Things haven't been that easy this off season in Eugene but Oregon enters the 2010 Pac 10 season as the prohibitive favorite to win a second consecutive Pac 10 crown. That is impressive when you factor in losing Heisman Trophy candidate QB Jeremiah Moseli to an alleged stolen lap top and a dime bag of weed over the off season.
Oregon is still the favorite because they are deep, fast, talented and experienced at almost every position. Nate Costa is a fifth year senior with a good arm and Darron Thomas reminds some of Dennis Dixon. Costa is the favorite to win the job heading into camp. The offense averaged 412 YPG and 36 PPG in 2009 and has the talent to match that this season.
Look for the Ducks to exploit the run more until whoever they name at QB settles down. LaMichael James burst on the scene after Blount was suspended and ran for over 1500 yards last season. Kenjon Barner who can virtually fly will be backing him up. Barner will be returning kicks and he averages nearly 25 yards each opportunity he gets on kickoffs and over 10 yards per punt return
The top returning receiver is Jeff Maehl who had 53 catches a year ago. Lavasier Tuinei is the probable number two option. TE is solid with David Paulson, juco transfer Brandon Williams and touted hometown signee Curtis White.
The Ducks have the ability to control the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. Oregon returns five starters from one of the best offensive lines in the country last season. Bo Thran is a big load to handle. Jordan Holmes and Mark Asper are excellent run blockers.
Oregon has a defense that was dominate at times last season and that should continue over to 2010 with a starting lineup that features nine seniors and two juniors. Nine of these players have considerable experience. The Ducks held opponents to only 3.4 yards per carry on the ground and 208 yards in the air per game but one big concern was giving up 18 TD's through the air in 2009.
Two returning starters and two new starters make up the Defensive Line. Kenny Rowe is a beast with 11 and a half sacks a year ago and Tackle Brandon Bair led all Oregon Defensive Linemen with 45 tackles. Junior Terrell Turner is in line to replace Will Tukuafu at the other end, but converted tight end Dion Jordan showed in the spring that he might have immediate value as a pass rusher.
FS John Boyett led the team in tackles with 90 from his safety position and was named to the Freshman All-American squad. Eddie Pleasant was moved to the secondary and is scheduled to line up beside him. Both of these guys are ferocious tacklers. More than likely we'll see Cliff Harris, Talmadge Jackson, Scott Grady, Javes Lewis, and Chad Peppars all get significant playing time in the secondary.
(Washington vs Oregon after the jump)
Washington vs Oregon
This game is going to be played later in the year in Eugene so advantage Ducks. Washington has an advantage at QB and wide receiver. The Ducks obviously have the better, and deeper offensive line, and can match, or exceed Washington at running back. Defensively the Ducks have a lot of players coming back from a great defense. Washington will be improved on defense but still some holes to fill and some experienced depth to build.
If Washington or anyone wants to beat Oregon they have to stop the run. Oregon won't be a great passing team but Costa or Thomas should be able to do well enough to keep most squads off balance. Offensively Washington needs to try to exploit a Duck defense deep that was burned by 18 TD passes last season. Going deep means keeping Kenny Rowe out of Jake Lockers face.
Washington is narrowing the gap but this point I would have to take the Ducks in this one by 10. The Ducks have the home field advantage, more talent, more speed, more depth, more experience. Washington hasn't been able to come close to stopping this offense for six years.
It is still early and a lot of things can happen between now and then but the Ducks look like the team to beat in the conference race this season despite the off season losses of personnel.