clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Why Oregon is still the favorite in an improving Pac-12, even without Mariota

New, comments

Oregon's got obvious question marks, but the Ducks are still the surest thing out west.

Confused? Check out the advanced-stats glossary here.

1. Turning the page

College football doesn't add members to its ruling class frequently. Miami and Florida State crashed the party in the 1980s, Florida solidified its status in the 1990s, and after letting its membership lapse for a while, LSU re-upped in the early-2000s.

Membership standards are pretty high, but whatever the requirements, Oregon is now a member of the club. The Ducks have finished 11th or better in the AP poll for seven consecutive years and have finished fourth or better in four of the last five. They made the national title game in 2010, lost their coach, turned their entire roster over (aside from a few fifth-year seniors), and made the national title game again in 2014. In the first ever College Football Playoff semifinal game, they pantsed the defending national champion in the Rose Bowl.

Oregon doesn't recruit at a top-5 level, but the Ducks have money, a draw, a system, and now, an undeniable track record.

As with so many other potential top teams this year, there's one more question: do they have a quarterback? When the Football Outsiders Almanac 2015 is released soon, you'll find that quite a few of the teams near the top will have new players behind center.

  • Top teams with a returning starting QB: No. 1 Ohio State, No. 8 LSU, No. 9 Michigan State, No. 10 Stanford, No. 12 USC
  • Top teams with a new starting QB: No. 2 Alabama, No. 3 Oregon, No. 4 Georgia, No. 5 UCLA, No. 6 Baylor, No. 7 Ole Miss, No. 11 Auburn, No. 13 Florida State, No. 14 Notre Dame

That's nine of the top 14 with a giant question mark.

Breaking in a new QB frequently ends up just fine. Last year's national champion Ohio State lost its starter before the season started, then lost its No. 2 late in the year. Both of 2013's national title participants, Florida State and Auburn, began the year with new starters. So did 2012 BCS runner up Notre Dame and 2011 champ Alabama.

We overstate change at this position sometimes; it is something that can be overcome. Still, not every single one of those nine above teams is going to fare perfectly well in this regard.

Heading into 2015, Oregon is tasked with replacing its most accomplished player ever. Marcus Mariota was a three-year starter who threw for almost 11,000 yards and rushed for more than 2,200; he produced an absurd 181.8 passer rating last year, won the Heisman Trophy, and dragged a banged up Oregon roster to the national title game with a mix-and-match receiving corps.

Without Mariota, Oregon won't come away unscathed if it suffers the same number of injuries it did a year ago. But if the injury bug is kind, a competent new starter will find an embarrassment of skill position riches at his disposal and a line that, thanks to said bug, got more experience than expected last year. Most of the defensive front seven is back, as well.

All a QB has to be is solid for Oregon to remain a favorite in the Pac-12 and a candidate for the College Football Playoff, and ... well ... when's the last time Oregon didn't have a solid starting quarterback? Darron Thomas (2010-11) was solid. Jeremiah Masoli (2008-09), ditto. Dennis Dixon (2006-07) might have won the Heisman in 2007 if not for a late-season injury. Kellen Clemens (2003-05) is still scratching out a living in the NFL.

Et cetera. Even Jason Fife (2002) put up pretty decent numbers for the Ducks.

Whoever wins the starting job, be it last year's backup Jeff Lockie, graduate transfer Vernon Adams, etc., will probably be fine. And while the Ducks are competing in a conference that is potentially as loaded as ever, they'll be fine, too. National powers get the benefit of the doubt, after all.

