Oregon Ducks: Boseko Lokombo

Helmet stickers: Week 5

September, 29, 2013
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Perhaps the constant rain was appropriate weather for Oregon Saturday night. After all, they are the Ducks. Here are the top performers:

RB Byron Marshall: So your star running back goes down on the opening kickoff. Cause for concern, right? Not for Oregon on Saturday. Marshall had a big opportunity and took advantage. He did have a couple of fumbles on this soggy night, but Oregon recovered both. Marshall rushed for two touchdowns and ran for 130 yards on 19 carries. Coming into Saturday, he was averaging 65.3 yards per game.

WR Bralon Addison: In the first half, Addison made some slick moves to return a punt 75 yards for a touchdown. That was pretty hard to top, but Addison did just that early in the third quarter. Despite running into a teammate initially, Addison scampered to the right, found some gaps, blasted through holes and ran 67 yards for the score. He became the fourth Pac-12 player in history to return two punts for a touchdown in the same game.

LB Boseko Lokombo: Several UO defenders could fit the role, but Lokombo was certainly one of the stars. He had five tackles, recovered one fumble and forced another. Forcing California’s first fumble on the night set the tone for the Oregon defense.

Five things to watch for Oregon

August, 30, 2013
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Five storylines to keep an eye on for Oregon’s game against Nicholls State.
  1. Coaching style: Few are expecting much resistance from the Colonels, a team that was in the state of Oregon last December and was blasted 77-3 by the Beavers. So if you are wondering how similar or different Mark Helfrich will be compared to Chip Kelly, this probably isn’t a good measuring-stick game. We know what Chip Kelly would do on fourth-and-3 from his own 35 – and it didn’t matter if it was Southern Middle Tennessee Tech School of Interior Design or Stanford. What kind of game manager will Helfrich be?
  2. LB spotlight: With the departures of Michael Clay, Kiko Alonso and Dion Jordan, the spotlight is on the linebackers to try to match the production of its predecessors. It’s not a young or inexperienced group by any means – just the opposite. Boseko Lokombo, Derrick Malone, Rodney Hardrick and Tony Washington have all been in the system and have experience and quality reps. While the linebackers might be a question mark on paper, chances are the group flourishes with more reps as a unit.
  3. Playing time? How long will we see the starters? In the nonconference schedule last season, the starters pretty much only played in the first half. Some argued that with more playing time and padded stats, quarterback Marcus Mariota could have been in Heisman contention. Mariota is no longer an unknown as he was before last season and coming off a quarterback competition with Bryan Bennett. But he’ll still probably play the first half, considering what the score will be 30 minutes into the game.
  4. What about DAT? Helfrich was noncommittal earlier this week when talking about the number of carries for De’Anthony Thomas, who might take on a bigger role in the rushing game this year with the departure of Kenjon Barner. However, he also said that Byron Marshall had a strong camp – and it’s more likely that he assumes Barner’s old role, which frees up Thomas to do what he does best. Don’t think of Thomas’ production in terms of carries -- think in terms of touches. Rushes, receptions, kick and/or punt returns. How many touches he gets is more vital than how many carries.
  5. Fresh faces: Right now, there are five true freshmen listed on the depth chart for this week’s game, and only one is a “starter.” Kicker Matt Wogan is listed to handle kickoffs and he has an “or” between his name and Alejandro Maldonado’s. But if the Ducks are up big early – which is expected – don’t be surprised to see running back Thomas Tyner get some carries and others such as right tackle Cameron Hunt or linebacker Tyrell Robinson could make appearances.

Lokombo leads Oregon LBs

August, 28, 2013
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Just because a position is questionable in the preseason doesn't mean it's not answerable.

Questionable: Oregon is replacing three A-list linebackers. Dion Jordan was first-team All-Pac-12 and the third overall pick in the 2013 NFL draft. Kiko Alonso and Michael Clay were both second-team All-Pac-12, with Alonso getting picked in the second round of the draft. Clay was cut this week by the Miami Dolphins.

The lone returning starter is Boseko Lokombo, who only ranked 10th on the team in tackles last year.

Answerable: Lokombo, a fantastic all-around athlete, has been a dominant playmaker during preseason practices, and the Ducks have five other linebackers with significant playing experience.

