Oregon Ducks: Taylor Hart

Our look at position groups in the Pac-12 continues.

Arizona: Coach Rich Rodriguez is confident in both Reggie Gilbert and Dan Pettinato and anxious to get junior-college transfers Jeff Worthy, who also spent a year at Boise State, and Jerod Cody acclimated to the system. Calvin Allen, Jack Banda and Luca Bruno are coming off redshirt seasons and represent a group Rodriguez said the team needs production from.

Arizona State: With the departure of Gannon Conway and Davon Coleman, there is a question about the team's depth at end. Without Will Sutton clogging things up next year, the Sun Devils' lack of experience is even more of a concern. Sean O'Grady backed up Conway and Coleman last year, but ASU has several well-regarded junior-college transfers in Edmond Boateng, Marcus Hardison and Demetrius Cherry.

California: The Bears list seven defensive ends, but former junior-college transfer Kyle Kragen and Puka Lopa gained the most experience last season listed at the rush position. Antione Davis was outgoing starter Dan Camporeale's primary backup, but Brennan Scarlett's return is more important. He started nine games in 2012 and has been cleared to play following a hand issue that cost him the 2013 season. Todd Barr, Sione Sina and recent-transfer Jonathan Johnson are also in the mix.

Colorado: Colorado must replace Chidera Uzo-Diribe, but Juda Parker is back for his senior season, and several others have game experience. Samson Kafovalu is the likely candidate to start opposite him after making 18 tackles in seven games last year. Jimmie Gilbert was Uzo-Diribe's backup, Kirk Poston and De'Jon Wilson also played.

Oregon: The Ducks took a hit with the departure of Taylor Hart, who was named second-team All-Pac-12, but have a talented player in Arik Armstead lined up to take his spot. Armstead started five times in 2013 and left the basketball team midseason to shift his focus back to football. T.J. Daniel, Jason Sloan are projected to be in the mix for playing time.

Oregon State: Scott Crichton is gone, but Dylan Wynn remains and will likely be the Beavers' best defensive player a year after finishing fourth on the team in tackles. Lavonte Barnett, Crichton's primary backup in 2013, and Jaswha James figure to compete for the starting job, but there are two others to keep an eye on. Obum Gwacham recently switched from receiver and Mike Riley has been complimentary of Titus Failauga, who is coming off his redshirt.

Stanford: Henry Anderson has a chance to be one of the best defensive players in the conference and Blake Lueders, who switched from OLB, began the spring atop the depth chart. The intriguing prospect is Luke Kaumatule, who was recruited to play defense but began 2013 as the team's starting tight end. Spring will be important for his development, but his raw ability is impressive.

UCLA: Both Ellis McCarthy and Eddie Vanderdoes were all-Pac-12 honorable mention last season and highlight a talented UCLA defensive line. Their return will help account for the loss of Cassius Marsh, who started 12 games last year. Both McCarthy and Vanderdoes can play inside or outside, but the Bruins listed them both at end. Highly recruited DE Kylie Fitts saw playing time as a true freshman last season.

USC: Leonard Williams, the only sophomore named first-team all-Pac-12 on defense last season, is the best in the conference. Delvon Simmons, who sat out last season after transferring from Texas Tech, has a lot of game experience. He started 12 games for the Red Raiders in 2012 and had regular playing time as a freshman there in 2011. Both Simmons and J.R. Tavai, who was an all-Pac-12 honorable mention selection, can play inside or outside.

Utah: There's no replacing Trevor Reilly, who made 100 tackles despite lingering effects from a torn ACL, but Nate Orchard and Hunter Dimick both saw extensive playing time last season. The Utes have five other defensive ends on the roster, but of that group only LT Filiaga made a tackle last season.

Washington: The Huskies are in great shape with the return of Hau'oli Kikaha, a second-team All-Pac-12 selection, Cory Littleton and Evan Hudson. Josh Shirley has 10 career starts, while Joe Mathis and Psalm Wooching provide depth.

