Oregon Strategy Session—Names To Watch For In 2009

Fletcher JohnsonCorrespondent IAugust 11, 2009

SEATTLE - OCTOBER 20: Willie Glasper #17 of the Oregon Ducks moves to catch the ball before the game against the Washington Huskies at Husky Stadium on October 20, 2007 in Seattle, Washington. The Ducks defeated the Huskies 55-34. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

The countdown to opening kickoff has begun around the state of Oregon as the Ducks have started fall camp. 

Expectations are high, and while the Ducks seem to be settled at many skill positions, there are many questions that need to be answered on both sides of the ball.

Ready or not, Chip Kelly will lead this team onto the smurf turf on Sept. 3, looking to meet those high expectations with an opening night win.

If the Ducks hope to make a run at the conference crown, here are some names that will need to play some big roles throughout the course of the season.

Freshman RB LaMichael James—The potent Oregon rushing attack has been a monster for opponents to deal with for the last few years under Kelly’s guidance. 

While they have one major contributor back in LaGarrette Blount, the development of a backup that can complement Blount’s style is key.

James, a redshirt freshman out of Texarkana, Texas, has been solid since the start of fall camp.  Kelly even said that James is “faster than Jeremiah (Johnson) ever dreamed of being.”  Quarterback Jeremiah Masoli says that James has “The fastest feet he has ever seen.” 

James is very similar to Oregon State running back Jacquizz Rodgers.  About 5’9” tall and running about 180 pounds, he should be able to “get lost” in the havoc that will hopefully be created by the offensive line.

The redshirt freshman’s durability is a question, but being the backup should help him stay healthy throughout the course of the season. 

If the Ducks can add a solid third run option behind Blount and Masoli, it should be another year of frustration for opposing defenses.

Freshman OL Carson York—The offensive line is easily the biggest question heading into the fall and York could silence the questions if he can step in and perform well.

Register Guard beat reporter Rob Moseley lists him as a starter at the left guard position. 

With the Ducks hoping to throw the ball more this year, York’s blindside protection is key for a passing attack to get up and running. 

At 6’5” and 285 pounds, York is the perfect size to fit Oregon’s offense.  Oregon does not recruit slouches on the offensive line so York will move well and pick up the scheme quickly. 

York will be going up against some talented players this fall and has already gotten some invaluable experience due to the injuries suffered by Bo Thran and C.E. Kaiser in the spring.  Watch York in the Boise State game to see how well he performs on the first few drives.  The Ducks could possibly have another four year starter on the offensive line.

Junior WR Tyrece Gaines—It was neck and neck between the Ducks and the Oklahoma Sooners for this junior college star out of Georgia.  The Ducks eventually won out and will reap the benefits for the next two seasons.

Gaines is tall at 6’3”, but also has the speed to threaten defenses over the top.  He was in Eugene over the summer taking part in voluntary workouts with Masoli and the other returning players. 

He has already shown flashes in spring ball, and if he can grasp the offense, he should be starting by the middle of the year.  People are concerned about depth at wide receiver, but Gaines and a slew of other talented young stars will make the Ducks forget those worries.

Gaines has knowledge of what college football is about, and though it may have been junior college, he will be ready to go come Sept. 3.

Senior DT Simi Toeaina—Toeaini has seem some very successful lineman roll through this program and is hoping he can add his name to that list.  With both Cole Linehan and Ra’shon Harris graduating, both tackle spots are up for grabs and Toeaina will almost surely gobble one up.

Toeaina is quick and has a great football IQ.  He has learned the tricks of the trade and coaches hope he will be a force in the middle. 

The senior from American Somoa is the cousin of Masoli and you know that he will want to do whatever it takes to get Masoli and the offense back on the field.  Lets hope that translates into sacks and tackles for losses.

Toeaina needs to take up bodies and allow the defensive ends to get up field.  If he does this, the poor pass defense Oregon fans were frustrated with in 2008 will be a distant memory.

Junior LB Bryson Littlejohn—Another junior college transfer who expects to make an immediate impact.  Littlejohn helps give Oregon possibly the most depth at linebacker in the recent history of the program.

Littlejohn packs a punch and will add another hitter to a defense that already has T.J. Ward (Remember this?).  Littlejohn will most likely play strong side linebacker behind Spencer Paysinger but with the amount of plays that the Duck defense is on the field, Littlejohn will get a ton of time.

With Paysinger, Littlejohn, Casey Matthews, and Eddie Pleasant at linebacker, this could be the best unit since the 1994 Gang Green defense.

Senior CB Willie Glasper—The final player from a recruiting class that included Cameron Colvin, Jackie Bates, and the late Terrence Kelly, Glasper finally looks as though he will gain the starting corner position opposite incumbent Walter Thurmond III.

Glasper needs to be the Steve Smith to Thurmond’s Rashad Bauman.

The senior has good recovery speed and has shown the ability to read routes and make breaks on balls in fall camp that make him the leader heading into the season.  As always and maybe even more this year, the corners will be put on an island while the defense gears up to stop the run.  Glasper is a safe bet because of his experience and quickness.

Glasper will get picked on time and time again this year, but if he can hold his own, the secondary should be ok.

While we constantly talk about individuals and who has to perform for a team to do well, it is the team that ultimately goes places not the individuals.  The Ducks have always played as a team under Bellotti and to expect anything different under Kelly would be absurd.

When the team takes the field in Boise, there will be a balance of veteran leadership and young talent working together to win a game and a day.  This balance is something that is severely under-appreciated around college football and could be a springboard to a special season for the Oregon Ducks if these particular players on both sides of the ball step up and perform well.