masoli and his punishing running style knocked Oregon's preseason ranking down a few notches.

The candidates to replace Masoli are fifth-year senior Nate Costa and Darron Thomas, an athletic but inexperienced sophomore. Costa is a rifle-armed veteran who has endured three knee surgeries, the most recent of which came in fall camp in 2008 and cost him the starting job. Thomas is a big, confident player with good speed, but has an inconsistent arm.

The new quarterback will at least have the luxury of playing behind a line that returns all five starters, and of throwing to a veteran receiving corps. And once James sits out the opener against New Mexico, he'll be available to further ease pressure on the quarterback.

DEFENSE

The Ducks' premier unit is the linebacking corps, which is so deep that 11-game starter Eddie Pleasant has been moved to safety. Inside linebackers Spencer Paysinger and Casey Matthews are experienced veterans, and on the outside the Ducks have two potential breakout stars in Josh Kaddu and Bo Lokombo.

Up front, Oregon will again be relatively undersized, led by 232-pound end Kenny Rowe, an athletic pass rusher. The Ducks will try to overcome a lack of beef with speed and technique, though true freshman Ricky Heimuli will provide ample size if he emerges early.

Pleasant will bring speed and ferocious hitting to one safety spot, and leading tackler John Boyett mans the other after leading the Ducks in tackles as a redshirt freshman. Talmadge Jackson III is a steady veteran at one corner, and athletic sophomore Cliff Harris is expected to blossom on the other side.

SPECIALISTS

Jackson Rice handled himself well at punter as a true freshman, and he is expected to develop into one of the best in the Pac-10. Oregon also has a budding young talent in Kenjon Barner to return punts and kicks. There's a hole at placekicker, however. Walk-on Rob Beard has a big leg but can be erratic, and he's suspended for the opener after an offseason fight. True freshman Alejandro Maldonado may have to handle the job when the Ducks open against New Mexico, and perhaps beyond.

FINAL ANALYSIS

When a talented group of sophomores emerged at Oregon in 2008, fans began to look forward to the 2010 season. National championship dreams don't often bloom in Eugene, but that was the thinking prior to all the offseason trouble the Ducks recently endured.

After the wave of problems, there are questions about leadership and team chemistry. Those damaging issues will be tough for the Ducks to overcome as they try to repeat as Pac-10 champions. However, their schedule is backloaded (though a Sept. 11 date with Tennessee looms as an early tone-setter), giving the Ducks a chance to find their footing early on.

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