Washington State: With Toni Pole expected to move back inside, the depth chart will look similar to how it did going into last season, minus Matt Bock. After making 50 tackles last year, Xavier Cooper will start on one side, with Destiny Vaeao and Lyman Faoliu strong candidates for more playing time. Emmitt Su'a-Kalio is coming off a redshirt, and the Cougars also signed a pair of defensive ends from Hawaii in Kingston Fernandez and Hercules Mata'afa.

Previous positions

Tight end
Quarterback
Running back
Receiver
Offensive line
Defensive tackle

Pac-12's lunch links

February, 18, 2014
Feb 18
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Caring too much for objects can destroy you. Only -- if you care for a thing enough, it takes on a life of its own, doesn’t it? And isn’t the whole point of things -- beautiful things -- that they connect you to some larger beauty?

Season wrap: Oregon

January, 15, 2014
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Oregon was ranked No. 3 before the season, therefore an obvious national title contender. Oregon was 8-0 and ranked No. 3 in the BCS standings in Week 11, and the general consensus was that if the Ducks won out, their Pac-12-fueled strength-of-schedule would earn the Ducks a berth in the national title game.

Of course, we all know what happened. First, the loss at Stanford, when the Cardinal pushed the Ducks around at the line of scrimmage, and quarterback Marcus Mariota was severely limited by a knee injury he suffered the previous week in a win over UCLA.

The Ducks were still in the Rose Bowl and/or BCS bowl hunt. At least until they were blown out at Arizona on Nov. 23.

An 11-2 campaign and final No. 9 ranking is typically nothing to sniff at for any team. But there's nonetheless a feeling the Ducks, who finished in the top five the previous three seasons, slipped a little in coach Mark Helfrich's first season.

You can read our graded review of Oregon here.

Offensive MVP: Mariota, a front-runner for the Heisman Trophy until the Stanford loss, completed 63.5 percent of his passes for 3,665 yards with 31 touchdowns and just four interceptions. He also rushed for 715 yards, averaging 7.4 yards per carry, with nine TDs. He finished ranked No. 1 in the nation in ESPN.com's Total QBR rating. After he decided to return for his redshirt junior season, he figures to be near the top on just about every preseason Heisman Trophy list.

Defensive MVP: While cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu is the Ducks' most talented defender, there's a reason that teammates voted defensive end Taylor Hart the Ducks defensive MVP. Hart was the, er, heart and soul of the Ducks' defense. He finished with 75 tackles, which ranked fourth on the team, with 3.5 sacks and 6.5 tackles for a loss. He also had five pass breakups, two quarterback hurries and three forced fumbles.

Best moment: While the Ducks were riding high after a dominant fourth quarter gave them a 42-14 victory over UCLA on Nov. 2, the 30-7 win over Texas in the Alamo Bowl was the best moment. Or, at least, the most sentimentally satisfying moment, as the Ducks said goodbye to longtime defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti with a dominant defensive effort, holding the Longhorns to 236 yards and 13 first downs. Further, until he started suffering cramps in the second half, the nation got to see what Mariota can do when healthy. The Ducks, after a tough final third of the season, went out with a solid win, one that should boost spirits heading into the offseason.

Worst moment: While the Stanford loss probably hurt the most, the worst moment was the horrid effort at Arizona during a 42-16 loss. After a week in which receiver Josh Huff and running back De'Anthony Thomas expressed disappointment at the idea of playing in the Rose Bowl, the Ducks looked unmotivated and sloppy while taking a beating in Tucson, Ariz., a defeat that knocked the Ducks out of Rose Bowl contention. Mariota threw two of the four interceptions he threw all season, and the defense yielded 482 yards.

Pac-12 all-bowl team

January, 9, 2014
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Who were the Pac-12 standouts this bowl season? Here are our picks.

