Signing day is just around the corner, and the Oregon Ducks have something positive to look forward to after a heartbreaking loss to the Auburn Tigers in the national title game a few weeks ago.
2011 looks bright for Oregon, losing only a handful of players on each side of the ball, and if you add the fresh recruits that will be joining the squad for what seems to be the best recruiting class of all-time, that usually tends to mean success.
Darron Thomas and LaMichael James come back for another year that is shaping up to be another national title run, if everything goes to plan.
But, what about the players the Ducks did lose?
Here is a look at the five spots that the Ducks are dying to fill.
(All recruit ratings are Scout.com)
Key Losses: Jeff Maehl, DJ Davis
Key Commits: Tacoi Sumler (3 star), BJ Kelley (3 star), Rahsaan Vaughn (4 star), Devon Blackmon(4 star)
When you look at the success of the Oregon offense, you have to give credit to the wide outs.
This position is KEY in the success for the offense due to two things--Blocking and long catch plays.
If you want to be a receiver on the Oregon squad, you have to know how to block down field and execute your routes to perfection--you have to be smart.
Jeff Maehl came into Oregon thinking that he was going to be a defensive back for the Ducks. Kelly took a quick look at Maehl's football IQ and immediately stuck him on the offensive side of the ball. He had a knack for getting open, making catches, and leading the team. He is a smart player, and although he was not as athletic as the rest of them, he leaves as one of the best wide outs to ever come through Oregon.
The Ducks need someone to replace Maehl, and they need him bad. If you think Oregon will do fine throwing the ball without Maehl on the field, you may be surprised.
Key Losses: Jordan Holmes, Max Forer, C.E. Kaiser, Bo Thran
Key Commits: Jamal Prater (3 star), Tyler Johnstone (4 star), Andre Yruretagoyena (4 star)
The biggest hit that will affect this Oregon offense comes in their offensive line.
Holmes was the veteran leader of this offense after playing the last three seasons full.
The Ducks lose offensive tackle Bo Thran and offensive guard C.E. Kaiser as well, which makes for a tough time to duplicate the rushing game that they had in 2010. One thing is for sure, Oregon does rotate a lot of players each game, usually every possession, and that is no different with the offensive line.
But, when it comes down to the center position, the two players who rotated are now gone, and the Ducks need either a fresh recruit or an inexperienced Joe Schmoe to step up to fill in those three key spots for this offense.
Without a great offensive line, the Oregon offense is not very affective (See national championship game).
Key Losses: Kenny Rowe, Zac Clark, Brandon Bair
Key Commits: Koa Ka'ai (4 star), Roderick Byers (3 star), Jared Ebert (3 star)
Well, this is a huge loss for the ducks.
Kenny Rowe, Brandon Bair, and Zac Clark have become household names over the past two years if you've been following Oregon sports.
Rowe was the captain and heart of this defense. Bair and Clark came onto the scene strong in 2009, and never let up. It was evident that their defensive line was a huge part to their success all year long. Heck, Allioti had Rowe dropping back into coverage for the national title game, which is just another example of how Kenny was a gamer.
What Duck fans have to remember is that Brandon Bair came to Oregon as a tight end. The coaches saw the physicality of his game, and with his size and speed knew that he could be very effective as a D lineman.
So, shouldn't the Ducks be able to find another TE who fits on the defensive line?
Key Losses: Casey Matthews, Spencer Paysinger, Bryson Littlejohn
Key Commits: Anthony Wallace (4 star), Colt Lyerla (4 star), Rahim Cassel (3 star)
With big loss, comes a big gain.
Oregon is looking to sign two big time linebacker's coming this February--Anthony Wallace and Colt Lyerla.
Luckily, it is just what the doctor ordered, as Oregon loses two major impact defenders in Casey Matthews and Spencer Paysinger. Matthews led the team in tackles this season, and when asked about Casey, Coach Chip Kelly stated that he has never seen one player work so hard to get where he is at. Both are looking to be future linebackers on Sundays, and both made an enormous impact on this Duck football team.
How to replace two studs? You sign two more in the coming year.
Wallace and Lyerla will not be Matthews and Paysinger right off the bat, but these are two players with talents that Oregon has never seen in the linebacker position.
Should be interesting to see how these two pan out.
Key Losses: Talmadge Jackson III, Marvin Johnson, Chad Peppars
Key Commits: Tyson Coleman (4 star), Ifo Ekpre-Olomu (4 star)
As I said before, the Ducks rotated 25 players on defense in 2010.
But, in the right cornerback position, they only rotated Peppars and Talmadge Jackson III, who are both on their way out after graduation. You would think this poses a problem, but again, with a big loss comes a big gain.
Ifo Ekpre-Olomu may be the perfect fit to hop right in as a freshman. He plays very similar to Jackson III, and he has quick bursts of speed which fits the Oregon "5-yard cushion" perfectly.
The question is, will he be the next Cliff Harris and only go for interceptions?
Or will he actually have a head on his shoulders and make a huge impact?