There are still two weeks until Oregon begins spring practice, but that won’t keep us from looking ahead and making predictions about what we'll see in the spring game.
No. 5: The D-line won’t be as far along as most are hoping.
Why: Oregon's run defense wasn’t what most hoped it would be in 2013, and the defensive line won’t be what fans are expecting this spring. DeForest Buckner returns, but it’ll take time for him, Alex Balducci and Arik Armstead to become a force and build chemistry up front. By the spring game, they’ll certainly show signs of progress, but expectations need to be tempered.
The Ducks allowed 166 rushing yards per game in 2013, which ranked sixth in the Pac-12 and 66th in the nation. It’s hard to really put this in perspective because Oregon's defense is on the field far more often than teams whose offenses don’t work as quickly. Oregon allowed 3.8 yards per rush (No. 3 in the Pac 12, no. 37 in the nation).
The Ducks fell (slightly) below the national average on third -down defense. Nationally, defenses allowed opposing offenses to convert on 39.2 percent of their third downs. Oregon allowed opponents to convert on 40.1 percent of their third downs. It’s certainly not a huge difference, but it gives fans a better understanding of Oregon's defense.
QB pressure is another area that needs improvement, but it won’t be transformed by the spring game. The Ducks had only 29 sacks last season. Oregon got to opposing quarterbacks on just 5.7 percent of its passing plays, and it is one of the categories where the Ducks fall below the national average. Louisville led the nation in that category, getting to opposing signal-callers on 10.3 percent of passing plays.
The Ducks' defensive line certainly has the chops to become one of the more talented groups in the Pac-12 this fall. But the defensive and offensive lines are so much about chemistry, more so than position groups in football, and that can only be built up over time.