With the first official depth chart out, Tony Washington, as expected, will step in for Jordan at the position listed as defensive end opposite Taylor Hart, though everyone and their grandmother knows the Ducks defense is a base 3-4 and Washington will be an outside linebacker opposite Lokombo.

Juniors Rodney Hardrick and Derrick Malone, who were injured during spring practices, are the starters inside.

The three new guys are hardly green. Washington started twice for Jordan last year and finished with 20 tackles. Malone had one start and finished with 41 tackles, which ranked eighth on the team. Hardick had 11 tackles.

Depth? Backup Tyson Coleman, who can play inside and outside, had 34 tackles last year, and Rahim Cassell had 19. In fact, it wouldn't be surprising if the Ducks played nine linebackers against woeful Nicholls State on Saturday.

Still, Lokombo is the one to watch. The 6-foot-3, 232-pound senior could play his way into the early rounds of the NFL draft next spring if his production equals his potential this fall.

"He's a guy who is almost limitless from a potential standpoint," Oregon's first-year coach Mark Helfrich said. "We expect huge things from him. But he needs to be more consistent."

Lokombo had 39 tackles last year, with 4.5 tackles for a loss, two sacks and two interceptions. Look for the sack numbers, in particular, to go up. Lokombo is powerful -- 500 pound squat -- and fast, though he's more quick than a 40-yard dash guy. He started all 13 games last year and the native of Congo has seen action in 40 since arriving at Oregon from Abbotsford, British Columbia four years ago.

He doesn't seem too worried about the new starters surrounding him.

"Some of them already played a lot last year," he said. "They are ready to take on their roles. It's next man up and that's that."

It also helps that Oregon's defensive line and secondary are both among the best units in the Pac-12, with the secondary widely considered as good as any in the nation.

The Ducks 2012 defense was very good. This one might still be able to match it, even with a question at linebacker.

Said Helfrich, "We have a lot of unproven guys, but a bunch of guys who have played to this point in camp really hard and really well."

Most to prove in the Pac-12

August, 28, 2013
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Across the ESPN blogosphere on Wednesday, we’re looking at players/coaches/position groups with something to prove in each conference. In the Pac-12, the answers should be fairly obvious. Here are 10 from the league in no particular order.

1. Lane Kiffin: OK, maybe this one is in particular order. USC’s head coach is on the hottest seat in America after a disastrous 2012. There were embarrassments for the program on and off the field. That has led to plenty of speculation about what he needs to do to keep his job. Win 10 games? Nine? Win nine and beat UCLA or Notre Dame? Or both? This is a storyline that will no doubt carry deep into the season.

[+] EnlargeSteve Sarkisian
James Snook/US PresswireLane Kiffin isn't the only Pac-12 coach feeling growing pressure for a successful season.
2. Steve Sarkisian: His seat isn’t as hot as Kiffin’s. But the heat index has certainly risen in the wake of another seven-win season. The Huskies have a lot of returning talent – including a quarterback with potential, a healthy offensive line, an outstanding running back and receivers (including TE), and a fairly veteran defensive core. The pieces are in place for Washington to, at the very least, get over the seven-win hump. Seven wins or fewer will be met with harsh criticism and questions about whether Sarkisian is the right guy for the job.

3. Oregon’s linebackers: This appears to be the only question mark for the Ducks, at least on paper, because they have a solid front and an outstanding secondary. Losing Michael Clay, Kiko Alonso and Dion Jordan is a big hit in terms of production, talent and leadership. Boseko Lokombo is a veteran presence, and Tony Washington, Derrick Malone and Rodney Hardrick have all been in the system for a few years. If they can match the production of their predecessors, the Ducks should be fine defensively.

4. Stanford’s wide receivers: Ty Montgomery headlines this list. At the end of 2011, he showed explosive playmaking ability and his future looked sparkling. But injuries slowed him in 2012. With the Cardinal doing some overhauling after losing their top two tight ends, the receiver spot will likely take on more emphasis in 2013. Players such as Devon Cajuste, Michael Rector and Kelsey Young will need to be productive as well.

5. Paul Richardson: The Colorado receiver missed all of last season with a knee injury and had to sit and watch his team fall apart around him. The Buffaloes went 1-11 and their coach was fired. A new coach, a new offense and a new enthusiasm in Boulder is motivating Richardson to make up for lost time. He is Colorado’s most explosive player and knows he has the potential, and responsibility, to carry the offense. Now he just has to go out and prove he can do it.

