The last installment of the Gekko File 2012 Preview series takes us to the slum town of Skinner's Mudhole where we check in on a top-shelf football program located within the confines of a bottom-shelf university. As fate would have it, the University of Oregon has just issued a press release that I'm proud to break to you, the Husky faithful. I've included it below.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
The Oregon Ducks, long recognized in the world of professional football as innovators in the fields of academic tomfoolery, recruiting creativity and fashion dexterity, today announce the launch of their greatest uniform combination to date. This new uniform combination, developed in consultation with our student athletes for more than ample compensation, emphasizes the roots of not only the University of Oregon, but of the people who have given so much to make it what it is today. While retaining the cutting-edge technology features that have been the hallmark of our past uniform releases, this new design satisfies the demand among our student athletes for a "throw-back" color scheme with a modern twist.
"I'm proud of the new designs that, at their root, were inspired by our kids," said Head Coach Chip Kelly. "These guys really earned their pay on this one."
The new uniforms, to be worn in all 2012 PAC 12 games, have the following features:
- A throw-back color scheme complimented by modern accoutrements
- The replacement of the "eagle" shoulder design with a concept that is more closely associated with ducks
- The integration of stockings and shoes into a single, stylish accessory that supports the overall design and eliminates the need for shoe-taping
- The inclusion of a design scheme that allows for neck flare to be displayed safely during play
- First of its kind helmet designs that allow for increased functional visibility while in the field of play
- The installment of "whoosh-whistles" - special speed-measurement instruments that emit the sound of a duck-call when a player runs thus giving an auditory cue for the fans to detect the speed of the Oregon football players
- New "intsta-stash" hidden pocket schemes to assist Duck players with getting through uncomfortable traffic-stops without getting arrested
"Hey, it is the future, man," said Heisman hopeful De'Anthony Thomas, one of the athletes who participated in the dollars-for-designs program. "We got tired of other football programs trying to copy what we got with uniforms. So, we went somewhere that those other posers won't ever be able to follow. It's the story of our team. We are one of a kind, so our look has to be. Plus, I don't ever want to be put in the same situation as my boy, Darron Thomas, if I ever get stooped by the poh-leees. Those "insta-stashes" are going to be key."
About the University of Oregon
Founded in 1876 as a reform school for perverts who had an uncanny interest in young boys but who had not yet crossed over into a life of perpetual criminally deviant behavior, the University of Oregon today stands as the premier educational facility in the Central Oregon region. Long known for supporting liberal agendas, Eugene Mayor Jim Torry declared the UofO campus the "Anarchy Capital of the World" in 1999. It was just this spirit of laissez-faire and lawlessness that led all-world philanthropist and sugar-daddy, Phil Knight, to bestow upon the university a $1 gajillion donation and the promise of free sporting goods and apparel in perpetuity. The University embraces the fact that Phil Knight continues to support the program and that it is able to promote the output of the finest factory children that the countries of China and the Philippines have ever produced. Oregon football has won 555 games all-time, the majority of which are not likely to be vacated in the near future. The Ducks enter into the 2012 season among the favorites to win the BCS National Championship, a Heisman Trophy, and an official NCAA Sanction for boorish and blatantly obvious crooked behavior.
A look at the new Oregon Duck uniforms and a at the Gekko File on the 2012 Oregon Ducks after the Jump.
The Oregon Ducks 2012 Uniforms
Not sure what to say here that hasn't been said ad nauseum by Duck fans. Oregon trotted out a lineup featuring a bunch of faceless, nameless system players who complimented stars LaMichael James, De'Anthony Thomas, David Paulson, and Darron Thomas to kick off the 2012 season. After a valiant warm-up against LSU, they rolled all the way through their schedule until they met USC, had a bit of a hiccup, and then went on to keep rolling through a sham of a PAC 12 championship game right into a raucous Rose Bowl contest that they pulled out in the end. The offseason was interesting with the departure of Darron Thomas and the near departure of Chip Kelly, but otherwise pretty tame by Oregon standards. And here we are.
2011 Look Back: Oregon @ UW
Oregon continued their dominance of UW in a game that featured, somewhat surprisingly, the Duck defense. This game was actually pretty interesting with UW going toe to toe with the Ducks in the first half (the score was 17-10 at the break). Oregon scored two TDs to the UWs one in the third and that was the ball game as Oregon went on to win by a score of 34-17.
