LaMichael James and Darron Thomas are returning to school a year after taking the Oregon Ducks to the BCS National Championship game, but can they return to the title game in 2011?
Since the preseason polls are based partially because of what you did last year and players returning to your school, Oregon should be ranked very high in the polls to start the season.
Starting high in the polls means if the Oregon Ducks go undefeated, they will be a lock to play in the BCS title game.
Here are some reasons why they should go undefeated.
The two positions the Ducks lost the most last year to graduation are wide receivers and defensive tackles. Jared Ebert can help Oregon not miss a step going into next season at the defensive tackle position.
Ebert played the past two years at Iowa Western Community College. Having the ability to transfer in the spring to practice with the team and get a semester of classes under his belt without the pressure of playing football will give Jared an edge that incoming freshman do not have.
Ebert at 6’5”, 285 pounds, certainly has the size to play at the highest level but will have a huge test to start the season playing against an SEC powerhouse in the LSU Tigers. If Oregon is to beat the Tigers, then Ebert will need to play very well.
Colt Lyerla is listed as an athlete because he can play running back, linebacker, or defensive end. However, the type of running back Lyerla is does not fit with Oregon’s offensive scheme. This puts Colt on the defensive side for Oregon.
Lyerla has tremendous straight-line speed. Putting him at outside linebacker would be ideal for the Ducks.
At 6’4”, 220 pounds, Colt is certainly big enough to play on the defensive line.
Colt Lyerla is a big and fast athlete that can help out any team he plays for in his first year on campus.
The style of offense the Oregon Ducks play is the way every young high school athlete wants to play. It’s fast, free flowing, and gives the players a chance to do what they do naturally.
Devon Blackmon is another great athlete recruited by the Oregon Ducks.
He played quarterback in high school but looks more like a wide receiver in college and in the NFL. At 6’0”, 180 pounds, Blackmon is ideal for playing the slot receiver position for the Ducks and will provide several miss matches for the opposing team to deal with.
Devon will have to learn the details of being a receiver but with his athleticism, he should be able to pick up on all the nuances of that position quickly.
DeAnthony Thomas could help the Ducks next year in all three phases of the game. He can play running back, corner back, as well as return kickoffs and punts.
Whichever position DeAnthony plays, he could greatly impact the team next year.
At running back, Thomas could spell LaMichael James through the game but still not have a big drop off of play.
Usually when the backups are in the game you have to play differently because of the lack of ability in the reserves, however, DeAnthony would not allow that drop off to occur. His speed and quickness will allow him to play similar to the way LaMichael James already plays.
Also, DeAnthony Thomas could be LaMichaels replacement in the following year. Giving Thomas this valuable experience this coming year will not only help the Ducks in 2011 but also in 2012.
We just discussed the top three recruits for Oregon this past year, but the Ducks are getting more players than just those three.
According to Rivals.com, Oregon had two, 5-star recruits and nine, 4-star recruits. These players will be able to come in and make an immediate impact, maybe not on the field but in practice.
Playing against great players only makes you better. Having tough competition day in and day out only makes individuals and teams better, so the Oregon Ducks may have to wait a few years to receive the full benefit of this recruiting class but can go ahead and get some use out of them in 2011.
Cliff Harris last year was an All-American cornerback. However, with his recent traffic citation for driving 118 miles per hour in a 65 miles per hour zone, Cliff will be suspended for the opening game against LSU.
Without Harris, Oregon will be hard pressed to beat the Tigers but as we will discuss later, if you are going to lose, lose early.
Harris was looked at to be a great leader for this team, especially the defense, but now with his suspension, it may hurt the team early on in the season. But since Harris is still allowed to practice with the team and be around them, his influence can still be great.
Although he won’t be on the field in Texas when the Ducks play LSU, he will be on the sideline encouraging them on.
But the LSU game is one game. Harris should be back by the time the Ducks get to the difficult part of the schedule when they play Washington, Stanford, and USC three weeks in a row.
On September 3rd, the first game of the season for the Ducks will be against the LSU Tigers in Arlington, Texas. Although it is on a neutral field, Arlington is significantly closer to Baton Rouge than Eugene, Oregon, about 1,500 miles closer, actually.
You can expect more LSU fans than Oregon fans at the game.
The Ducks next tough game won’t be until November 5th, when Oregon travels to Washington University. The next week the Ducks play at Stanford against Andrew Luck, which makes Oregon playing two difficult road games in back-to-back weeks.
After those games, USC and Oregon State come to Eugene to finish out the season.
Even if Oregon loses to LSU in the first game of the season, the Ducks are not out of the title race. In the polls, if two, one-loss teams are competing for a higher spot, the team that lost last is ranked lower in the polls.
If the Ducks win every game including LSU, then making it to the BCS Championship game will be a lock, but even if they lose to LSU and then go on and beat every other opponent, Oregon still has a good chance of making it to the title game.
Every game outside of LSU the Ducks are clear favorites. The Ducks could not have asked for a better schedule in 2011.
Last year Darron Thomas led the Oregon Ducks to the BCS National Championship game. Although he was not the star of the offense last year, he still was required to make plays and lead the team.
Coming back for his senior year was great for Oregon, and it was also smart for Darron. His style of quarterback play will not be conducive to the NFL, so coming back to school and getting degree was the best thing for him.
Thomas could potentially play a different position in the NFL, but he will not be a starting quarterback.
Now with his experience and leadership, the Ducks do not have to worry about their quarterback coming into the fall. There is currently no other quarterback in college that could better run Chip Kelly's offense like Darron Thomas can.
Because of his experience of playing on the biggest stage, no game will be too big for Darron. His guidance during a season of such high expectations will be paramount if the Ducks expect to get back to the BCS National Championship game.
The head coach of the Oregon Ducks, Chip Kelly, has done an incredible job in making the Ducks a football powerhouse.
Instilling a dynamic style of offense that star players love to come and play in, as well as using Nike to make their uniform unique, has attracted players to Oregon in what is known as the Flutie Effect.
When Doug Flutie beat Miami on a Hail Mary, Boston College’s enrollment sky rocketed. Boise St. has used their blue field in the same way. When players are deciding to play between schools that they have never heard of before and a school they have heard of, the star players will always choose the school they know about.
Because of those reasons, Chip Kelly has been able to make great recruiting classes in the past few years. The team with the best players usually wins, so winning on national Signing Day is how you win in the fall.
Chip Kelly has been winning on national signing day, and last year it showed.
Last year LaMichael James was a Heisman Trophy finalist. This year he is one of the leading candidates.
LaMichael has to dominate week in and week out. He is the catalyst of the Chip Kelly offense and will be expected to take the Ducks to the title game.
LaMichael also has a great chance at winning the Heisman Trophy this year. Oregon lost most of its defense from last year’s team, and this coming fall Oregon will need LaMichael more than last year to dominate on the field.
It takes a team effort to win a national championship. All of these reasons and more will contribute to the Oregon Ducks playing for the national title next January. Even with these advantages over other teams, the Oregon Ducks will still need to execute on the field.
On paper, the Ducks should make it back to the title game for the second season in a row but, as they say, that’s why they play the game.