Oregon Ducks: College Football

Notebook: IMG 7v7 Championship 

June, 23, 2014
Jun 23
10:00
AM ET
BRADENTON, Fla. -- The IMG 7v7 National Championship held at IMG Academy over the weekend featured some of the top 7-on-7 teams from all over the country and even a few teams from Canada. The event, which included 12 prospects ranked in the top 50 of the ESPN 300, showcased some of the best talent you will find in a single tournament. Led by Alabama verbal commits Calvin Ridley and Shawn Burgess-Becker, the Florida Fire from South Florida defeated Tampa’s Unsigned Preps 20-18 in the championship game to take home the title.

Quarterbacks shine

There were several high-profile quarterbacks in attendance, and they lived up to the hype for the most part. Deondre Francois, who recently transferred to IMG Academy, made numerous impressive throws. The 6-foot-2, 188-pound signal-caller has a top three of Oregon, Auburn and Florida State and is planning to make his decision at the end of July.

I'll be off for the next week, so before I leave, I figured I'd check in with how the Ducks are doing on the recruiting trail in the 2015 class. So far, the Ducks have five commits, two of whom are in the latest ESPN 300 rankings. This is a breakdown of offers, position by position. If a player is committed elsewhere, that school is listed following his name.

QUARTERBACK:

Oregon commits: 0

Offers: 6
RUNNING BACK:

Oregon commits: 1
[+] EnlargeTaj Griffin
Tom Hauck for Student SportsTaj Griffin is Oregon's highest-rated pledge in the 2015 class.
Offers: 7
WIDE RECEIVER:

Oregon commits: 1
Offers: 5
ATHLETE:

Oregon commits: 0

Offers: 5
TIGHT END:

Oregon commits: 0

Offers: 5

OFFENSIVE GUARD:

Oregon commits: 1

  • Zach Okun (Newbury Park, California/Newbury Park)
Offers: 7
OFFENSIVE TACKLE:

Oregon commits: 1
Offers: 7

DEFENSIVE END:

Oregon commits: 0

Offers: 10
DEFENSIVE TACKLE:

Oregon commits: 0

Offers: 5
INSIDE LINEBACKER:

Oregon commits: 0

Offers: 4
OUTSIDE LINEBACKER:

Oregon commits: 0

Offers: 6

CORNERBACK:

Oregon commits: 1
Offers: 6
SAFETY:

Oregon commits: 0

Offers: 4

Pac-12 lunch links

June, 19, 2014
Jun 19
2:30
PM ET
Ain't no party like an S Club party.
Over the past few weeks we examined the Ducks, position-by-position, evaluating the talent. But since I was in Eugene last week for the NCAA Track & Field Championships, I figured I'd stop by the football offices to check in with one of the guys who knows that information best, offensive coordinator Scott Frost. Wednesday, we went through quarterback and running back highlights. Today, we're on to wide receiver, tight end and the offensive line.

WIDE RECEIVER
  • On Devon Allen: He was actually a late offer for the Ducks who was offered after Chip Kelly left for the NFL. There were a few spots open (initially there had only been one spot for a receiver). "It all kind of worked out that we offered him, and this is where he wanted to be. I knew he could be fast. I had no idea he could go 13.1 in the high hurdles."
  • Frost actually was at Allen's race last Saturday when Allen won the 110-meter hurdle national title. Frost said that he doesn't think Allen "looks like he'd be a track guy, he's built more like a football guy, he's thick."
  • On his mindset on the receivers: "We felt good about receiver even losing the guys we did, with Bralon [Addison] back and some young guys we think are really talented. We're just going to have to have some of those young guys step up quicker than they would've had to otherwise."
  • The first receiver that Frost brought up after Allen was redshirt freshman Darren Carrington. "He has to grow up quick, but he has it in him to be that guy." The next three receivers he mentioned were redshirt sophomore Dwayne Stanford, redshirt sophomore Chance Allen and early enrollee Jalen Brown. Frost said that he thought Brown was "in over his head a bit" from a conditioning standpoint this spring, which limited his reps, but he's up to speed now, and Frost could see him being a contributor in the fall. So it sounds like after Keanon Lowe and D. Allen, there's certainly a pecking order of things, but the competition is still very much open.
  • It's the youngest crop of receivers Frost has ever had, so I was curious if there were any way he could speed up the learning curve or provide a catalyst (other than just more and more live reps). "Sometimes there's just no replacing experience. But all those guys are competitors. … They're going to get their shots early. You see it all the time in sports, when people get their opportunities some of them reach out and take it with both hands and others struggle a little bit. We're just hoping we have a bunch of guys where the former happens."
  • Frost said something interesting about indicators regarding whether a young guy can play early -- it's typically more based on mental and emotional maturity than talent.
TIGHT ENDS
  • Look for these guys, like the running backs, to be more involved in the pass game. "We have three, which is more than we've had going into a year that I can remember. … We have three guys that we trust to go out there and do it, and there's probably going to be times that a couple of them -- if they're playing well -- deserve to be on the field, and we can play with two tight ends."
  • Pharaoh Brown's injury isn't going to limit him through the fall. Frost said it's just a matter of keeping him healthy through the season. "He's really talented."
  • Frost called John Mundt’s freshman year a "roller coaster" but said that when he was on, "he did some exceptional things."
  • Frost thought Mundt and Evan Baylis' biggest areas of growth over the past year has just been confidence. No surprise there.
OFFENSIVE LINE
  • I asked Frost about senior Hroniss Grasu taking the blame (for the line as a whole) for the losses last season. Grasu had said in the spring that he thought the group lacked toughness and got outmuscled in those games, and that's why the Ducks lost. "I wouldn't necessarily agree with that. I think we had two losses against teams that played really good games against us." Frost though the turnovers were a bigger problem in the Stanford and Arizona games. "If you play a team that does things right and you give them the ball that many times, that's a recipe for losing."
  • He wasn't surprised that Grasu said that, because he's that kind of a guy. He said it speaks to Grasu's leadership that he's willing to shoulder that kind of blame.
  • The line returns all five starters and considering the weight gain, the general consensus with everyone is that the Ducks should be just fine. But, I wanted to make sure to ask about a few backups who were getting significant reps during the spring season. Frost's thoughts: Redshirt junior Andre Yruretagoyena had his best spring season yet. He said the staff has high hopes for redshirt freshman Jake Pisarcik. He was impressed with redshirt junior walk-on Matt Pierson at right tackle.