6. Oregon State’s receivers: We know what we’re getting with Brandin Cooks. He proved last season that he's an outstanding player. How much of that, however, was a product of the guy across the field, Markus Wheaton? With Wheaton gone, either Richard Mullaney or Obum Gwacham will have to step up as a complementary threat to Cooks -- along with Kevin Cummings in the slot.

7. QBs, old and new: Not all the quarterback competitions are completed. But whoever wins the job at Arizona and USC will likely be looking over his shoulder for the bulk of the season. Connor Wood is back in the starting role for Colorado, true freshman Jared Goff gets the start for Cal, and Sean Mannion finally won Oregon State's job after a grueling seven-month competition with Cody Vaz. Nothing is set in stone at Washington State, so Connor Halliday will need consistent play to hold the job (we’re assuming, for now, that it’s Halliday). Expect these players to be under the microscope all season.

8. UCLA’s running backs: There are big shoes to fill with the departure of running back Johnathan Franklin, the school’s all-time leading rusher and a Doak Walker finalist last year. Jim Mora has said that he’ll likely use five backs throughout the season. Jordon James is the front-runner of the committee and has the best opportunity to distance himself. But expect Paul Perkins, Malcolm Jones, Steven Manfro and Damien Thigpen (health pending) to all fight for time and carries.

9. Utah’s secondary: It’s not necessarily young. Just inexperienced. And in a pass-happy league, that could spell trouble. Free safety Eric Rowe has the most playing time among the group. Cornerback Davion Orphey is a juco transfer and opposite him is Keith McGill, a former safety and juco transfer who appeared in five games in 2011 but suffered a season-ending injury and then missed all of 2012. There is talent there. It’s just mostly untested.

10. Arizona State: Yep, the whole team. This is what you wanted, ASU fans … for the sleeping giant to be awoken. The alarm clock just went off. Now it’s time to prove all the hype is worth it. A challenging schedule early -- including Wisconsin, Stanford, USC and Notre Dame in consecutive weeks -- will be a good measuring stick. Though the USC game is really the one that has South title implications. Still, the other three will go a long way toward determining how ASU is viewed nationally. Going 1-3 and beating USC wouldn’t be disastrous. Going 0-4 will draw the requisite “same old ASU” criticisms.

 

Oregon Class of 2009 review 

January, 24, 2013
1/24/13
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Only after a few years can a recruiting class truly be measured. And while there were plenty of success stories in Oregon's Class of 2009, several players who signed with Oregon and never made an impact.

Signing day primer: Oregon 

January, 23, 2013
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With national signing day exactly two weeks from today, DuckNation looks ahead to what Oregon has coming and who the Ducks still need and why.


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Kelly breaks the ice on Bama loss

November, 11, 2012
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BERKELEY, Calif. -- There were some nerves. There was some trepidation. As Chip Kelly put it, there was some fear that “Coach Kelly’s head might fall off.”

Yes, the Oregon players knew what happened to No. 1 Alabama before they took the field Saturday night against California. And when Kelly gathered the team around for the final meeting, he could feel the tension.

So he broke it, and as a team they talked about it.

“Everyone has a phone,” Kelly said following his team’s 59-17 victory over the Bears at Memorial Stadium. “They were all looking around, so I said, ‘I’ll tell you, Alabama lost.’ I think people were afraid to talk about it. Just because they won or lost shouldn’t affect us. I felt like I had to address it so they didn’t know if we talk about it or not talk about it. I didn’t want them worried that Coach Kelly’s head would fall off if we talk about it. I told them and said, ‘Hey, they lost, what does that have to do with us?’

“The outcome of that game shouldn’t affect us. Our deal is did we have a good Monday? Yes. Did we have a good Tuesday? Yes. Did we have a good Wednesday? Yes. That’s what’s going to help us play well tonight, not the fact that somebody else in another part of the country lost a football game.”

Said linebacker Michael Clay: “It was like walking on egg shells. And when he addressed it, it was like a huge weight off of our shoulders. It was very freeing.”

And for quarterback Marcus Mariota, it served as both ice-breaker and crucial reminder.

