The spring of 2009 is a chance for all NCAA teams to work together, try new plays, set strategies, and compete for starting positions. But these are not the only changes for the Oregon Ducks and their new coaching staff.
The beloved Mike Bellotti has stepped down as the Oregon football coach and was replaced by Chip Kelly. Bellotti left a gift for the new coach. Most old coaches will slack on recruiting as they turn the corner of retirement, but not Mike. He works until the job is done. Leaving Coach Kelly with one of their best recruiting classes, which was their 2008 freshman class, Kelly has been given the weapons to produce on offense. He needs to come through.
After finishing second in the Pac-10 last year, along with a bowl win over Oklahoma St, the Ducks have high expectations coming into the 2009 season. They have remarkable talent on the offensive side of the ball.
Their defense should be tested in week one when they play Boise St. The huge loss of two time All-American Patrick Chung (drafted by Patriots) will put some strain on their secondary. The Ducks will be coming back with a stronger linebacker crew, and some returning defensive line starters, such as Will Takuafu on the line and Walter Thurmond III at defensive back. Although the young talent is there, this team is loaded with upperclassmen.
The team will be lead by LeGarrette Blount, the senior running back from Florida. Blount split time with Jeremiah Johnson last year. Blount showed his abilities as he steam rolled Oklahoma St. last year and impressed scouts across the country. LeGarrette, along with senior tight end Ed Dickson, will have to take leadership of this Ducks team and play to his full potential.
Like I said, the spring is a time to compete for starting spots on the depth chart. If you have followed Oregon in the last three years, you understand their troubles at quarterback. The issue for Ducks QBs, has been health. Two years ago Dennis Dixon went down against Arizona and cost them the National Championship. Since then, Ducks quarterbacks have been struggling to stay on the field.
Justin Roper was the starter on their opening game last year, and suffered a season ending injury in their fourth game—not to mention he was replacing an injured Nate Costa, who ended his season with an injury in spring practices.
The 5’11", 215 pound Jeremiah Masoli stepped onto the Autzen Zoo and took over. Masoli lead the team to the top half of the Pac-10 and a crushing win in their bowl game. With his size, you could mistake him as a running back. Let’s just say that if you are playing with Oregon in NCAA 2010 for Xbox 360, use the Truck Stick with Masoli.
With the miraculous improvements we’ve seen in Masoli, it will be tough for him to live up to the expectations that are sweeping the Oregon campus and nation. Although Costa should be back, Masoli is likely to be the starter come game time. Even if he acquires an injury during the season, Costa should be there to come in the huddle at anytime.
The expectations for this 2009 Ducks team will be hard for them to live up to. Coming into the season as a top 10 team, the Oregon Ducks have a lot to prove. This season could even be the season when Oregon claims the top spot in the Pac-10. With USC’s Mark Sanchez gone, along with their entire linebackers, USC could struggle to beat every team in their conference. With Oregon’s talent becoming more and more experienced, this should be the best Ducks team in the last five years, and that’s saying something.
It will be interesting to see how Coach Kelly performs, because he is under the most pressure in the program. Chip needs to set a tone in their opener against Boise St. and continue to win when conference play starts. If this team can live up to their expectations in the 2009 season, you may find the Ducks headed to a BCS bowl game.
Russ Hartley is the writer for YGS Column and podcast host for Yung Gunz Sports, you can find him at www.YGSports.webs.com