Pac-12 lunch links

June, 17, 2014
Jun 17
2:30
PM ET
Way back on the radio dial a fire got lit inside a bright eyed child. Every note just wrapped around his soul, steel guitars to Memphis all the way to rock 'n roll.
EUGENE, Ore. -- Oregon football can now claim a 2014 national title. Sort of.

On Saturday, redshirt freshman wide receiver Devon Allen won the 110-meter hurdles at the NCAA Track & Field Championships in Eugene, Ore.

[+] EnlargeDevon Allen
Steve Dykes/Getty ImagesDevon Allen says football is still first, but he plans to continue running track at Oregon.
Allen’s time of 13.16 seconds was the second-fastest ever recorded in college track and field and helped the Oregon men’s track team win its first team title since 1984.

“Off the last hurdle, it was pretty even,” Allen said. “And I know I’m a good sprinter and I could sprint off the last 15 meters, so I was just hoping that I had got it. … I felt like I had it when I leaned across the finish line.”

Allen said he has dropped 20 pounds from the end of the fall season until now, which has helped in football and track. He said that after this full year of participating in both sports, he has confidence that he’ll be able to continue during his time in Eugene.

Even with his recent and phenomenal successes on the track, football will continue to be his No. 1 sport, he said.

“I had a big day today,” Allen said. “But it’s still football first for now. We’ll see how my season goes.”

Summer lifting and conditioning begins in two weeks for the Ducks football team, but Allen isn’t completely leaving the track quite yet. He’ll compete at USA Track & Field Senior Outdoor Championships in Sacramento, California, from June 26-29.

Pac-12 lunch links

June, 13, 2014
Jun 13
2:30
PM ET
Happy Friday the 13th!

Pac-12 lunch links

June, 11, 2014
Jun 11
2:30
PM ET
Mars ain't the kind of place to raise your kids.
During the next few weeks, we’re going to go through Oregon’s roster, position by position, examining what talent was lost to graduation or the NFL and what that leaves the Ducks with in 2014.

We’re well into the defense now, past the front seven and into the secondary. We finish off the defense on Wednesday with the safeties.

Who was lost after the 2013 season: Brian Jackson, Avery Patterson

Lost production: 151 tackles, 7 tackles for loss, 3 interceptions, 9 pass breakups

Who returns in 2014: Redshirt senior Erick Dargan, redshirt sophomore Reggie Daniels, redshirt freshman Juwaan Williams, redshirt freshman Tyree Robinson, redshirt junior Issac Dixon, redshirt sophomore Eric Amoako, redshirt junior Bronson Yim, redshirt junior Bobby Dunn, incoming freshman Khalil Oliver, incoming freshman Mattrell McGraw

Statistics of returning players: 40 tackles, 1 interception, 8 pass breakups

Outlook: Here’s where fans are allowed to start feeling not as confident in the defense, as this is one of the few positions where the lost statistics are greater than the returning statistics.

