2011 Oregon Ducks: The Greatest Show on Field Turf
Growing up in St. Louis, I witnessed the most explosive offense the NFL has ever seen. The St. Louis Rams teams from 1999-2003 provided America with the most exciting brand of football ever before seen; it was must-see TV. They were a remarkable team, and were an Az Hakim fumble and Adam Vinatieri field goal away from becoming a dynasty.
Kurt Warner, Marshall Faulk, Torry Holt, Isaac Bruce, Az Hakim, Ricky Proehl, Orlando Pace, etc. These were the catalyst and Mike Martz was the architect behind what the NFL called "The Greatest Show on Turf."
I had a girlfriend who along with her entire family hailed from Oregon so I started to follow the Ducks, a bit more closely than a guy from the Midwest normally would.
Oregon has been building serious momentum in recent years as an elite program. As evidenced by their appearance in this years BCS title game versus Auburn.
What has really shocked me is the talent they are beginning to attract to Eugene. Five-star recruits that you would usually peg to go to USC, Texas, or Oklahoma are now finding their way to the Pacific Northwest and signing their letters of intent to become Ducks.
Running back and Youtube sensation Lache Seastrunk, a five-star recruit from Texas signed on with Oregon last season. This season it was a last minute change of heart from top 10 recruit D'Anthony Thomas, who had pledged to USC and ended up signing with the Ducks. This came after he took his last official visit to the Oregon campus.
What is it that is attracting all these big time recruits to play in Chip Kelly's offense, or in Thomas' case perhaps defense.
Is it the facilities?
I have heard Oregon has the best in the nation, and recruits leave duly impressed if not overwhelmed.
How about the uniforms?
The Phil Knight Nike inspired uniforms that change every game are some of the dopest in the country. I know teenagers like to look good while doing anything, and Oregon's uniform combination are as unique and diverse as any team in college or pro sports.
I really believe the uniforms have a lot to do with the revolution that is taking place in Eugene. I have noticed other schools have been switching up their time honored unis for a few games to perhaps get that merchandising money or maybe entice a recruit who is on the fence.
Sounds silly, but I truly believe what I am writing.
Finally, I believe it to be the offense, the Oregon version of the spread offense. Where they hold up huge cards with pictures of Conan O'Brien and ESPN's Scott Van Pelt to call plays. Their offense is run at a breakneck pace with speed and precision unmatched by anyone in the country.
Oregon has become what the Rams were at the beginning of the of the century (finally he gets to his point) "The Greatest Show on Field Turf."
Going into the 2011 season, the Oregon Ducks are loaded on offense, even more so than they were a season ago when they landed in the title game.
Another year under center for Darron Thomas. I am still a little sketchy on Thomas. He is not Dennis Dixon, nor is he Jeremiah Masoli, but he has been extremely effective. With some more seasoning he could become better than the two former Duck signal callers. Could you imagine if they could entice Denard Robinson or Taylor Martinez to transfer and run the show?
Even without Robinson or Martinez they are still quite explosive with Thomas.
Running back is where they have an abundance of riches. It all starts with the reigning NCAA rushing champion, Heisman finalist and Doak Walker award winner LaMichael James. James, the diminutive blur, is what Marshall Faulk was to the Rams. He is unstoppable in the open field and strong enough and determined enough to break tackles and pick up the extra yard.
There is also Kenjon Barner, another speedster who was hampered by injury for parts of last season. I actually believe Barner is going to be a better pro than James. He is dangerous on kickoffs and would start at any other university in the country, with Alabama being the only possible exception.
Then there is Josh Huff who last season as a true freshman out of Texas, opened a lot of eyes and showed the country just how deep the Ducks were at the position.
Add that to two top recruits who didn't even see the field last season, the aforementioned Seastrunk and Dontae Williams, also from Texas, and you begin to see the explosive potential of 2011. (Williams has since transferred 2-18-11)
The 2011 recruiting class also features two running backs, who may have a chance to get some carries, Thomas (who is rumored to be switching to corner) and Tra Carson, a big back in the mold of LaGarrette Blount.
The graduation of Jeff Maehl (the Ducks equivalent to Ricky Proehl) and DJ Davis have left a void to fill at the receiver position.
6'6" Lavasier Tuinei will provide Thomas with a giant red zone target. Juco transfer Rashaan Vaughn and perhaps top recruits Devon Blackmon and Tacoi Sumler could provide some depth at wideout.
I heard Josh Huff could possibly move to receiver, and who knows what position five-star athlete Colt Lyerla might end up.
David Paulson will provide stability at tight end, giving Thomas and experienced pass catcher he can depend on and check down to.
Let's not forget All-American punt returner Cliff Harris, who is a threat to take it the distance every time he touches the ball.
Playing in the new Pac-12, will provide Oregon with a few more obstacles to overcome, not to mention the conference is home to the two best quarterbacks in the land in Andrew Luck and Matt Barkley.
But with Oregon recruiting SEC-type speed and their depth, they should roll through the Pac-12 undefeated and wind up again in the BCS title game against another arbitrary SEC opponent (my guess is it's LSU's turn).
This time I feel the results will be different, Oregon has finally accumulated the speed and now have the experience to dislodge the SEC's stranglehold on the National Championship.
And just like the Rams at the turn of the century, they should provide the country with the most explosive and successful brand of football, NFL included.
In 2011, "The Greatest Show on Field Turf" has arrived and it should be a wild ride in Eugene for many years to come.
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