Oregon Football: 5 Reasons the Ducks Will Be Even Better in 2012
After the decisions of both LaMichael James and Darron Thomas to enter the NFL draft, the Oregon Ducks are looking to improve upon one of their best seasons under head coach Chip Kelly.
The finally kicked the monkey off their back and won the Rose Bowl, something they haven't done since 1917 when they played the Pennsylvania Quakers. The Ducks also won the initial Pac-12 conference championship game against UCLA.
While last season was an absolute gem, 2012 will prove to be an even better season due to the returning players and the amount of experience the young talent received thanks to Chip Kelly and the entire coaching staff.
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Alonso had a breakout performance in the Rose Bowl.
He made a key interception of Russell Wilson which led to the go-ahead score that sealed the victory for the Ducks. He also contributed with 1.5 sacks.
He will come into next season as the Ducks top linebacker and looks to improve upon one of the fastest defenses in the county. He will become more of a playmaker, and fans will see more vicious tackling and big plays.
Alonso will use his past football experiences to be the leader of the defense next year.
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Oregon had an offseason without any huge drama. What a relief!
The past offseasons had Oregon fans dealing with players stealing laptops, cornerbacks driving too fast while intoxicated and various other crimes.
This offseason, the only thing that Duck fans have had to deal with was the loss of arguably the best running back the school has ever seen and a productive quarterback who has helmed the past couple of seasons.
Other than that, the players have behaved themselves and are focusing on football.
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Thomas is, for lack of a better term, lightning in a bottle.
What he did at the Rose Bowl, two carries for 155 yards and two touchdowns, will live on in Duck fans memories. He made Wisconsin look like they were standing still. It was just absurd to see him explode through the offensive line, and in no time at all, enter the end zone, 90 yards from where he started.
Now imagine Thomas with one year of college football under hit belt. He will have an even greater grasp of the offense and will be even more deadly.
Forget Denard Robinson or Sammy Watkins, Thomas is the most explosive player in college football. Every time he touches the ball, he's a threat to score.
After the Rose Bowl victory, Gene Wojciechowski of ESPN caught up with Thomas and chatted with the Rose Bowl Champion.
Anthony also revealed that he said he was going to work on his strength and speed during the offseason.
Huh? His speed? That's like George Clooney saying he's going to work on his looks.
The Pac-12 is officially on notice, lightning will strike more than once this coming season.
A True QB Competition
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Last season, Darron Thomas was the incumbent quarterback and was given the keys to the offense immediately. This is quite understandable because he had the most starting experience. However, fans questioned his running ability and decision making during some plays.
In the one start against Colorado to replace an injured Thomas, Bryan Bennett showed flashes of brilliance on the field. He showed his running ability and his strong arm. After this game, fans began to wonder why wasn't Bennett offered a chance to become the full-time starter.
This year, the Ducks have not named a starting quarterback. Instead, there's a competition brewing between the experienced Bennett, redshirt freshmen, Marcus Mariota and freshmen Jake Rodriguez.
These three players will all compete to find out which one will be the best quarterback to run Chip Kelly's spread-option attack.
Talented Wide Receivers
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While Josh Huff did not perform up to expectations that he set during his freshmen year, he still is the most experienced wide receiver that the Ducks have, and now, he will not be alone.
The Ducks will finally have talent to pass to. Last season, Chip Kelly decided to put a redshirt on two bright, young and talented freshmen wide receivers—Devon Blackmon and Tacio Sumler. Both of these players were highly ranked according to ESPN and look to make an impact on a wide receiving corps that has struggled with consistency.
Sumler, who was the 11th-ranked wideout in 2011, brings his incredible speed to the table. While he only stands 5'8", he recorded the best 40-yard dash time at 4.24 in his recruiting class (De'Anthony was not tested).
Having both him and Thomas on the field together is an absolute nightmare for defenses. He will be a deep threat all the time and can flat-out beat people down the field. He will most likely be used as a slot back and in bubble screens where he can catch the ball and explode up field.
Blackmon was the second-best "athlete" in his class, having been a dual-threat quarterback in high school. Like Thomas and Sumler, he's another guy who can beat people deep. He can get to his second gear in a heartbeat and possesses running-back type vision and lateral quickness.
Between these two players and the return of Huff and Rahsaan Vaughn, the Duck wide receivers will look to make a huge impact next season.