Oregon Ducks Football: Next Week Starts Now


Next week is now. The Ducks returned to Eugene to begin preparation for a new opponent, Georgia State. However, the Michigan State matchup in East Lansing highlighted several things.

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Sure, an early season loss is better than a late one. The teams in last year’s college football playoffs were mostly one loss teams. Ohio State and Michigan State play later this season, but  and one of them will lose. TCU and Baylor will play each other as well. Oregon will face USC in Eugene. This week’s AP Top 15 are all alive and in the hunt for one of those final four spots regardless of whether they’re undefeated or coming off a loss.

However, Oregon’s game against Michigan State revealed some things about the state of the Ducks. First and foremost, the quarterback needs more time to develop. Vernon Adams, Jr. may be athletic and electric, but he simply doesn’t know enough of the playbook to be able to run the Ducks’ offense with as much depth as anyone would like. Operating with an abbreviated playbook means the loss of a critical facet of the Oregon Ducks offense: the dynamic arsenal of plays and ways in which the Ducks can strike fast and hard.

The void at WR is real. Despite having Addison, Stanford, Odofile, and even Nelson, there’s no question the Ducks miss Darren Carrington and Devon Allen. Their status remains unclear. Sources say Carrington should be available the week after the WSU game. His return can’t come soon enough. Allen’s availability remains a bit more mysterious as there simply hasn’t been as much chatter from his camp.

The running back situation is an issue. Royce Freeman can’t be expected to go every down, and while Tony James is an exciting player, he’s not the five star talent that Thomas Tyner is. The Ducks miss Tyner now more than ever, and that will only amplify in the coming weeks and down the stretch in November.

Oregon’s tight ends confuse me. Baylis, Mundt and Ka’ai are simply unable to fill the void present due to Pharaoh Brown’s absence. Mundt had some outstanding performances early in his career, but has largely gone silent since. Baylis is strong, but has more impact supplementing the offensive line than catching passes over the middle in traffic. Without that middle threat, opposing linebackers cheat up, adding traffic to the box, and opposing safeties can leave midfield to support corners one way or the other.

Knowing this happens though, Scott Frost has yet to challenge opposing secondaries with deep post routes run by Oregon’s speedy receivers. Perhaps the available WRs don’t have the speed to break away an get open behind the coverage, or perhaps the QB isn’t ready to run those plays yet.

On the bright side, the Ducks’ OL appears to be coming together quite nicely. Strong communication and leadership appear to be paying dividend in the trenches evidenced by their stellar play versus Michigan State’s top ranked defensive line. Johnstone and Crosby cement the edges well, and the new starting center appeared to playing as smart as his predecessor.

On the other side of the ball, however, many questions remain. The Ducks’ defensive line isn’t getting adequate penetration. So far, Alex Balducci hasn’t lived up to expectations. Deforest Buckner, considered by many to be a potential top 10 pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, hasn’t been able to so much as hurry opposing passers. At this point, it’s safe to say his stock is at least in jeopardy of dropping.

Oregon’s linebackers need to communicate more effectively, and they need to present a unified front behind a single leader. No one has emerged as being the one to lead this unit yet. Many thought Rodney Hardrick would be the leader. Some thought Joe a Walker would step up. So far, no one has.

Behind the LBs, the secondary is an inconsistent mixed bag with loads of potential. Chris Seisay ended last season high on many NFL future draft boards. Some even likened his style to that of former Stanford Cardinal, now NFL Seattle Seahawks all pro, Richard Sherman. So far this season, Seisay has been inconsistent, has given up critical big plays, and has generally unimpressed.

Arrion Springs and Ugo Amadi have also performed short of expectation. Giving up big plays, in effectively tackling in open space; Oregon needs more from this group right now. Safeties Tyree Robinson and Reggie Daniels have also been unimpressive, and perhaps even disappointing.

The Ducks continue to improve every week. That is to be expected. However, down one after losing in East Lansing, the Oregon Ducks need to gel and come together right now. Next week is now. If playing for a 3rd Pac-12 title this decade is important, if returning to the playoffs is the goal, and if being the best is more demand than dream, then these Ducks must stand up and fly now. Next week starts now.