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August 29, 2010

Top 25 Countdown: #3 Oregon Ducks


2009 Record – 10-3, 8-1 PAC 10
Bowl Game – Rose Bowl – Lost to Ohio State 17-26
Letterman Returning: 46
Stadium – Autzen Stadium (54,000)
College Location – Eugene, OR
Coach – Chip Kelly, 10-3 (2nd year)


Key Returnees – RB LaMichael James (below), WR Jeff Maehl, T Bo Thran, G Carson York
Key Losses – TE Ed Dickson, QB Jeremiah Masoli, RB LaGarrette Blount
- The Ducks offense has been on the wrong end of the news this offseason more often than members of the Cincinnati Bengals. It starts and ends at the quarterback position, where would-be senior Jeremiah Masoli decided  to steal laptops and a guitar rather than Heisman voters attention and National Championship rings. Masoli, a two year starter for the Ducks, was kicked off the team following theft charges and has since enrolled at Mississippi, hopefully the college, rather than correctional facility. The loss of Masoli hurts the team, but the dent left at quarterback isn’t as big as one would expect, most in part because of the return of freshman phenom, LaMichael James at running back. James, now a true sophomore, rushed for 1,546 yards and 14 scores last season on his way to being named the PAC-10 Offensive Player of the Year. James was the main reason the team was able to move on so quick from the LaGarrette Blount's post game boxing match and will be the reason this season the Ducks will not miss Masoli. Stepping in at quarterback will be sophomore Darron Thomas, who was named the starter Aug. 27, following the Ducks final camp scrimmage. Thomas, who was redshirted last season after playing his true freshman season in 2008, won the battle over senior Nate Costa. The sophomore has the ability to makes things happen with his feet, as he has tremendous speed and a quick release. Thomas may remind a lot of Ducks fans of a bigger, more accurate Dennis Dixon. Surrounding the quarterback position with talent won’t be hard for an offense which returns nine starters, including three at wideout. The teams leading receiver, senior, Jeff Maehl, returns outside after bringing in 53 catches for 696 yards and six scores. Maehl is a sure handed wideout who has the ability to make acrobatic catches in traffic. Senior DJ Davis and Junior Lavasier Tuinei are two other big targets for Thomas to look for. All five starters along the offensive line also return, including All-Conference performers Bo Thran and Carson York. The front five is led by three senior starters and will be counted upon to lead an offense which rushed for 200+ yards nine times last season.
Key Returnees – MLB Casey Matthews, DE Kenny Rowe, S John Boyett (below), OLB Spencer Paysinger, DT Brandon Blair
Key Losses – S TJ Ward, CB Walter Thurmond, DT Blake Ferras, DE Will Tukuafu
- Statistically, the Ducks defense failed to live up to what you would expect from a team competing for a PAC-10 title every season, as they gave up over 330 yards a game and 23.8 points an outting. That doesn’t mean, however, that this year's Oregon team can’t improve on last year’s unsteady performance. If there is one thing the 2010 Ducks defense has, it's athletes, as each position is led by an All-Conference performer. At linebacker, the return of senior middle man Casey Matthews sparks the defense. Matthews comes from a long line of football players including brother and ex-USC linebacker and current Green Bay Packer, Clay Matthews and Hall of Fame uncle, Bruce Matthews. Last season Matthews had a knack for making big plays, finishing third on the team in tackles with 81, while also brining in three sacks. Flanking him at linebacker is returning senior starter Spencer Paysinger, who also finished last season with 81 stops. Filling the other outside position will be the winner of the battle between senior, Bryson Littlejohn and junior Josh Kaddu. Along the defensive line the Ducks are led by senior end Kenny Rowe. At 6-foot-3, 235-pounds, Rowe is a bit undersized for the position, however, he uses his size as an advantage, bringing in 11.5 sacks last season, tops in the conference. Senior tackle Brandon Bair, a 6-foot-7, 270-pound mauler, stuffs holes in the middle, as he brought in eight tackles for a loss last season. Filling the vacated spots along the line should be senior Zac Clark at tackle and Dion Jordan at the other end. The secondary for the Ducks returns all four starters. The unit is led by sophomore John Boyett, who was named a first-team freshman All-American last season after leading the Ducks in tackles with 90. Junior rover Eddie Pleasant made plays all over the field for Oregon last season finishing with 54 tackles, four and a half sacks, eight tackles for a loss, and an interception. Pleasant should continue  to wreak havoc on opposing offenses from everywhere on the field. All three corners who started games last season for the Ducks return in sophomore Cliff Harris, junior Javes Lewis and senior Talmadge Jackson. Jackson led the team last season with four interceptions and 10 passes defended.
- A lot of college football fans really fail to notice or recognize how balanced and tough the PAC-10 really is. The Ducks for instance have done well enough in the conference the last five years that to consider them favorites as of late, is not farfetched, even with USC in the league. The Ducks have succumbed to 13 loses in the PAC-10 the last five years, while only losing five non-conference games. USC on the other hand, has lost nine conference games in that same five year span, while only giving away one out of conference loss. If there is one place the Ducks need to improve upon, however, it is winning away from Eugene. Oregon has had at least two road loses in each of the past four seasons. This year, after New Mexico at home to start the year, the Ducks will have their chance to turn their road sorrows around with a trip to Tennessee on Sept. 11. Conference play for the Ducks opens up two weeks later with a trip to Arizona State, Sept. 25. Next in store is Stanford at home, Oct. 2, followed by a Washington State visit, in a game in which they beat the Cougars 52-6 last season. A Thursday night showdown against UCLA kicks off on Oct. 21, with a home visit from the other L.A. team, USC, Oct. 30. Washington and Cal round out the next two weeks. The Ducks are 5-0 in the last five meetings against the Huskies. Arizona on Friday, Nov. 26, ends a short list of November teams. The annual Civil War against Oregon State is set as usual for the last game of the year, this year in Corvallis, on Dec. 4. This year’s game very well could decide the winner of the PAC-10, for a second year in a row.
Schedule rating: B
Red = Toughest Game. Blue = Pivotal to conference.
Top Incoming Freshman:
1.) Lache Seastrunk (left), *#4 RB, 5-10 183, Temple, TX
Seastrunk brings an exceptional amount of speed and acceleration to the Ducks already talented backfield.
2.) Curtis White, #5 DE, 6-5 240, Eugene, OR
A five star product from Eugene, White has a superb burst off the ball.
3.) Ricky Heimuli, #10 DT, 6-4 285, Salt Lake City, UT
Heimuli already posses great size and strength to excel on the Ducks front four.
4.) Nick Rowland, #4 G, 6-5 295, Peoria, AZ
Rowland chose the Ducks with almost every other PAC 10 team’s offer on the table.
5.) Dior Mathis, #17 CB, 5-9 175, Detroit, MI
An Army All-American, Mathis has the speed to stick with anyone in the country and the hops to out jump any ball.
*Rankings according to
Boyett: Steve Dykes/ Getty Images

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All writing and views subject to © Drew P. Kochanny, All Rights Reserved. Photo's credited to rights owner.