Replacing both starting safeties is not something a coach wants to do, especially in a league as pass heavy as the Pac-12. However (and yes, there’s always a however), Dargan has stepped into the starting role with ease. Early on in spring, quarterback Marcus Mariota said he didn’t like throwing against Dargan. So if one of the best signal-callers in the country doesn’t want to throw against Dargan, there’s a decent chance every quarterback the Ducks see this fall will feel the same way.

The biggest question comes at the starting spot opposite Dargan. Is a redshirt freshman or a redshirt sophomore really going to be starting in the senior-laden secondary? Yes. Does that mean everyone should panic? No. But if an opposing quarterback is deciding between throwing against Ifo Ekpre-Olomu or a younger safety, he's going to pick the safety. The young safeties are going to get picked on more simply because they fall into the “Not-Ekpre-Olomu” category. That will get them more opportunities to succeed -- or fail. Either way, it’s definitely a position group to watch closely.

Other spring position reviews:
On Tuesday, Mel Kiper Jr. released his top 2015 QB prospects.

The list is building on his 2015 Too-Early Big Board, going position by position. But for these breakdowns, Kiper noted:
  • This isn't a straight top 10 QB list because I've split them into seniors and underclassmen. I think it's important to rank seniors alone since they are the only players I can guarantee will be a part of the 2015 NFL draft process.
  • In some instances I've included more than 10 players; if two or three guys are extremely close on my board, I simply tacked on the names.

But no conference is as well represented on the quarterback list as the Pac-12, which snagged five of the 11 spots. The SEC and Big Ten have two on the list, while the ACC and Big 12 each have one QB represented. Of the five Pac-12 quarterbacks, two are seniors and three are underclassmen.

Pac-12 lunch links

June, 9, 2014
Jun 9
2:30
PM ET
Every stop is neatly planned for a poet and a one-man band.
During the next few weeks, we’re going through Oregon’s roster, position by position, examining what talent was lost to graduation or the NFL and what that leaves the Ducks with in 2014.

We’re well into the defense now, moving through the front seven. Today, we examine the weakside linebackers.

[+] EnlargeDerrick Malone
AP Photo/Andrew ShurtleffOregon linebacker Derrick Malone made 105 tackles last season.
Who was lost after the 2013 season: Brett Bafaro (left the team)

Lost production: None

Who returns in 2014: Redshirt senior Derrick Malone, redshirt junior Rahim Cassell, sophomore Tyrell Robinson, redshirt senior Grant Thompson

Statistics of returning players: 153 tackles, 4.5 TFL, 3 sacks, 4 quarterback hurries, 2 interceptions

Outlook: Anyone getting a trend here? “Returning talent that’s also experienced.” I feel as though I’ve written that line for a lot of the position groups, and the weakside linebackers are no different in that regard.

But, like a lot of the other position groups, the great experience doesn’t extend much further than the starter. Malone -- the Ducks’ leading tackler in 2013 -- is going to be an anchor in the middle of the defense, but it’s necessary to keep him healthy because there’s less experience with Cassell, Robinson or Thompson. Cassell registered 32 tackles, two tackles for a loss, one sack and two quarterback hurries, and Robinson and Thompson combined for 16 tackles.

Look for defensive coordinator/linebackers coach Don Pellum to try to get Cassell some early snaps in the nonconference season. Malone is game-tested and passed with flying colors, so he doesn’t have to prove himself. But it would be nice for everyone to feel as confident in Cassell as they do in Malone, so if Malone needed to rest or were injured, the Ducks wouldn’t miss a beat in the middle of their defense.

Other reviews:
During the next few weeks, we’re going to go through Oregon’s roster, position by position, examining what talent was lost to graduation or the NFL and what that leaves the Ducks with in 2014.

We’re into the defense now, moving through the front seven. Today, we examine the strongside linebackers.

Who was lost after the 2013 season: Boseko Lokombo (graduation)

Lost production: 63 tackles, 7 TFL, 3 sacks, 7 quarterback hurries, 1 interception

Who returns in 2014: redshirt junior Tyson Coleman, redshirt sophomore Oshay Dunmore, sophomore Torrodney Prevot, redshirt senior Mike Garrity, sophomore Johnny Ragin III, incoming freshman Justin Hollins, incoming freshman Jimmie Swain IV

Statistics of returning players: 45 tackles, 3 TFL, 2.5 sacks, 1 quarterback hurry

Outlook: This will be one of the biggest question marks going into the season. Replacing Lokombo is no easy task, and while there are plenty of options, it’s still a hole in the defense that needs major attention. Coleman didn’t play in the spring game, which gave more game reps to Dunmore and Prevot, but the competition still seems to be pretty wide open.

The biggest question is how the Ducks will replace the quarterback pressure that Lokombo alone provided last season -- he led the team with seven quarterback hurries while also recording three sacks. But with the group the Ducks have now, it seems unlikely that just one of these guys will be able to produce what he did.

