Oregon Football: What Are Your Concerns For The 2010 Season?

With twenty-two seniors and numerous key returning starters, one would think Oregon would be short on concerns heading into fall camp.  A balanced mix of experience and young talent has led to an optimistic fan base. Will Oregon be able to defend a conference title and repeat the success achieved a year ago? What are your concerns heading into the 2010 season?

Quarterback Play

Most Oregon fans have already closed the book on the Jeremiah Masoli chapter of Duck football.  Opposite in personality, senior Nathan Costa brings an extensive knowledge, leadership, and determination to the position.  After numerous injuries, and only one full game at the helm, can he out play Darron Thomas to earn the starting spot?

Often compared to former Duck Dennis Dixon, Thomas has been a fan favorite since his fourth quarter play at home against Boise State nearly two years ago.  More athletic then Costa, the redshirt sophomore has the ability to provide the dual threat style that makes Chip Kelly’s offense explode with points.

Fall camp quarterback battles in recent history include Dennis Dixon and Brady Leaf, Joey Harrington and A.J. Feeley, as well as Kellen Clemens and Jason Fife.

Can we expect Thomas or Costa to start against New Mexico and continue to lead the team the entire season?

The Defensive Line

Other then Haloti Ngata, Oregon has never truly been blessed with talent and expectations on the defensive line. The Ducks have mastered the art of riding undervalued defensive ends such as Nick Reed, Devon Long, Will Tukuafu, among many others.

In 2010, Jerry Azzinaro will ride the stellar play of Kenny Rowe, and the unappreciated length and consistency of tackle Brandon Bair.  Never a strength of the defense the defensive line has also never been a true weakness during the past decade.  The line always does enough to free the linebackers, and clog the middle.

August and September will give Azzinaro and Nick Aliotti a true evaluation of Dion Jordan, Terrell Turner, Zac Clark, Isaac Remington, and Wade Keliikipi.  Can Duck fans expect four star recruit Ricky Heimuli to walk in and contribute immediately? If line play proves disappointing then look for the running games of USC, California, and Oregon State to cause problems for the defense.

Does Oregon have the size, talent, and experience to keep the defensive line from becoming a team weakness?

The 2010 Schedule

Oregon is entering the final year of the Pac-10 conference.  Every other year Oregon plays at California, Arizona State, Oregon State and USC.  Unfortunately for the Ducks, this is the season they will make these travels.

These four road games will see Oregon welcomed with big red targets on their backs. As defending conference champions, the Ducks demolished each of these teams at Autzen Stadium last year.  All four teams will be talented and have the ability to send the Ducks home in defeat.  Add a September trip to a depressed Tennessee squad, and you have difficult schedule to ponder.

Fortunately for Kelly, the team will host an explosive Arizona offense that continues to give the defense fits, and a rejuvenated rival in the Washington Huskies.  Included on the home slate, are matches against the unpredictable Stanford Cardinal and the talented UCLA Bruins.

Is the road schedule too much for Oregon to handle?

The Secondary

Coach John Neal is heading into fall camp without the leadership of the departed T.J. Ward, Walter Thurmonod III, and Willie Glasper. While these players didn’t play the entire 2009 season, they were instrumental in the development of John Boyett, Javes Lewis, Cliff Harris, and Anthony Gildon.

Boyett and corner Talmade Jackson III are the two returning starters in the secondary. Former outside linebacker Eddie Pleasant has been moved to safety, and Neal will use fall camp to find the other corner opposite of Jackson III.

It is safe to say the competition at corner will be fierce with an abundance of talent and numbers in the secondary.  Gildon, Harris, Terrence Mitchell, Dior Mathis, Scott Grady, and others will be fighting for this starting spot.

Can Boyett, Jackson III, and Pleasant step up as leaders in the secondary?

The Negative Impact of USC’s Proabation

As many know, the Trojans are ineligible for a bowl game in the 2010 season.  For many years the Pac-10 has been known as a league with USC and the nine dwarfs. The Ducks finally overtook the Trojans in 2009, and could be affected by their probation in 2010.

With a talented team and easy schedule, the Trojans have a great chance to run the table in 2010.  The Ducks could find themselves in the Rose Bowl without leading the conference in victories. Oregon and USC look to be the class of the Pac-10, while the the nation could see mediocre seasons from the Beavers, Arizona, Cal, Washington, and Stanford.

Can the Pac-10 schedule provide enough quality wins for the Ducks to earn a good enough strength of schedule to rise in the BCS standings?  On a positive not, the Trojans probation could give Kelly a better chance at elite prospects, and an increased amount of attention from the national media.

Could the probation of USC taint a good season turned in by Oregon?

Repairing the Image of the Program

For some reason, the off-season problems at Oregon have been scrutinized more often then those at Tennessee, Georgia, Florida, and Oregon State.  With elaborate facilities, flashy uniforms, and deep pockets it feels that Oregon football is an easy target.

Kelly has done a great job in handling these difficult player situations. Over the past year it is clear to see a community hesitant to trust the future actions of Oregon players.

With a quality season minus negative distractions, the university will slowly rid themselves of a public relations black eye.  The 2009 season was always side-noted with a LaGarrette Blount sighting, and 2010 will begin with the media focusing on the absence of Jeremiah Masoli at quarterback.

Can Kelly and his team continue to rebuild a positive representation of Oregon football?

Enough Playing Time for Oregon’s Young Talent

Chip Kelly and company have been successful in attracting four and five star recruits to Eugene over the past two years. At what point does these talented underclassmen feel they will never get a chance to shine at Oregon?

Does Chip Kelly have plans to make sure that Josh Huff, Dontae Williams, and Lache Seastrunk are happy with their roles on the team?  With an abundance of players at cornerback, can John Neal keep his young athletes motivated and determined to compete everyday?

As a program this is a great problem to have, and the likes of Texas, Florida, USC, and Alabama deal with a plethora of talent on the depth chart every season.  For Oregon this in uncharted territory, as the Ducks have never had such a talented roster in the history of the program.  Many blue chip recruits arrive on campus mentally and physically prepared to immediately contribute.

If these players end up on the sideline, will they stay in Eugene?

Please feel free to add your feedback on additional concerns you may have for fall camp and the 2010 season.

~ by philip d. on July 12, 2010.

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