They were great in 2012. A high powered offense that knew only one speed and then-head coach Chip Kelly put the throttle down like the Oregon Ducks’ offense was a new stock car on the NASCAR circuit.
Now, the offense, like the new Generation 6 machine, may have a few new glitches in it like a new coach, a new set of superstars and other teams that have grown and gotten better with time and age.
Oregon still figures to be one of the better teams in college football, even with these changes.
Here are some things you need to know about this football team heading into the 2013 college season.
1. There is a solid defensive foundation: Under new head coach Mark Helfrich, the Ducks return the entire secondary from last season and have a solid defensive line, which could be better than it has ever been.
2. The Linebackers are weak. Well, seven out of eleven isn’t bad, right? If the front four and the back four are really good, the Ducks can hide the fact their linebackers are a weak link. The team better hope teams do not get past the first line with the run game.
3. The offensive line has plenty of experience: Led by Hroniss Grasu, the talent is there. That is a good thing, because the running backs may be quick, but the unit is thin and inexperienced.
4. Marcus Mariota will miss Chip Kelly. Mariota was great because of Kelly. I am not taking anything away from his talents, but Kelly’s offense was a huge plus for the quarterback’s success last season.
5. Could De’Anthony Thomas be a Heisman Candidate? It seems far-fetched, but again, the Ducks could play their way into national title implications if Thomas plays like a workhorse and runs wild for the Ducks.
6. The Pac-12 is improved: While other conferences may have taken a step backward, the guys out west will take a step forward. A road trip to the desert to face Arizona late in the season could prove to be a death blow if the team is undefeated. There is no gimme with the Wildcats.
7. New Coach, new climate: I will be interested to see how new coach Mark Helfrich handles the pressure. Chip Kelly left the team after stating he would be coming back, which put a strain on the team, the athletic program and the players. With the NCAA sanctions for the team, it also cast a shadow on a program Helfrich must deal with. I personally think he will meet the challenge head on and be successful.
8. The Basics: Oregon returns nine starters on offense and seven on defense from a team that went 12-1 (including 8-1 in the Pac-12) in 2012. Leading a high-powered offense will be quarterback Marcus Mariota, who threw for 2,677 yards and 32 touchdowns last season while adding another 752 yards and five touchdowns on the ground. This according to Ask.com.
9. This is a failed season if: They cannot win the Pac 12. This team is good enough and should be focused enough to do that. Stanford and UCLA will be tough opponents. The team avoids USC this season, but they do face Tennessee, which is an SEC team that will either be great or a huge disappointment.
10. They can compete with Alabama and Ohio State: If everything comes together. This is a team that still has a lot of firepower and while this college has a new head coach, the players returning will galvanize this club to do great things.