OFFENSE

[+] EnlargeBrett Hundley
Andrew Weber/USA TODAY SportsBrett Hundley finished the season with a strong performance in the Bruins' bowl win.
QB Brett Hundley, UCLA: Hundley accounted for four touchdowns in the Bruins' 42-12 win over Virginia Tech in the Sun Bowl. He rushed for 161 yards on 10 carries -- 16.1 yards per run -- with two touchdowns and he also completed 16 of 29 passes for 226 yards and two scores. Other QBs had nice games, but Hundley put up big numbers against an outstanding defense.

RB Ka'Deem Carey, Arizona: In the AdvoCare V100 Bowl win over Boston College, Carey rushed for 169 yards on 27 carries and two scores, averaging 6.3 yards per rush. He decisively outplayed Boston College RB Andre Williams, who won the Doak Walker Award and was a Heisman Trophy finalist.

RB D.J. Foster, Arizona State: Despite being banged up, Foster rushed for 132 yards on 20 carries -- 6.6 yards per carry -- in the Sun Devils' 37-23 loss to Texas Tech in the Holiday Bowl. He also caught five passes for 23 yards.

WR Marqise Lee, USC: In his career finale, Lee caught seven passes for 118 yards with two touchdowns in USC's win over Fresno State in the Las Vegas Bowl.

WR Nate Phillips, Arizona: Phillips, a true freshman, caught nine passes for 193 yards in the Wildcats' win over Boston College.

WR Josh Huff, Oregon: Huff caught five passes for 104 yards and a touchdown in Oregon's 30-7 win over Texas in the Valero Alamo Bowl.

OL Xavier Su'a-Filo, UCLA: Su'a-Filo led the Bruins' offensive line against a tough Virginia Tech defense. UCLA rushed for 197 yards against a top-10 rushing defense and yielded only two sacks.

OL Abe Markowitz, USC: The sixth-year walk-on stepped in at center for an injured Marcus Martin -- the Trojans' best offensive lineman this season -- and played well in the 45-20 win over Fresno State. The Trojans yielded only one sack and rushed for 154 yards. He was named the "Offensive Outperformer of the Game" by his coaches.

OL Jake Fisher, Oregon: Fisher led a strong effort from the Ducks' offensive line in the win over Texas. Oregon rushed for 216 yards and yielded only two sacks. Fisher did a good job against Texas' top defender, end Jackson Jeffcoat.

OL Micah Hatchie, Washington: Hatchie, the Huskies' left tackle, was the biggest reason BYU didn't record a sack in the Fight Hunger Bowl, a 31-16 Huskies victory. Washington also rushed for 190 yards.

OL Isaac Seumalo, Oregon State: Seumalo led perhaps the Beavers O-line's best effort of the season. Oregon State rushed for 195 yards and yielded no sacks.

K Travis Coons, Washington: Coons made a 45-yard field goal against BYU -- the longest Pac-12 postseason field goal -- and was good on all four of his PATs.

DEFENSE

DL Scott Crichton, Oregon State: Crichton had three tackles for a loss, a sack, a forced fumble and pass breakup in the win over Boise State.

DL Taylor Hart, Oregon: Hart had a game-high 11 tackles, with half a sack and a forced fumble in the Ducks' win over Texas.

DL Hau'oli Kikaha, Washington: Kikaha had nine tackles with three sacks and a forced fumble in the Huskies' win over BYU.

LB Shayne Skov, Stanford: Skov had nine tackles, three tackles for a loss, a sack and a forced fumble in Stanford's 24-20 loss to Michigan State in the Rose Bowl.

LB Jake Fischer, Arizona: Fischer had a game-high 14 tackles in the Wildcats' win over Boston College. He also had a sack and 1.5 tackles for a loss. Arizona held Williams to only 75 yards on 26 carries.

LB John Timu, Washington: Timu had a game-high 14 tackles, a sack and an interception in the Huskies' win over BYU.

LB Jabral Johnson, Oregon State: Johnson had a game-high 12 tackles, a sack and a quarterback hurry in the Beavers' win over Boise State.