A lot of people have put this game out of their minds, but it is definitely an interesting one to look back on. Despite the fact LaMichael James rushed for 156 yards and two TDs, the Ducks had their second lowest offensive output of the season against the Huskies with just 381 yards of total offense (the Ducks had just 335 yards in their first game against LSU) - an indication of the latent talent residing in parts of the UW defense. In fact, given that the Ducks averaged 522 yds/game last year in a schedule that featured USC, Stanford, LSU and Wisconsin, this kind of defensive output by the Dawgs was good enough to win.
The problem was that the Duck defense was on fire. They sacked Keith Price - who picked a bad time to have his worst game - six times! in a complete domination of the Husky offensive line. Price would finish with just 143 yards passing with two TDs and two INTs. Jermaine Kearse did a vanishing act and dropped a few key passes. ASJ was completely taken out of the mix with 1 catch for minus 6 yards. Chris Polk had 111 total yards, but was kept out of the endzone. The only offensive player to show up was Kasen Williams, who caught 6 balls for 75 yards and a score.
Duck fans have already forgotten how close this game actually was and I've heard a few argue that they "took it easy on us" (which is laughable given what they did to other teams). It wasn't surprising that Oregon would go on the following week and get challenged in a loss to USC before bouncing back and rolling to end the season.
We can sit here and review the players that have gone and the players that have come, but the truth is that it really doesn't matter. Setting aside the snarkiness that often comes out when I discuss the Ducks, we have to give the coaching staff a great deal of credit for the accomplishments of this team. Is Chip Kelly arrogant? Certainly. Does he benefit from an unfair financial and marketing advantage from Nike. Of course. Does he cheat blatantly. No. Does he cheat slightly. Sure. Now that we've acknowledged all of that, let's talk about what really matters.
Chip Kelly is a superior coach with a very high functioning staff.
Many of you may not realize that the "hyperspeed" philosophy that Kelly originated didn't come from some artistic inspiration that he conjured while pleasing himself in the shower (he's a single man with, apparently, no life). In fact, Kelly has told the story that his offensive playing style evolved from his pursuit of a method to increase the number of reps that players get in practice. You see, Kelly believes that the key to mastery of his offense is (surprise) repetition and, in his pursuit of increasing practice repetitions, his offense was born. When Chip Kelly closes off his practices and plays coy with the media, it isn't because he's trying to hide his playbook ... lots of teams run the same plays... it is because he knows that his "secret recipe" is the innovative way that he runs a college football practice and he doesn't want other coaches copying that.
Consider this for a moment - Kenjon Barner was quoted on the radio the other day as saying that they were able to get in about 40 reps in a particular 10 minute drill on Day 1 of camp. Rick Neuheisel, who was doing the interview, commented on the fact that his goal when coach at UW and UCLA was to get 16 plays in on the same kind of drill in the same time frame. This kind of disparity is the key to Oregon's success. It's what allows his players to become so proficient with his creative offense and leads to superior execution on the field. When coupled with Kelly's complete dedication to a recruiting philosophy that focuses on character, length, and speed, you get the fantastic results that you see before you every Saturday.
So, yes, I'm arguing that the Ducks are the best team in the PAC 12 not because of their athletes or their playbook, but because of the unique and innovative way that they practice and the "all-in" mentality that they have to making sure that their philsophy is supported in all their deeds. It is for this reason that I'm not talking about players at all. I don't really care who wins the QB job (although I think Marcus Mariota is very impressive) and I don't care who leads the team in rushing (although I think Kenjon Barner is an impressive young man and I'd like to see him do well). I don't care how many offensive linemen are hurt (although it would be amazing to see Carson York return by week 1) and I don't care if you like or hate Kiko Alonso (that kid should have gotten the boot). I don't care if the Ducks don't pass the eye test (and, if you actually saw the pre-game of last year's LSU game when both teams had their players on the field at the same time - amazing difference in body types). None of that matters. All that matters is the continuity of the coaching staff and the application of their principles in preparation.
Of course, the gap is closing. Kelly's secret on repetitions is out and you can see that many PAC 12 coaches are adopting the philosophy. In fact, Sark was talking openly after camp Day 1 about maximizing reps in his practices. It is known that both RichRod and Todd Graham have also adopted this idea. But the advantage that Kelly has built hasn't been closed by any measure and I expect that this will be another outstanding year for the Ducks. They have depth, they have speed, they have game breakers, they have great character kids (aside from a few bums like Alonso, they have some really great kids in guys like Michael Clay, Dion Jordan, Barner and John Boyett) and they have their system. It's all there and it has been put together very well.
