2010 College Football Predictions: The 10 Most Important Oregon Ducks
The college football season is just around the corner and the Oregon Ducks are rounding into form. Much of the talent has returned from last year's team and many of them will hopefully improve in 2010.
The Ducks had plenty of stars that made 2009 a special season for Oregon. Who will be this season's stars?
Who are the big names on the 2010 roster?
Which players will be the most important to the Ducks' success?
Here are the 10 most important Ducks for 2010:
10. Nate Costa
We all know by now that Costa will be the backup to Darron Thomas, but that does not mean he is completely out of the picture.
Chip Kelly will look to Costa to help Thomas through the struggles he will endure. Each and every time Thomas runs off the field after an interception, fumble or failed third down, Costa will be standing there, hopefully attempting to rebuild Thomas' confidence and make him a better player for the next drive.
Costa will also push Thomas in practice everyday. With the QB race so tight this summer, Thomas cannot feel too comfortable and therefore must always be on the top of his game or lose his job to Costa.
Thirdly, Costa will have to be there in case Thomas fails as the starter. If Thomas struggles during the first couple of games, Costa may be called upon to led the Ducks.
9. Talmadge Jackson III
In his first full season of action last year, Jackson excelled and became the Ducks most reliable defensive back.
In 2009 Jackson had four interceptions and 50 tackles. For 2010, Jackson must become the leader of a younger and less-experienced defensive backfield to compete with the plethora of quality quarterbacks in the Pac-10.
8. Jeff Maehl
Much like Talmadge Jackson, Maehl must lead an inexperienced core of players vital to the Ducks success.
Maehl is the only senior receiver on the Ducks' depth chart and will likely be a huge weapon for Thomas and the offense. With his incredibly quick feet and great hands, Maehl is a perfect receiver for Chip Kelly's offense. Kelly loves to run receiver screens and short, quick routes that showcase Maehl's talents and maximize his skill set to the utmost.
Maehl is also a quality run-blocker for the receiver position. His ability to help the offense in many ways makes Maehl an invaluable player for the Ducks. His presence on the field makes the Ducks more dangerous in all aspects for the offense.
7. Kenjon Barner
Barner is an incredibly explosive weapon for the Ducks.
Although many were unsure of his talents until his breakout performance in the Rose Bowl against Ohio State, much of Duck Nation saw glimpses of greatness in Barner throughout the season.
In the final two games of the season against Oregon State and Ohio State, Barner put up an astounding 420 all-purpose yards.
Barner has a chance to shine early in the 2010 season with LaMichael James being suspended for the first game of the season. Barner will get the start against New Mexico and should carry the offense to a victory in Week 1.
6. Casey Matthews
Casey Matthews broke out last season and became the Ducks defensive leader. Matthews piled up 81 tackles and three sacks in his junior campaign, while also earning the respect of his teammates and Ducks fans alike.
Before last season all we knew about Matthews was that his brother had been a very good player for USC. This season, Duck fans and national pundits seem to believe Matthews may challenge his brother for family supremacy.
5. Jordan Holmes
Although many probably have no idea who Jordan Holmes is,as the center for a prolific Oregon offense, his performance is invaluable.
Holmes must control the offensive line, anchor the offense as a whole and make sure the Ducks keep their cool and play smart during crunch time. Centers usually do not receive much credit for their role in the offense, but without the presence of a dependable and experienced center, offenses cannot run smoothly.
Holmes will provide all of this and more for the Ducks O-line and QB Darron Thomas.
4. Kenny Rowe
Kenny Rowe is another defensive player who had a career year last season. In his breakout season, Rowe led the Pac-10 in sacks (11), recorded 43 tackles, had 15 tackles-for-loss, and forced 3 fumbles.
Rowe is a devastatingly quick and strong defensive end who created mismatches all season long for opposing offensive lines. Rowe comes into the 2010 season as the leader of the defensive line, but has plenty of experienced players with him on the D-line, including Brandon Bair, Zac Clark and Terrell Turner.
3. Chip Kelly
Chip Kelly will be an incredibly important figure for the 2010 Ducks.
He must groom a new QB, keep egos down, make sure the offense is running smoothly and guide the Ducks through a tough Pac-10 schedule for the Ducks to do well this season.
But because he does not actually take the field and play the game, Kelly can only be number three on this list.
2. Darron Thomas
Darron Thomas is the Ducks' starting QB and deservedly so. If Kelly thinks Thomas will make the Ducks better right now, then who can disagree with that?
I certainly will not.
Thomas showed us all what he can do when he took the field in the fourth quarter against Boise State two seasons ago. If that is actually the type of player Darron Thomas is, then Oregon is in good shape.
However, Thomas will go through growing pains and have some ugly moments. What will determine his reputation is how he rebounds from those mistakes and performs on the next series.
1. LaMichael James
Who else could the top spot go to?
Of course the most important player for the Ducks in 2010 is LaMichael James; he is their proverbial ace-in-the-hole and the one player the Ducks will be able to lean on consistently.
James is also getting the national attention that comes with being an elite player, including being mentioned as a Heisman Trophy candidate. His ability to stay healthy and out of trouble, though, may very well be the most important factor for the 2010 season.
As long as the Ducks can hand off the ball to James, Oregon should be a Pac-10 title contender and legitimate BCS bowl challenger.