DB Rashaad Reynolds, Oregon State: Reynolds had 10 tackles and returned two fumbles for touchdowns in the Beavers' win over Boise State. The fumble returns went for 70 and 3 yards.

DB Avery Patterson, Oregon: Patterson had nine tackles and returned an interception 37 yards for a touchdown in the win over Texas.

DB Josh Shaw, USC: Shaw held Fresno State receiver Davante Adams to nine receptions for 73 yards in the Trojans' win over the Bulldogs. He finished with six tackles and had an interception in the end zone.

DB Anthony Jefferson, UCLA: Jefferson had seven tackles, shared a tackle for a loss and had a pass breakup in the Bruins' win over Virginia Tech. The Hokies completed only 15 of 36 throws for 176 yards.

P Ben Rhyne, Stanford: With five punts, Rhyne averaged 49.8 yards per boot in the Rose Bowl.

Pac-12 players in Senior Bowl

January, 6, 2014
Jan 6
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The Reese's Senior Bowl, which is scheduled for Jan. 25th in Mobile, Ala., is the most prestigious postseason college All-Star game, mostly because it picks the players NFL GMs and scouts want to see up close in advance of the NFL draft.

So far 11 Pac-12 players have been offered and accepted invitations.

Here's the list, which you can review here.

Deone Bucannon, S, Washington State

Deandre Coleman, DT, California

Shaquelle Evans, WR, UCLA

Marion Grice, RB, Arizona State

Taylor Hart, DE, Oregon

Ryan Hewitt, FB, Stanford

Josh Huff, WR, Oregon

Keith McGill, DB, Utah

Trent Murphy, OLB, Stanford

Shayne Skov, LB, Stanford

Will Sutton, DT, Arizona State

Pac-12 lunch links

December, 20, 2013
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It's Christmas Eve! It's... it's the one night of the year when we all act a little nicer, we ... we ... we smile a little easier, we ... w-w-we ... we ... we cheer a little more. For a couple of hours out of the whole year, we are the people that we always hoped we would be!
An issue that seems to arise every year in recruiting is which players Oregon chooses to pursue and sign on the defensive line. It always seems to be a source of worry for fans and recruiting pundits alike.

While Haloti Ngata isn't walking through the tunnel at Autzen Stadium anymore, the Ducks have equipped themselves nicely with a patchwork defensive line over the past few years.


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With the loss of Taylor Hart, Wake Keliikipi and Ricky Heimuli after the 2013 season, reloading the defensive line is one of the Ducks' primary objectives in the next 10 months. The Ducks landed a standout group of defensive linemen in the Class of 2012 and all of them should be heavily involved in 2013. With three or four spots in the 2014 recruiting class likely to be filled by defensive line prospects, the Ducks are eyeing a large group of targets.

Here are a few names to keep an eye on throughout the 2014 recruiting cycle:

DE Lorenzo Featherston (Greensboro, N.C ./Page): The 6-foot-7, 215-pound ESPN Watch List member has high interest in the Ducks and fits the profile of what Oregon has looked for in defensive lineman in the past few years. Of course, Chip Kelly and Jerry Azzinaro are gone, but Featherstone maintains the athleticism and range that would make him an ideal fit for the Ducks' drop-end position. Featherstone hopes to get a visit from the Oregon staff during the spring evaluation period. An impressive spring could lead to Featherstone receiving an offer from one of his favorite programs. Michigan, North Carolina, North Carolina State and Tennessee have all offered and are the main programs in pursuit.

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Oregon is done with the 2013 class and is in early pursuit of the Class of 2014. Like they did under Chip Kelly, the Ducks are going to take their time and do their due diligence in evaluating recruits with Mark Helfrich at the helm.

The Ducks will still make the same in-depth inquiries about recruits with the potential to earn an offer, but it appears the 2013 recruiting cycle taught them once and for all, that waiting until it's too late can cost a program in a big way. A number of recruits have the Ducks near the top of their lists, and with 2014 being an important class, expect them to be more aggressive than usual in their attempt to replace players they could lose after 2013.