[+] EnlargeJosh Huff, Kenjon Barner
Kelley L Cox/US PresswireJosh Huff (1) and Kenjon Barner celebrate the first of Huff's three touchdown grabs in Oregon's rout.
“You could feel the relief,” he said. “It was kind of a tense thing because you already have so much stuff on your mind. It really reminded us that every game counts and we have to understand that other games don’t affect us and we have to take care of our own business.”

And Mariota did just that. The redshirt freshman matched an Oregon record by tossing six touchdowns on 27-of-34 passing for 377 yards with no interceptions.

With the Bears selling out to stop the run, the Pac-12’s top rushing team managed just 180 yards on the ground. But Mariota picked up the slack, finding Josh Huff three times for scores and tight end Colt Lyerla twice for touchdowns.

“He’s a special player,” Kelly said of his quarterback. “He keeps getting better and better. They did some things today where we felt like they were going to try to take away the run game and play some zone coverage on us. He’s got to do a good job figuring out what they are in, and it seemed like he was on target and making the right reads and making good decisions. You keep seeing him better and better each week.”

So instead of blowing a team out in the first 30 minutes, it took Oregon 45 against a Cal squad that challenged an injury-depleted Oregon defensive line. Isi Sofele rushed for 134 yards and a touchdown against a front that -- at one time -- featured three true freshmen and one redshirt freshman.

“Normally, Oregon backs break for 75-yard runs, but it wasn’t happening today,” said Cal linebacker Chris McCain. “I felt like defensively we did pretty well to stop their run, but the passes got to us.”

None bigger than Mariota’s 35-yard touchdown to Huff midway through the third quarter. Cal had narrowed the gap to 24-17 in early in the third quarter. A few possessions later, Allan Bridgford was intercepted by Boseko Lokombo at the Cal 35. On the next play, Mariota connected with Huff to put Oregon ahead 31-17.

“I thought that two-play sequence might have been the game-changing part of it,” Kelly said. “It was kind of a back-and-forth game. I felt like we got some distance.”

From there, Oregon scored four more second-half touchdowns. And as the Bears were forced to go to the air, the young defensive line started to get some pressure up front.

“You hear people talk about, ‘Well, we’re young.’ Too bad, you gotta go,” Kelly said. “We’ve recruited kids and told them they’ll have an opportunity to play. They’ve prepared for it. ... They don’t act like young guys, and that’s something we’re looking for. I think this young group is more mature than any young group I’ve been around.”
Carl WinstonOtto Greule Jr/Getty ImagesSan Jose, Calif., native Michael Clay was a crucial recruiting win for the Ducks over California in the Class of 2009.
After the Ducks program began to take off in the mid-1990s, California hired former Ducks' offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford in 2002. As the Ducks' upward climb reached a standstill, Cal stepped up and looked like it might be the next in line to challenge USC.

The Golden Bears did win four of five games with the Ducks between 2004 and 2008, including a game for the ages in 2007. After they walked out of Autzen Stadium with a 31-24 win over the No. 5 Ducks, things began to change between the two schools. Cal did win the following season in Berkeley, as the Ducks fumbled gave away a game they dominated. Starting in the class of 2008, the Bears responded by going on an unprecedented run of recruiting success. The Ducks began to dominate the series on the field with a 42-3 win over the Bears in 2009. Despite the dominant performance over the then-No. 6 Bears, Cal beat the Ducks head-to-head for a number of elite recruits from 2008 to 2012.

Whether it was location, academics, Cal's plans for facilities upgrades -- which are now complete -- or former Cal assistant -- and current Washington assistant -- Tosh Lupoi, the Bears won the majority of the recruiting battles between the two schools. Similar to the recent history with USC, the Ducks don't care about recruiting rankings as much as they do the on-field results.

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Among the many visitors to the Los Angeles Coliseum for the battle between Oregon and USC was 2014 ESPN Watch List linebacker Dwight Williams of Gardena (Calif.) Serra.

Saturday's clash of Pac-12 heavyweights turned into an offensive shootout for the ages. With 113 points scored, it would be fair to assume that a defensive player might picture himself out there helping slow the offensive explosion. For the 6-foot-1, 200-pound Williams, it was an eye opener in many ways.

