Oregon Football 2011: 5 Dream Scenarios for 2011
The Oregon Ducks have a lot to look forward to in 2011.
Oregon is coming off of one of their best years in team history, finishing the regular season undefeated and nearly winning the BCS National Championship.
However, the Ducks are not heading into the 2011 season the way they hoped they would.
The NCAA is investigating the Oregon football program, star cornerback Cliff Harris is suspended indefinitely and the Ducks are entering the season without Casey Matthews, Kenny Rowe or Jeff Maehl.
Despite everything that is working against the Ducks, this season still has the potential to be great.
Here are five dream scenarios for the Oregon Ducks heading into this season.
5. Cliff Harris Will Play the Majority of the Season
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If the Oregon Ducks want to be successful, they need Cliff Harris to play as many games in 2011 as possible.
The Ducks' all-conference cornerback has been suspended indefinitely for driving over 110 miles per hour with a suspended license.
To make matters worse, the car that Harris was driving had been rented by an university employee, prompting investigation from the school's compliance office.
Coach Chip Kelly has only confirmed Harris' suspension for the season opener and said that the length will depend on the cornerback's commitment to the program's rules.
Because the suspension is open-ended, no one knows for sure when Harris will play for the Ducks in 2011, but if Oregon hopes to duplicate or improve their efforts from last year, he will need to play for the majority of the season.
4. Lavasier Tuinei Becomes a Star Wide Receiver
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The Oregon Ducks are returning seven offensive starters, but only one of them is a receiver.
Jeff Maehl and D.J. Davis both left the team after last season, leaving a big vacancy at the wide receiver position.
The Ducks lone returning starter is senior, Lavasier Tuinei.
At 6'5", Tuinei will likely be the number one option for quarterback Darron Thomas, although David Paulson will certainly be relied on at tight end.
Tuinei was the fourth-best wide receiver on the team in 2010 and is the best returning wide-out for the Ducks in 2011.
He proved to be a gamer last year too, having two of his best statistical games against two of the Ducks' toughest opponents.
In a game at USC, he caught seven passes for 78 yards and a touchdown and in the BCS National Championship game against Auburn he added 75 yards on only three receptions.
If Tuinei develops into the player he is capable of being, the Ducks will be the scariest offensive team in the country.
3. The Oregon Defense Front Seven Reloads
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The Oregon Ducks most significant loss comes on the defensive side of the ball, specifically in the front seven.
Casey Matthews, Kenny Rowe, and Spencer Paysinger were all crucial parts of the Oregon defense in 2010 and none will be returning in 2011.
Oregon's defense was underrated last season—and understandably so in light of the dominance of their offense—but still very good.
The linebackers replacing Matthews and Paysinger may not be players of the same caliber, but they are nonetheless very talented and experienced as a result of the rotating system of defense Oregon operates under.
On the defensive line, ends Terrell Turner and Brandon Hanna will lead a young, talented interior line.
Luckily for the Ducks though, the youth at the defensive tackle position will be balanced out by the experience at linebacker.
Another year with a stingy and competent defense will certainly help the Ducks chances at another BCS National Championship run.
2. LaMichael James Wins the Heisman Trophy
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The most significant returning player for the Oregon Ducks is running back LaMichael James.
James continued his dominance as the Ducks tailback in 2010, running for over 1,700 yards and finding the endzone 21 times. The sophomore was also a finalist for the Heisman Trophy and the best running back in all of college football.
As James returns for his junior season at Oregon, look for him to have an even better year than his last.
With only one returning receiver, James is likely to have a bulk of the offensive load placed on his shoulders, being both the primary running back and one of the primary receiving options.
If we see the type of improvement we saw in James from 2009 to 2010, James could easily rush for over 2,000 yards and once again be the nation's top ball-carrier, making him an excellent candidate for the Heisman Trophy.
1. The Oregon Ducks Return to the BCS National Championship and Win
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The only thing preventing most Oregon Duck fans from calling last season a complete success is the fact that the season ended with a loss in the BCS National Championship game.
The road back to the title won't be easy for Oregon with a season opener against highly ranked LSU and a tough road game against PAC-12 challenger, Stanford, but the Ducks have the talent to do it.
Darron Thomas and LaMichael James along with the entire Oregon squad are hungry for another shot at a national championship and it will take a lot to keep them from achieving their goal.