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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.


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A closer look: Tostitos Fiesta Bowl

December, 27, 2012
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As the bowl season approaches, we're going to be looking a little closer at each game. We'll go down the Big 12 bowl schedule in chronological order.

TOSTITOS FIESTA BOWL

No. 5 Kansas State (11-1) vs. No. 4 Oregon (11-1)

Where: University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Ariz.

When: Thursday, Jan. 3, 8:30 p.m. ET

TV: ESPN

About Kansas State: Bill Snyder's boys proved they could get over a painful Baylor loss. With the Big 12 title in the balance, K-State thrashed Texas with a second-half surge to win the Big 12 title on its home field. K-State made the first 10 games of the season look pretty easy, even with close wins over Oklahoma and Iowa State on the road. The Wildcats largely controlled both games but blew out a whole bunch of 7-5 Big 12 teams like West Virginia, Texas Tech and Oklahoma State. The Wildcats have a great case as the best K-State team ever, even though a painful loss to Baylor cost them what looked like a really likely shot at a national title after reaching No. 1 in the BCS for the first time ever after a win at TCU. This was K-State's first Big 12 title since 2003 but the first time it's truly been the Big 12's best team throughout the regular season since 1998.

About Oregon: The Ducks are all about go, go, go and this season's been no exception. The run-heavy offense didn't miss a beat without LaMichael James and Darron Thomas. We'll talk about the Ducks trio more a little later, but Oregon nearly reached the national title game for the second time in three years before a painful overtime loss to Oregon's super offense's kryptonite: Stanford. The Ducks hadn't scored fewer than 42 points all season. Stanford held them to just 14 in an overtime loss the same night K-State lost to Baylor. The teams were No. 1 and No. 2 in the BCS on Nov. 17, poised to block the SEC from playing for a seventh straight national title, but the loss also cost Oregon a bid to the Pac-12 championship and a second consecutive Rose Bowl berth. Instead, the Ducks are headed to the desert where they lost to Auburn in the title game two years ago. The Ducks are 4-1 against top 25 teams, but haven't played anyone ranked higher than No. 13, which was Stanford. Those four wins, though, came by an average of almost 29 points.

Wildcats to watch: In case you missed the second half of the Wildcats' win over Oklahoma State, Heisman finalist Collin Klein is K-State's offense. Receiver Chris Harper and running back John Hubert are fine talents in their own right, but Klein is the man who makes it all go. When he's out or plays poorly like he did against TCU and Baylor (performances that ultimately cost him the Heisman Trophy), K-State can look very, very average offensively. Linebacker and Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year Arthur Brown has led one of the Big 12's best defenses along with cornerback Nigel Malone and big-time pass-rusher Meshak Williams.

Ducks to watch: How many players on any team ever have had three different players earn legitimate Heisman hype at some point during the season? Scatback De'Anthony Thomas was an early-season splash before slowing with limited touches as the season moved forward, though Kenjon Barner emerged as the team's best back throughout the season. In the middle of the season, though, quarterback Marcus Mariota landed on a few ballots with some big games, too. Barner is the team's best player, ranking fifth nationally with 1,624 rushing yards, but Mariota's passer rating of 165.36 is higher than every Big 12 quarterback but J.W. Walsh. Linebacker Michael Clay racked up 92 tackles and fellow backer Kiko Alonso led the team with 12 tackles for loss (two defensive linemen, Dion Jordan and Taylor Hart, combined for 20.5), but let's be honest: It's all about the offense on this squad.

Did you know? Because of expansion quirks, there have been six Big 12 teams to play in this game in the past five years. No Big 12 team won the game from 2001-08, but the league is 3-1 in the game in the past four seasons, including huge wins over No. 10 Ohio State and No. 4 Stanford over that stretch. (There were also rumors of a win over a five-loss team from somewhere in the Northeast, but I don't know anything about that.)

