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Monday, May 9, 2011
Spring wrap: Oregon

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

OREGON

2010 Overall record: 12-1

2010 conference record: 9-0

Returning starters

Offense: 6, Defense: 5, punter/kicker: 2

Top returners

RB LaMichael James, QB Darron Thomas, OT Mark Asper, TE David Paulson, CB Cliff Harris, FS John Boyett

Key losses

WR Jeff Maehl, C Jordan Holmes, LB Casey Matthews, DT Brandon Bair, DE Kenny Rowe, CB Talmadge Jackson

2010 statistical leaders (*returning starter)

Rushing: James* (1,731)

Passing: Thomas* (2,881)

Receiving: Maehl (1,076)

Tackles: Matthews (79)

Sacks: Rowe (7)

Interceptions: Harris* (6)

Spring answers

1. Strong on defensive line: Terrell Turner, who missed spring with an injury, is the only returning starter up front, but that doesn't appear to be a problem. Dion Jordan and Brandon Hanna looked good at the ends, while Ricky Heimuli, Taylor Hart, Wade Keliikipi, Isaac Remington and Jared Ebert stood out inside. The general feeling is the Ducks will continue to play a lot of guys up front and there won't be any drop-off from 2010.

2. Deep defensive backs: Harris and Anthony Gildon are the starters at cornerback, and John Boyett and Eddie Pleasant are the safeties in what should be one of the conference's best secondaries. Further, there's tons of depth. Troy Hill was a standout at corner this spring, which duplicated fellow corner Terrance Mitchell's showing last spring. Scott Grady and Dior Mathis are further options at cornerback. Things are not as deep at safety, where Brian Jackson is No. 3 and Erick Dargan is an intriguing talent. Avery Patterson and Isaac Dixon can play both corner and safety.

3. Thomas and James to lead: There are two legitimate Heisman Trophy candidates in the backfield: running back James, a finalist last season, and quarterback Thomas, who earned second-team All-Pac-10 honors in 2010. Their star power will give them standing on the team, and both seem ready to lead what could be another stellar season in Eugene.

Fall questions

1. Offensive line uncertainty: The unit struggled at times this spring after losing three starters (though it's hard to look at experienced veteran Darrion Weems as not a returning starter). The first line most of spring was Weems at left tackle, Mark Asper at right tackle, Karrington Armstrong at center and Ramsen Golpashin and Carson York at the guards. But Golpashin is a former walk-on, and Nick Cody and Ryan Clanton have the physical skills to start, while redshirt freshman Hroniss Grasu is still in the mix at center. There's some "to be continued" here.

2. Good to receive? The Ducks need to replace their top two receivers, and with Josh Huff missing most of spring with an injury, it was clear this unit isn't ready for prime time just yet. Lavasier Tuinei, Nick Cole, Justin Hoffman and Will Murphy are solid but unspectacular. The elite playmaking may have to come from a touted class of incoming recruits: freshmen Devon Blackmon, Tacoi Sumler and B.J. Kelley and JC transfer Rahsaan Vaughn.

3. What's up in the middle? Things looked pretty good at middle linebacker, which was vacant with Casey Matthews off to the NFL, until Kiko Alonso got suspended after an arrest, which duplicates what happened to him last offseason. His status remains unclear, which is too bad because he had a great spring. The obvious answer if Alonso doesn't return is Dewitt Stuckey.