Oregon Football: Areas Where Ducks Must Improve During 2012 Fall Practice
The Oregon Ducks will be heading into the 2012 season with a lot of hype surrounding a team that could contend for a BCS National Championship.
They are currently ranked No. 5 in the preseason USA Today Sports Coaches' Poll and are favored to win the North Division of the Pac-12 Conference. Though USC is predicted to win the Pac-12 Championship, Ducks fans can rest assured that their team will be right in the thick of things and ready to prove that they are the true kings of the Pac-12.
Oregon has won three straight conference titles behind one of the more potent offenses in the nation, an offense that has put up gaudy numbers and elevated the Ducks into national prominence. Their defense has played with a bend-but-don't-break kind of attitude and should be one of the best defensive units in the Pac-12 in 2012.
Despite all the accolades and hype the program is receiving during the preseason, there are still some issues the Ducks will need to iron out if they want to have a shot at yet another conference championship.
With fall camp officially starting yesterday, here are the things Oregon needs to improve upon in these next 22 days.
Had it not been for shady cornerback play against LSU, the Ducks may have very well beaten the Tigers and blown past the USC Trojans to make yet another appearance in the BCS National Championship.
You cannot, however, change the past.
One of the areas that Oregon had issues with last year was the production they received from their cornerbacks.
While the unit vastly improved as the season went on, it was still evident that this group of players would need to elevate their game further if they wanted to really contend for a BCS National Championship.
Things are looking up, however, as the Ducks return several players at this skill position. Returners such as Terrance Mitchell, Dior Mathis, James Scales, Avery Patterson and Ifo Ekpre-Olomu give the Ducks a solid veteran base to build play off of.
These players will need to put in extra work during fall camp to improve coverage of receivers and not missing assignments if they want to help the Ducks on their way to a Pac-12 Championhsip.
Had it not been for a missed field goal in the last seconds of their USC game last year, the Ducks would have been right in the thick of things for a shot at a second consecutive appearance in the BCS National Championship.
While the kicking game is something the Ducks don't really rely on to produce a lot of field goals during the year, the kicking game needs to see improvement if the Ducks don't want disappointments like the 2011 USC game in 2012.
Alejandro Maldonado will come back to the team and hopefully have his leg and accuracy much improved from last year.
Though they are one of the more potent offenses in the nation, Oregon will play a few close games where their kicking game may turn out to be the difference.
Wide Receiver Depth
Lavarsier Tunei is off to the NFL, and Josh Huff is likely facing a game or two suspension.
This leaves just De'Anthony Thomas and a few others as players who have had experience at the wide receiver position for the Ducks.
Past Thomas, however, things are uncertain.
While the Ducks do have a stable of talent at the position, it will be interesting to see how those players fill out their roles come the start of the season.
Devon Blackmon, Tacoi Sumler and B.J. Kelley all have the tools to excel at the college football level—it is just uncertain at this point who will be taking the most reps at the position alongside Thomas and Huff.
The Ducks must find a sure-handed player to replace the production of Tunei, and it will be interesting to see who emerges out of fall camp as the favorite.
Running Back Depth
The running back duo of Kenjon Barner and De'Anthony Thomas may be one of the best in the nation.
Those two players will continue the Oregon rush down the field and fuel one of the most explosive and productive offenses in the nation.
However, should one of them get hurt, it is uncertain who will replace them.
The Ducks come into this season with one of the most prolific running games in all of college football. While Barner and Thomas will garner most of the attention on the ground, the Ducks must solidify their depth chart behind these two players.
The departures of Tra Carson and Lache Seastrunk were huge for the Ducks. As of right now, the Ducks have six running backs on their roster, two of them being walk-ons this year.
Byron Marshall is one of the highest-profile recruits to come to Oregon, and it will be interesting to see his competition with Ayele Ford as to who will be third on the depth chart behind Barner and Thomas.