Oregon Ducks: NCF

ESPN.com's Preseason All-America team

August, 16, 2013
8/16/13
10:45
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The All-American wealth has spread across the land. The Pac-12 leads the conferences with seven, one more than the SEC. Dual-threat QB Marcus Mariota and RB Lache Seastrunk both originally signed with Oregon. Now that Seastrunk plays for Baylor, he and Mariota no longer have to share a backfield. Seastrunk and G Cyril Richardson make the Bears the only team with two on offense. Richardson is surely the first All-American named Cyril, but Lache is not the first body of water to make it. He joins 1939 Heisman winner Nile Kinnick.

Alabama has won three of the past four BCS titles with defense and placed LB C.J. Mosley and S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix on this team. Alabama and Oregon lead with three players apiece on the list. That's one more than the Big Ten and two more than the ACC and Conference USA. -- Ivan Maisel

View ESPN.com's 2013 Preseason All-America team here.

Links: Farewell to the BCS

August, 14, 2013
8/14/13
12:00
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This is the last year of the BCS, and our writers look at its impact on college football:

From Ivan Maisel: The BCS has moved NCAA football forward in a way no system before it could and given it a national stage, but along with exposure comes greater pressure and expectations, which in the end the series couldn't overcome.

From Mark Schlabach: As we prepare for the final season of the BCS, let's take a look back at its highs and lows.

From Brian Bennett: Five of the last seven national champions have had at least one loss, and with a playoff looming, going undefeated will be harder than ever.
Tags:

Pac-12, SEC, ACC, Big 12, NCF

Ducks lose WR Blackmon to transfer

November, 19, 2012
11/19/12
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In Oregon's 2011 recruiting class, the most prized recruits were athletes De'Anthony Thomas and Colt Lyerla, but Under Armour All-American Devon Blackmon helped the Ducks land the best group recruits deemed "athletes" in the country. Blackmon was the No. 23 player -- and No. 2 ATH -- in the ESPN 150 for the Class of 2011. Nearing the end of his redshirt freshman season, the University of Oregon released a statement today confirming that the Ducks' wide receiver will transfer out of the program.

“He has been a solid contributor to this football program for the last two seasons and I wish him continued success whatever he decides to pursue,” Oregon head coach Chip Kelly said in a university press release.

Blackmon has received limited playing time in Eugene, only earning playing time in the Ducks' early-season blowout victories over Arkansas state and Tennessee Tech. In his two appearances, the 6-foot, 185-pounder failed to compile any stats.

The Ducks' recruiting Class of 2011 was highly regarded, due in large part to the strength of their four wide receiver signees. To date, the entire group of wide receivers has been mostly ineffective early in their careers. Blackmon joins fellow 2011 Under Armour All-American -- and ESPN 150 member -- Tacoi Sumler as the second member of the touted wide receiver group to transfer from the program. Sumler transferred to FCS Appalachian State in August. Blackmon has given no indication on where he might wind up. Coming out of high school in Fontana, Calif., Blackmon chose the Ducks over other finalists USC and UCLA.

The other two members of the wide receiver group in the Ducks' Class of 2011 were elite junior-college wide receiver Rahsaan Vaughn and four-star B.J. Kelley. Vaughn played a sizable role in 2011 and was expected to be a starter entering 2012. So far this season, Vaughn -- now a senior -- has seen limited playing time. Kelley joined Sumler and Blackmon as a redshirt in 2011. So far this season, the 6-foot-2, 190-pound Kelley has been on the field on special teams and during mop up duty as a wide receiver.

Watch: College Football Final (Week 2)

September, 9, 2012
9/09/12
7:34
AM ET
video
Jim Basquil and the ESPN.com College Football team deliver the highlights, analysis, and interviews from an exciting Week 2 of College Football.
After a long battle that led to much speculation and many predictions, the Oregon Ducks have a starting quarterback.

The Ducks named redshirt freshman Marcus Mariota the starter. The 6-foot-4, 215-pound Mariota battled with third-year sophomore Bryan Bennett all throughout the spring and summer. On Friday, it was announced that Mariota had earned the job.

Mariota has drawn many comparisons to former Oregon quarterback Dennis Dixon for his smooth demeanor, athleticism and ball fakes in the spread option. The biggest difference? Mariota is more polished than Dixon was at this stage in his career.

Dixon had a magical senior year that might have ended with a Heisman Trophy and a national championship in 2007 if not for a season-ending knee injury. Before his senior season, Dixon was a great athlete with a lot of upside. Once Kelly arrived, Dixon went from an enigma to the best player in college football.

