This is the ninth installment in a 10-part series about what I see as three points that will contribute to the success of each Pac-10 team.
New Head Coach Chip Kelly
With Chip Kelly at the helm as the Oregon offensive coordinator, the Ducks have rewritten the record books each of the last two seasons.
In 2007, Oregon’s offense produced the highest-scoring team and the most yards of total offense that the school had ever seen. Quarterback Dennis Dixon and running back Jonathan Stewart moved on to the NFL, and many thought it would be impossible for Oregon to even come close to what they did in 2007.
Somehow in 2008, the Ducks improved on both numbers. The 2008 season saw the Ducks as the best Pac-10 rushing attack, highest scoring team, and total offense. They ranked second in the country in rushing and seventh in scoring and total yards.
Over the last two seasons, Oregon had three players rush for over 1,000 yards.
But now Kelly is not the offensive coordinator anymore. As of this spring, he is now the head coach. Actually, if reports are accurate, he will be both. From what I have heard, Kelly plans on calling plays for the offense.
If Oregon hopes to have success in 2009, it starts with Kelly’s ability to go from coaching part of the team to coaching the whole team.
Balancing the Offense
While the running game was top-notch, the passing game was lacking.
It wasn’t nonexistent; it just wasn’t very consistent. Quarterback Jeremiah Masoli had a season high 80.8 percent completion percentage against Arizona and a low of 26.3 against UCLA. He finished the season at 1,744 yards, 13 touchdowns, and five interceptions.
It may just be that the running game was so strong with two players that finished with over 1,000 yards and Masoli adding another 718.
With the running game being so strong, the defenses the Ducks will go against will be looking for that. The passing game will need to play a bigger role.
Spring saw the emergence of wide receivers Jamere Holland and Rory Cavaille. Aaron Pflugrad would have been in the starting lineup but has elected to part ways with Oregon.
In Oregon’s offense the tight end is used quite a bit, and having big Ed Dickson line up there is a plus for the Ducks. Dickson is the leading returning receiver for 2009.
Oregon may open up with a tough road game, and the schedule looks like there will be three top 25 teams in the first month and five overall, but believe it or not, the schedule is favorable for Oregon in 2009.
Oregon has seven home games and five on the road. The Ducks draw the teams that finished first, USC; third, Oregon State; and fourth, Cal; in the conference at home.
Two of the three nonconference games are also at home, including Utah, who went 13-0 last season and won the Sugar Bowl.
With manageable road games and what appear to be the toughest games on the schedule at home, Oregon could be looking at a successful season.