The Oregon Ducks will open the 2012 season against the Arkansas State Red Wolves.
This is probably a huge mismatch and I have full belief that Oregon will win this probably running away, but Arkansas State won’t go away quietly.
They were the Sun Belt champions last season finishing with a record of 10-3. Two of their three losses were against teams from automatic-qualifying conferences.
And off the top of my head that’s about all I know.
So I wanted more. I always want to know more about the opponents Oregon will be facing. Here is what I have found.
Head coach Gus Malzahn is in his first year here and in his first head coaching job. Malzahn is well known for his offensive style which is no-huddle, hurry-up, something Oregon is familiar with since the Ducks use just that.
The Ducks are also familiar with Malzahn because of the BCS National Championship game in 2010. Malzahn was the offensive coordinator at Auburn at the time.
His offensive coordinator is Rhett Lashee who comes from Samford. He also believes in a fast-paced offense, but I wonder who will actually be calling the plays.
On defense, he brings in John Thompson. Thompson has been coaching since 1983 and has served as defensive coordinator, head coach and even AD.
Ryan Alpin has been the starting quarterback for Arkansas State since 2010. He is 13-11 as a starter. Last season, he threw for 3,588 yards with 19 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. Much like Oregon likes to do with its quarterbacks, he also runs pretty well. He led the team in rushing with 588 yards and 10 touchdowns.
As I stated before, their quarterback was the team's leading rusher. But that doesn’t mean they don’t ever hand it off too. They lose their next leading rusher, who actually was a running back. They do keep redshirt sophomore, Frankie Jackson. Jackson was able to take the backup position as a redshirt freshman and ran for 355 yards and six touchdowns.
Auburn transfer Michael Dyer will be with the Red Wolves, eventually. Dyer is no stranger to Oregon either as he played for the same Auburn team they faced in the 2010 National Championship game. Due to transfer rules, he has to sit out a year though. I heard early in the transfer process he could apply for a hardship waiver, but I have not heard anything on that since. Curious that he did in fact play in the spring game.
Their go-to guy at receiver, Dwayne Frampton, is gone. Their next three receivers with the most yards do return. This includes Tyler Stockemer, who pulled down a team leading seven touchdowns. Their leading tight end Anthony Kincy is also back, but they don’t seem to use the position as a receiver much. Kincy had just under 100 yards and one touchdown.
My best guess is that they lost their center and right tackle off the offensive line. I actually am not 100 percent sure since I can’t find an actual list of the starters from last season. The offense was ranked 22nd in the country in total offense. They were 15th in passing offense but only 57th in rushing. The Red Wolves came in at 31st in scoring. They also allowed 27 sacks, which put them right in the middle of the national stats list.
On defense I am also guessing as to whom they have lost. From what I have seen they lose both ends and what I am guessing was their best player in outside linebacker Demario Davis up front. I say he was their best since he was the only person from the team that was drafted. He went in the third round to the Jets.
The thing is Brandon Joiner was the Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Year. So maybe he was the best defensive player on the team.
Corner Darryl Feemster and safety Kelcie McCray were first-team selections, and I believe they also lose the other defensive backs. That means they are rebuilding the secondary.
The defense ranked 24th in the country overall. They ranked 13th against the run but only 69th against the pass. But like I said those defensive backs are gone. They were 25th in scoring defense.
They got in the backfield for 35 sacks, which set them at 15th in the nation. While the overall pass defense wasn’t great, they did have a nose for the ball and were able to pull down 19 interceptions, tied for sixth nationally.
Oregon has long been known as a running team, and this will not change in 2012. Look for Oregon to establish the run early, especially going after the spots where Joiner and Davis are being replaced.
I do believe that the pass will be a bigger part of the offense for Oregon in 2012 than it has been in the past. With a new quarterback and some receivers that are trying to establish themselves, I expect the young secondary to be exploited.