The linebackers, as a whole, should be better than they were a season ago, but the key to how much better they can be is how much the strongside position can produce. If Coleman or Prevot can step in and really provide the pressure on quarterbacks that the Ducks need, then this could be a very scary group.

Other spring position reviews:

During the next few weeks, we’re going to go through Oregon’s roster, position by position, examining what talent was lost to graduation or the NFL and what that leaves the Ducks with in 2014.

Yesterday we looked at the defensive line, and today we’re checking out the Ducks’ hybrid drop end-linebacker.

Who was lost after the 2013 season: None

[+] EnlargeTony Washington
Joe Robbins/Getty ImagesTony Washington should again be a feared pass-rusher, but depth behind him is a concern.
Lost production: None

Who’s back in 2014: redshirt senior Tony Washington, redshirt junior Christian French, redshirt sophomore Cody Carriger, redshirt junior Ryan McCandless, redshirt freshman Ivan Faulhaber

Statistics of returning players: 72 tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss, 7.5 sacks, 4 quarterback hurries, 4 forced fumbles

Outlook: Oregon should be fine at the drop end position. Washington is back, a season after he led the Ducks in tackles for loss (12) and sacks (7.5). He will be a guy Oregon consistently relies on for quarterback pressure, and expect him to more than deliver.

The drop end, like so many of the other positions, boasts major talent at the starting position and then (pun intended) drops off a bit through the reserves. French and Carriger have taken limited snaps, but look for them to get some game action early in the schedule before the Ducks begin relying on Washington almost exclusively.

With the defensive line's added size and the improvement it showed this spring, there are certainly a few early signs that the D-line will be able to handle opposing offensive lines better in 2014 than it did in 2013. If that's the case, look for defensive coordinator Don Pellum to dial up a few creative blitz schemes to use the experience and talent of Washington, as well as the rest of his linebackers, to get to opposing quarterbacks.

Other spring position reviews:
During the next few weeks, we’re going to go through Oregon’s roster, position by position, examining what talent was lost to graduation or the NFL and what that leaves the Ducks with in 2014.

We’ve finished up with the offense, and now we’re moving on to the defensive side of the ball, starting with the defensive line (not including the drop end, which we’ll analyze tomorrow).

Who was lost after the 2013 season: Taylor Hart, Ricky Havili-Heimuli, Wade Keliikipi

[+] EnlargeArik Armstead
Cal Sport Media via AP ImagesArik Armstead's experience will be counted on Oregon's defensive line next season.
Lost statistics: 134 tackles, 15.5 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks, 3 forced fumbles

Who’s back in 2014: junior Arik Armstead, junior DeForest Buckner, junior Alex Balducci, redshirt junior Sam Kamp, redshirt junior Christian French, redshirt junior Stetzon Bair, redshirt sophomore T.J. Daniel, junior Tui Talia, redshirt sophomore Cody Carriger, redshirt freshman Jason Sloan, redshirt freshman Jonathan Kenion, redshirt freshman Jason Sloan, incoming freshman Justin Hollins

Returning statistics: 94 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, 1 forced fumble

Outlook: Few teams can say their top defensive line from 2013 is now currently signed with NFL teams. Hart (fifth-round pick) and Keliikipi (free agent) landed with former Oregon coach Chip Kelly in Philadelphia, while Havili-Heimuli (free agent) signed with Jacksonville. That stands as both a point of pride and pain for the Ducks -- bragging rights but also many tackles to make up for in 2014, all at the same time.

So, yes, that’s a very hard trio to lose in one season, but it’s also not time for everyone to freak out. There’s plenty of experience returning in the form of Armstead, Buckner and Balducci, who -- assuming there’s not a defensive line apocalypse -- will be the three starters on the line this fall.

All three of those guys are juniors, and they’re joined by five other juniors or redshirt juniors, so there’s plenty of maturity on the line. But maturity doesn’t necessarily mean consistent production (as the Oregon D-line showed at times last season). But with that many upperclassmen battling for so few spots, there should be a lot of competition along the line, which will be good for everyone.

The bottom line is that they’re going to need to be stronger against the run this year. As a unit, they’re taller than they were last year (2013 average height: 6-foot-4; 2014 average height: 6-6), but they’re also lighter (2013 average weight: 302 pounds; 2014 average weight: 295 pounds). Theoretically, this means they should be quicker off the line while also having longer arms that will help them be more disruptive. Whether or not that happens, we’ll see. But in the spring game this entire group looked much improved, so assuming that curve continues, this could be a surprising area of strength this fall for the Ducks. (Better yet, they’ll all be seniors in 2015 and could be one of the few strengths of the team then.)

Other spring position reviews:

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PAC-12 SCOREBOARD

Thursday, 8/28
Friday, 8/29
Saturday, 8/30