As the Oregon faithful continue to claim glory while making excuses for their humiliating defeat to Auburn earlier this year, the upcoming 2011 football season looks to be a huge surprise in the making for our feathered friends to the south.
Oregon had a great season in 2010, but loyalists got a bit nuts by declaring the team had “the best offense in college football history” shortly before limping to a 15-13 nipping of California.
The team lost 23 seniors to graduation this year, including three starting offensive lineman and that many starting defensive lineman, plus three-year starting linebackers Casey Matthews and Spencer Paysinger, corner Talmadge Jackson, who was the primary shutdown corner with 146 tackles and defensive back Marvin Johnson.
The offensive line was never that great to begin with, which is why Chip Kelly opted for that goofy no-huddle thing all season. But Duck weaknesses were stripped bare when Auburn and Nick Fairley destroyed Oregon protection and spent the evening camped out in the Duck backfield.
With the loss of defensive end Kenny Rowe and defensive tackles Brandon Bair and Zac Clark, it means frantically searching the bench for someone to step up in their shoes and doing it fast enough to keep from getting mutilated by LSU in the first game of the season.
Freshman usually don’t help successful college programs when it comes to linemen on either side of the ball, since most coaches immediately assign new recruits to the weight room to bulk up for a couple of years. Thus, there will be no help.
What does all this mean for the Ducks? Mainly that fans would be wise to tone down the expectations for 2011, because it is highly unlikely the upcoming season will look similar to the last.
Let’s just take this game by game, shall we?