The 2023 Oregon Ducks put on quite a show in the final season of Pac-12 football. With the team's only losses coming to Washington in the regular season meeting and the conference championship, the Ducks were led to 12 wins by some standout players.
Many of those stars; Bo Nix, Bucky Irving, Troy Franklin, and more, will not be returning for the 2024 season. Despite the holes left behind by these players, the team will see continued success in its first year as a part of the Big 10.
Nix, who finished 3rd on the Heisman ballots, broke numerous Oregon football records as well as setting the NCAA single-season record for completion percentage at 77.44%. He was a leader on and off the field for the team and will surely be missed in the locker room.
However, the quarterback position will not be left vacant as the Ducks gained two huge transfers from the portal when Dante Moore, from UCLA, and Dillon Gabriel, from Oklahoma, committed to joining the team for the upcoming season.
Gabriel's and Moore's combined experience in the past season will create a showdown of a QB1 battle as spring and summer practices progress. Gabriel was in the initial discussions for Heisman candidates and led the Sooners to an impressive victory over the Texas Longhorns in the Red River Rivalry – the Longhorns later went on to play in the College Football Playoffs. While Moore fell short of a remarkable season at UCLA, he arguably lacked any of the necessary tools to have real success with the program.
Beyond the quarterback spot, head coach Dan Lanning was able to bring in a highly impressive 2024 class on National Signing Day. According to On3, the class ranks 4th nationally and 1st in the Big 10 - ahead of both Ohio State and Michigan. Standout players include edge rusher Elijah Rushing, defensive lineman Aydin Breland, and wide receiver Jeremiah McClellan as well as many more 4-star recruits.
McClellan will help to fill the gap left behind by Nix's go-to receiver, Franklin. He will be joining Tez Johnson who has been with the Ducks for two seasons and announced on January 4th that he would be returning for another year.
The defensive line, which had 34 sacks in 2023, is losing some key pass rushers like defensive end Brandon Dorlus and defensive tackle Popo Aumavae, who have both reached the end of their eligibility.
However, Breland and Rushing will help beef up the line which will still be filled with returners. Matayo Uiagalelei; brother to previous Oregon State quarterback DJ, and Jordan Burch; 290-pound, 6'6" junior, are set to come back and play for at least one more season each.
Lanning was able to keep another defensive star in Jeffrey Bassa, inside linebacker, who announced that he would be coming back for his final chapter with the Ducks.
Irving, who ran for 1180 yards and 11 touchdowns as well as catching 2 touchdowns and earning 413 receiving yards, declared for the NFL Draft ahead of the 2023 Fiesta Bowl. While he still played in the bowl game and helped lead the Ducks to another victory, he was not alone in the running back position's success for the team this year.
Sophomore Jordan James was RB2 and is primed to be the starting back in 2024. James racked up 759 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns throughout the season. He averaged 7.1 yards per carry, nearly a yard longer than Irving's average.
So, yes, Oregon is losing some stars and leaders, record-setters even. But, the team will be just fine in their debut season with the Big 10. An incredible recruiting class and many key returners will help carry the Ducks to another winning season in 2024.