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Friday, March 5, 2010
Strong & weak: Oregon

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

The fifth of a 10-part series that looks at where Pac-10 teams are strongest and weakest as they begin spring practices.

Oregon

Strong: The backfield

Why it's a strength: First, throw out all the off-field problems. Those will take care of themselves, and obviously negative conclusions for the Ducks would put a dent in this analysis. But as it stands, the Ducks are as good as any team in the nation with their quarterback-running back situation. Jeremiah Masoli is a potential Heisman Trophy candidate as a dual-threat quarterback in his third season as a starter, while LaMichael James became one of the premier home run threats in the nation as a redshirt freshman running back. Those two should be masterful next fall running the spread-option. Moreover, there's solid depth at the positions. Masoli's backups, Nate Costa and Darron Thomas, both have seen quality game action. Behind James is Kenjon Barner, a star of the Rose Bowl, not to mention a pair of outstanding incoming freshmen in Lache Seastrunk and Dontae Williams.

Weak: The defensive line

Why it's a weakness: While coach Chip Kelly is quick to reject the notion that this is a potential weakness, that doesn't change the fact that the Ducks lose only four position players from their 2009 starting lineup but two -- stalwart end Will Tukuafu and tackle Blake Ferras -- come from the D-line. They also lost backup tackle Simi Toeaina. End Kenny Rowe, one of the conference's best pass rushers, and steady tackle Brandon Bair return. Ends Terrell Turner and Taylor Hart and tackles Anthony Anderson, Zac Clark, Wade Keliikipi as well as 6-foot-7 JC transfer Isaac Remington are candidates to work themselves into a rotation that Kelly wants to run eight-deep. There's certainly potential to match or even eclipse last year's production up front, but the replacements still need to prove they are up to the task.