[+] EnlargeMarcus Mariota
AP Photo/Don RyanRedshirt freshman Marcus Mariota was named Oregon's starting quarterback.
Mariota was redshirted last season as he developed under Kelly and offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich. The Ducks had junior Darron Thomas as a second-year starter and hoped to bring Mariota and Bennett, Thomas' backup last season, along slowly.

Thomas decided to forgo his senior season and enter the NFL draft, leaving the Ducks in what many perceived to be a tough spot. But there are those inside the program who believe Bennett and Mariota both bring better athleticism and overall ability than Thomas. They just don't have the experience.

But Thomas didn't have experience when Jeremiah Masoli was booted from the team before the 2010 season. Thomas rose to the occasion and guided the Ducks to their greatest season ever. With his departure, it is Mariota's turn to take the keys to the offense.

Mariota quickly rose to the occasion and had the Ducks faithful on the edge of its seats during the spring game. His performance sparked memories of Dixon's 2007 season that left fans wishing that Chip Kelly would have connected with Dixon before his senior year.

Oregon fans watched nine games of Dixon at his best. With four years of eligibility left, Mariota has the potential to do what Dixon couldn't finish during his senior year.

Many expected the Ducks to take a step back when Masoli was dismissed from the team. Masoli was effective, but he had limits on what he could do. Thomas set records and took the Ducks to new heights while displaying a unique style that left people thinking how good he could be if he tightened up his game.

Mariota is already more polished than Masoli or Thomas. The two previous quarterbacks made amazing plays for the Ducks and had legendary two-year careers in Eugene. They also left fans holding their breath in anticipation of both good and bad.

Now the Oregon program is looking at a future with a possible four-year starter who is already ahead of the game.

Speaking of games, the only one fans have seen Mariota involved in was the Ducks' spring scrimmage. Now he has to prove it against real opponents. An easy opening schedule should provide ample opportunity for Mariota to sharpen things up. It starts Sept. 1 against Arkansas State.

Retooled Ducks still have big-play potential

August, 22, 2012
8/22/12
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Ezra Shaw/Getty ImagesDe’Anthony Thomas will try to help fill the void left by LaMichael James in the Oregon backfield.
Oregon is seeking to become the first team since the 1966-69 USC Trojans to win the Pac-12 football title outright in four consecutive seasons.

LaMichael James
James
But they’ll have to do it without LaMichael James.

In Chip Kelly’s three seasons as Oregon’s head coach, he’s done nothing but win three Pac-12 titles. In those three seasons, he has had dynamic playmakers that excelled in his spread option system.

Those playmakers have had a knack for breaking long runs, rushing for 20 or more yards once every 15.9 attempts, best in the nation among FBS teams with at least 10 games against AP Top 25 opponents since the start of 2009.

In the last two seasons, the Ducks’ high-octane offense ranked first in both touchdown drives of three plays or fewer (39) and touchdown drives in less than two minutes (90).

The main catalyst for Oregon’s offense has been James, the Pac-12’s second all-time leading rusher with 5,082 rushing yards in his three seasons. He has 34 rushes of at least 30 yards since the start of 2009, ranking first in FBS during that span.

For any program, it would be nearly impossible to replace a playmaker like James. However, the Ducks have two capable backs to effectively replace James’ production in Kenjon Barner and De’Anthony Thomas.

James, Barner and Thomas all ranked in the top four of the Pac-12 in yards per rush last season (minimum 50 rushes). As a team, the Ducks had the highest yards per rush average in FBS (6.7 yards per rush).

Oregon was even more successful running the ball on first downs last year. James led the way with 122 carries for 968 yards (7.9 yards per rush). It wasn’t all James however, as Barner and Thomas combined for 94 carries for 702 yards (7.5 yards per rush).

When James dislocated his elbow last year, Oregon did not lose a step. In the two games without him, Barner and Thomas carried the ball 49 times for 352 yards (7.2 yards per rush).

The speed of Oregon’s rushing attack has been illustrated by its success rushing outside of the tackles. Last season, James averaged 9.5 yards per rush outside the tackles while the two returnees went for 8.7 yards per rush.

Barner and Thomas’ versatility allowed them to line up at different positions and contribute in the passing game, combining for 63 receptions for 789 yards and 12 touchdowns. James had 17 receptions for 210 yards and one touchdown last season.

James thrived under Kelly’s system. However, statistics show Barner and Thomas can continue the recent trend of a potent Ducks rushing attack.

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