2008 Oregon Ducks Football Preview
Oregon 2007 Record: (9-4, 5-4 Pac 10)
2007 Bowl: Sun Bowl vs. South Florida (W 56-21)
Oregon Head Coach: Mike Bellotti (106-52 at Oregon, 127-77-2 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Chip Kelly
Defensive Coordinator: Nick Aliotti
Returning Leaders for Oregon:
Other Key Returnees: LB John Bacon, LB Jerome Boyd, K Matt Evensen, CB Walter Thurmond, DE Will Tukuafu, OT Fenuki Tupou, C Max Unger
Key Losses: LB Kwame Agyeman, QB Dennis Dixon, DT David Faaeteete, DT Jeremy Gibbs, S Matthew Harper, OT Geoff Schwartz, WR Garren Strong, RB Jonathan Stewart, G Josh Tschirgi
Oregon started the 2007 campaign with an 8-1 record. Then quarterback Dennis Dixon got hurt and the team lost their three final regular season games. It took a little time to get adjusted to life without Dixon, but by the time the Sun Bowl rolled around the Ducks looked just as good as they did earlier in the year. In that game quarterback Justin Roper threw for 180 yards and four touchdowns. Dixon is now off to the NFL and, if the Sun Bowl was any indication, after an entire off-season Oregon should be fine with another quarterback.
Dixon was not the only major departure on offense and suddenly it is the defense that has the experienced weapons. The young secondary has finally grown up and corners Walter Thurmond and Jairus Byrd and strong safety Patrick Chung will be starting together for the third straight season. Thurmond and Byrd combined for 12 interceptions on the season and both are still only juniors. Chung led the entire team with 117 tackles last year and picked off a couple passes himself. With the return of linebackers Jerome Boyd and John Bacon, the back seven is in good hands. The front line has to replace tackles David Faaeteete and Jeremy Gibbs, but the Ducks will still get plenty of pressure on the quarterback with ends Nick Reed and Will Tukuafu returning. Reed had a great junior year, tallying 12 sacks and 22.5 tackles for loss.
For a while the defense will have to carry the team while the offense fills some big holes. Roper has the edge after the Sun Bowl performance, but sophomore Nathan Costa and a handful of others are waiting in the wings to take over the quarterback job. Having leading receiver Jaison Williams back will help, but without running back Jonathan Stewart, the offense will not look as smooth as it did last year no matter who the quarterback may be. Jeremiah Johnson was the heir apparent to Stewart, but the senior is recovering from knee surgery. That has paved the way for highly touted junior college transfer LaGarrette Blount. After a great spring, Blount may have worked his way ahead of Johnson on the depth chart. Either the way the Ducks have a couple decent backs to work with, but nobody is going to come close to Stewart’s production right away.
The Bottom Line for the Ducks:
The quarterback and running back situations are well documented, but the offense should not sputter too much thanks to an experienced and talented offensive line. Center Max Unger is one of the best in the league and Mark Lewis and Fenuki Tupou also return after starting last season. With depth from versatile sophomore C.E. Kaiser and a few upperclassmen, the Ducks have a solid line that will give the new quarterback and running back plenty of opportunities.
By Joel Welser
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