More on the Big 12 Bowls:

Instant analysis: Oregon 51, WSU 26

September, 29, 2012
9/29/12
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SEATTLE -- After a wacky week of football at CenturyLink Field, it looked like the Washington State Cougars might make things interesting against No. 2 Oregon. Then came the second half and ultimately another Oregon blowout, 51-26. Here's how it all went down Saturday night in Seattle.

It was over when: Oregon’s Avery Patterson jumped a Connor Halliday ball intended for Gabe Marks and returned it 34 yards for a touchdown with 7:20 left in the third quarter. The play put Oregon ahead 37-19 and sucked the life out of any WSU comeback.

Offensive game ball goes to: Kenjon Barner carried 20 times for 195 yards and three touchdowns. He had scoring runs of 22, 10 and 80 yards. He also caught three passes for 37 yards and another score.

Defensive game ball goes to: Oregon’s Taylor Hart came up huge with a pair of big sacks in the first half when the issue was still in question. He finished with four tackles, three of them solo. As a unit, Oregon's defense registered seven sacks.

Stat of the game: 18 -- The Ducks opened the third-quarter with an 18-play drive that spanned 76 yards and ate up 6 minutes, 21 seconds of clock, ending with a 4-yard De'Anthony Thomas run. Very un-Oregon, but it was the kind of drive that was needed to deflate an excitable Cougars squad coming out of the locker room. It was Oregon's longest drive (by number of plays) since a 19-play drive last season against LSU.

What it means for Oregon: The Ducks could use a bit of adversity after coasting through their first four games. They responded admirably -- on both sides of the ball -- in the second half. A hungry Washington team visits next Saturday.

What it means for Washington State: The Cougars did better than a lot of other teams have done in 30 minutes against the Ducks. But ultimately youth, and pass-protection issues, doomed them in the second half. Still much work to be done.
There are many differences between the Oregon Ducks current approach under Chip Kelly when compared to former head coach Mike Bellotti. Many of them are glaring, but the one that goes largely unnoticed is the fact that Kelly is keeping the emerging local talent home.

Kelly and the Ducks have benefited from a rise in high school All-Americans from with the Oregon borders, but keeping that talent in state hasn't always been easy for the Ducks.

Needless to say, Oregon is far removed from football-dominated states such as Georgia, Texas, California, Ohio and Florida.

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Nearly two weeks into Oregon fall camp, there is plenty of speculation as to who has the upper hand in the position battles and who has put themselves in position to see the field early on.

All eyes are on the ongoing quarterback battle between sophomore Bryan Bennett and redshirt freshman Marcus Mariota.

When it comes to discussing his team, Ducks head coach Chip Kelly plays everything close to the vest. There is no greater example of this than when it comes to who will be given the keys to his high-flying offense.

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DucksMatthew Emmons/US PresswireRicky Heimuli (front), a highly touted defensive tackle in the 2010 class, is expected to take a big step up on Oregon's defensive line this season.
After a nice run of NFL talent along the defensive front from 2002-05, the Oregon Ducks took a number of hits with recruits failing to qualify or not showing up on campus for a variety of reasons. When new defensive line coach Jerry Azzinaro arrived in 2009, things began to change in Eugene. While the talent has been building in recent years, the defensive line was the one glaring weakness when comparing Oregon to the likes of SEC powers Auburn, LSU and Alabama.

The Ducks have excelled at nearly every position outside of DL in recent years. The linebackers have been key in helping the Ducks to high sack totals, but 2012 looks like the season it all comes together up front for the Ducks. The depth, size and talent are at an all-time high in Eugene, as key returners are back for another go around and a number of impact newcomers will be entering the fold.

After losing Kenny Rowe, Brandon Bair and Zac Clark from the 2010 BCS runner-ups, the defensive line stepped up last year and kept the Ducks among the elite. Now that they have another year under their belts, look for Oregon's front line to make a big impact in 2012.

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