- I'd like to know who recruits Oregon cheerleaders and what their secret is:
- ... because, seriously, those cheerleaders are not representative of their not horrible but not ASU student talent:
- Much has been made about Oregon's "youth". Oregon has only 16 seniors on their roster in 2012 which is relatively young. By contrast, UW has only 13 seniors. However, Oregon has 27 juniors contrasted to UW's 17. Oregon is youngish, but hardly a young program.
- Another hot topic is Oregon uniforms. Michael Clay broke ranks by stating on air (Sirius XM Camp Tour) the other day that he only likes the "throw-back unis", that he doesn't care for new uniforms every week, and that most players recognize that it is a marketing play put together for the fans. Right.
- Chip Kelly ran with the bulls this past summer. Apparently, he was never in mortal danger because the Bulls were afraid of being implicated in future NCAA sanctioning
- Chip Kelly: voted best "Rack of Eugene" third year in a row. Yay, for man-boobs.
- Darron Thomas shocked even his own fans by forgoing his senior season and declaring for the NFL Draft, apparently thinking that his numbers compared favorably to Andrew Luck and that NFL talent evaluators both a) would think that that mattered and b) would ignore the character flags that come along with incidents like "we smoked it all". Obviously, this was a bad decision by a system QB who now faces the prospect of the Arena league
- Chip Kelly's team made it through the whole offseason without anyone getting arrested. Apparently, they needed to lock Kiko Alonso in a closet to do so, but Chip is innovative that way.
- While the Ducks have had unreal good luck when it comes to avoiding devastating injuries among key players, they have seen a few role players go down. Recently, walk-on WR Justin Hoffman was forced to retire due to concussions. He is now a grad assistant.
- Projected starting TE Colt Lyerla missed the first few days of camp for reasons known only to Chip Kelly and co. Colt is backed up by three true freshmen
- Kenjon Barner is apparently a huge Country & Western music fan. Yeah, that doesn't fit ... but he's cool, nonetheless
- De'Anthony Thomas was coached by Snoop Dogg as a teen. Apparently, he still calls him "Coach Snoop"
- Speaking of DAT - he is on everyone's Heisman list despite the fact that he only had two touches in the Rose Bowl win vs Wisconsin. Two touches for long TDs, that is ... but still, one has to wonder how much punishment that little guy can handle
- Since 2008, Oregon is just 3-4 against Top 25 OOC teams. Give them credit, their seven games played is tied with UW for second most over that same period (Oregon St has played eight)
I know that USC is the media darling in the PAC 12 for 2012. I suspect that this is because of the USC brand combined with all of the high profile returning starters on the offense. On a "star rating" basis, USC certainly looks better on paper. That said, I think Oregon is the best team in the PAC 12 this year and I think there is a very good chance that they run the table in the regular season. Consider that whomever they break in as their QB is going to get an epically easy schedule to start with in Arkansas St (which may be kind of fun to watch given that Gus Malzahn is the new coach over there), Fresno St and Tennessee Tech followed by their first two PAC 12 games vs Ariz and @ WSU. Their first test will be UW in one of their four home games - a game that they ought to be well-favored in. They then have two more very winnable games in Arizona St and Colorado before the big Nov 3 contest @ USC. If all goes to plan, Oregon will be 8-0 going into a game that will be a pick 'em type of affair. Keep in mind that Oregon will likely have a depth advantage as USC will likely be facing some roster attrition by that point of the season. The season concludes with three more games including Stanford visiting Autzen. Their misses are Utah and UCLA - both good misses for them.
In truth, I don't see Oregon losing a regular season game. I like them going into LA and beating the Trojans on their way to a PAC 12 North title. I certainly see them as a BCS championship contender, although I'm not yet willing to say that they can beat USC in a PAC 12 title game. Looking beyond the season, I see things starting to break apart for the Ducks. Regardless of NCAA sanctions, I think Chip Kelly is going to make a break for the NFL. He was quoted as saying that the reason he didn't take the Bucs offer was because he liked working with the current staff. The Oregon Staff has not had a single coach leave since Chip was anointed. That can't stay the same. Mark Helfrich has said that he wants to be a Head Coach, and someone is going to make him one (if not Chip Kelly). Guys like OL coach Steve Greatwood and WR coach Scott Frost are going to get coordinator positions. Even a guy like Jerry Azzinarro is a valued commodity because of his recruiting relationships. These guys will move on and the draw of the NFL will be too hard for Chip to pass on in the next go around. You don't get to keep saying "no" to billionaire owners.
So, this is the big one for the Ducks. The "perfect storm" (I hate that cliched term) for them where they have the talent, the character (mostly), the staff, the system and the schedule to make their signature run. Let's see if they can do it.