[+] EnlargeDwight Williams
Tom Hauck for ESPN.comClass of 2014 Gardena (Calif.) Serra LB Dwight Williams was at the Coliseum for Oregon-USC and came away impressed with both teams.
"I've been to games at USC in the past, but that was by far the loudest, craziest it's ever been. That was the most people I have ever seen there," Williams said. "I couldn't believe how explosive both teams were out there."

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Instant analysis: Oregon 43, ASU 21

October, 18, 2012
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Both Arizona State and Oregon were looking to make statements. One succeeded. Here’s how the Ducks ran away with it, 43-21, on the road:

It was over when: On the first play of the second quarter Arizona State quarterback Taylor Kelly was intercepted by Boseko Lokombo. It was Kelly’s first interception in 103 attempts. Three plays later, Kenjon Barner plowed ahead on a 1-yard touchdown run to put the Ducks ahead 29-7. You could certainly argue it was over before that, but this one felt like the proverbial nail in the coffin.

It was really over when: Jesse Palmer and Rece Davis started sucking down burgers in the TV booth (11:23 in the second quarter).

Game ball goes to: Oregon running back Kenjon Barner, who rushed for 143 yards on 16 carries with three touchdowns -- including a 71-yard touchdown run.

The cycle: A rare statistical achievement for Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, who had one passing touchdown, one rushing touchdown and a receiving touchdown.

Stat of the game, 20: That’s how many consecutive games Oregon has scored at least 30 points.

Fun stat of the game, 195: The number of pushups between The Duck and Sparky (153 for the Duck, 42 for Sparky).

Unsung hero: Oregon linebacker Dion Jordan had two sacks and five tackles (all in the first half) to stymie Taylor, who was 10-of-18 for 93 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions.

Unsung hero II: Snaps to ASU running back D.J. Foster for his touchdown in the fourth quarter. It was a 23-yard run on fourth-and-6 following a swing pass from Michael Eubank. He cut back across the middle of the field, broke two tackles and kept his balance for the score.

What it means for Arizona State: Nothing left to do but pick up the pieces, because this was a kick in the teeth. It didn’t help that they lost Will Sutton on the second play of the game. That was a factor -- but only on defense -- because Sutton doesn’t impact what they do on offense. The Sun Devils can’t let this game beat them twice because they’ve got UCLA next week followed by Oregon State and USC. One bad loss could turn into a tailspin if they can't bounce back.

What it means for Oregon: Business as usual for the third-ranked Ducks. Another week, another blowout win. They’ve got Colorado next week before that big showdown at USC on Nov. 3. If they didn’t turn heads in this game, they can certainly do it on Nov. 3 with a similar performance.
Michael ClayMark J. Rebilas/US PresswireSenior Michael Clay is the unquestioned leader of Oregon's linebacker corps after registering 102 tackles as a junior in 2011.
The Oregon Ducks have been steadily improving their talent level at every position, but the biggest jump in talent level might lie at the linebacker position.

While there have been a few Ducks linebackers who have gone on to the NFL, they have been few and far between historically. That’s started to change recently, as the program has seen a significant rise in talent level, sending Casey Matthews, Spencer Paysinger and Josh Kaddu on to the NFL in the past two years.

This year's crop of linebackers may be among the strongest groups yet, as the Ducks return three upperclassmen that could all challenge for all-league accolades. There is plenty of young talent waiting in the wings and this season should provide those players plenty of opportunity to get more game experience.

(Read full post)

Lavasier TuineiSteve Dykes/Getty ImagesLaVasier Tuinei emerged from being an unknown two-star recruit to being Oregon's go-to wide receiver, winning Rose Bowl offensive MVP honors in his final game.
Oregon Ducks fans have been witness to one of the greatest rises in college football history over the past two decades. The Ducks have risen from cellar dwellers to one of the hottest names in all of college football. The facilities, the uniforms and the Nike connection have all played a big role in the Ducks' rise to the top of the Pac-12.

Along with the success and the increased exposure nationally has come a major boost in recruiting elite athletes to come to Eugene. It isn't always the high school All-Americans that turn into college stars. Oregon has made a living finding "diamonds in the rough" that have helped build a powerhouse.

There have been some big names in the recruiting world who chose to play their college ball in Eugene, but how many of them have lived up to the hype?

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