Wednesday, May 18, 2011
Hope & concern: Oregon
By Ted Miller
Every team has hope heading into the offseason. And every team has concerns.
Ergo, we're going to run through the conference and look at the chief matters -- on the up and downside -- for each Pac-12 team.
Next up: Oregon
Biggest reason for hope: Two Heisman Trophy candidates.
LaMichael James is the nation's best running back, considering he was the top running back in the 2010 Heisman Trophy vote and won the Doak Walker Award as the nation's best running back. Darron Thomas was second-team All-Pac-10 in 2010, and you might recall that the first-year starter earned that honor ahead of quite a few touted QBs and behind one who's pretty darn good: Stanford's Andrew Luck, the Heisman Trophy runner-up. When a team is this good at RB and QB, it gives your offense a lot of room for error. Further, James might be better off that the Ducks are deep at running back. Instead of getting beating up -- James seemed to slow a bit at season's end -- he'll share carries with talented backups Kenjon Barner and Lache Seastrunk. Thomas should take a step forward in his second year running the Ducks' offense, both as a runner and passer. Experience matters for a QB, even one who made it seem mostly unimportant the previous season.
Biggest reason for concern: Is it the O-line or the receivers?
Technically, the Ducks lost three starters on the offensive line, though the number is really two because of left tackle Darrion Weems' significant experience. They also lost their top two wideouts. The line got mostly pushed around this spring by the Ducks' rebuilding (reloading might be more accurate) front seven. Center and one guard spot probably still remain open for competition. There might even be some reshuffling. Meanwhile, the passing game didn't consistently click, particularly with receiver Josh Huff on the sidelines for most of the spring. In any event, Huff, Lavasier Tuinei and Justin Hoffman are not an A-list troika. Youngsters Nick Cole and Will Murphy flashed promise, but they are hardly certainties. Good depth at tight end will help, and the incoming crew of freshman receivers is impressive. One or two may -- read: probably -- will immediately battle for playing time.