2014 Schedule & Results

Record: 13-1 | Adj. Record: 13-1 | Final F/+ Rk: 3
Date Opponent Opp. F/+ Rk Score W-L Percentile
Performance
Adj. Scoring
Margin
Win
Expectancy
30-Aug South Dakota N/A 62-13 W 94% 36.5 100%
6-Sep Michigan State 11 46-27 W 95% 38.0 95%
13-Sep Wyoming 113 48-14 W 95% 39.3 100%
20-Sep at Washington State 77 38-31 W 64% 8.6 80%
2-Oct Arizona 28 24-31 L 46% -2.5 28%
11-Oct at UCLA 12 42-30 W 92% 33.1 98%
18-Oct Washington 58 45-20 W 96% 41.7 100%
24-Oct vs. California 65 59-41 W 84% 23.3 97%
1-Nov Stanford 18 45-16 W 98% 46.3 100%
8-Nov at Utah 29 51-27 W 81% 20.7 87%
22-Nov Colorado 83 44-10 W 97% 44.5 100%
29-Nov at Oregon State 74 47-19 W 97% 45.5 100%
5-Dec vs. Arizona 28 51-13 W 99% 51.8 100%
1-Jan vs. Florida State 15 59-20 W 95% 37.5 99%
12-Jan vs. Ohio State 1 20-42 L 47% -1.8 3%

Category Offense Rk Defense Rk
S&P+ 46.1 2 22.4 28
Points Per Game 45.4 4 23.6 30

2. Great, good, great

Oregon suffered what was, for the Ducks, a loss of form in 2013. They still finished 11-2 but dropped from third to 17th in the F/+ rankings; the offense labored late in the year with an injured Mariota, but the primary source of the drop was a defense that plummeted from 23rd in Def. S&P+ to 55th.

Legendary defensive coordinator Nick Allioti's final Duck defense suffered from a lack of ready-made talent in the front seven, and the secondary had to play more conservatively than normal because of it.

New coordinator Don Pellum's first season saw Oregon playing defense that was not elite but was at least back to normal. The Ducks made more havoc plays, created more passing downs, and set the offense up to succeed much better. Combined with Mariota's otherworldly play, Oregon was right back to No. 3 in F/+.

There was a lull, however.

  • Average Percentile Performance (first 3 games): 95% (~top 6 | avg. score: Ducks 52, Opp 18)
  • Average Percentile Performance (next 7 games): 80% (~top 25 | avg. score: Ducks 43, Opp 28)
  • Average Percentile Performance (next 4 games): 97% (~top 4 | avg. score: Ducks 50, Opp 16)

Early on, the defense was a bit hit-or-miss. The Ducks held Michigan State to just 5.6 yards per play but then allowed 5.9 to Wyoming and 6.2 to Washington State. And with the D trying to get its footing, the offense took on some heavy lifting. Even without injured star receiver Bralon Addison, that worked out just fine until the line began to struggle.

Injuries led to Oregon starting a different combination on the line for five of the first six games of the year, and not a single line position saw the same starter for all 15 games. Mariota was running for his life, the Ducks blew some first-half chances against Arizona, and they suffered what was at the time a devastating upset loss at home.

The offensive rebound was immediate, however. Even with the line still in flux, Oregon averaged no worse than 6.4 yards per play in every remaining 2014 game. And beginning around the Colorado game, the defense found its stride. Against CU, Oregon State, and Arizona in the Pac-12 title game rematch, they allowed just 4 yards per play and 14 points per game.

The Playoff finals against Ohio State were disappointing, but Oregon made the championship game by playing half the year like nearly the best team in the country and surviving the other half of the season when it wasn't.

Offense

FIVE FACTORS -- OFFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 1.06 2 IsoPPP+ 152.8 2
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 49.5% 7 Succ. Rt. + 124.8 8
FIELD POSITION Def. Avg. FP 27.5 18 Def. FP+ 106.0 13
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Trip in 40 5.3 2 Redzone S&P+ 119.6 17
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 17.2 ACTUAL 11 -6.2
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 3 3 8 2
RUSHING 22 5 9 6
PASSING 10 4 9 4
Standard Downs 5 11 2
Passing Downs 3 6 3
Q1 Rk 22 1st Down Rk 5
Q2 Rk 10 2nd Down Rk 3
Q3 Rk 1 3rd Down Rk 16
Q4 Rk 7

Quarterback

Note: players in bold below are 2015 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.

Player Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Comp Att Yards TD INT Comp
Rate
Sacks Sack Rate Yards/
Att.
Marcus Mariota
304 445 4454 42 4 68.3% 30 6.3% 9.0
Jeff Lockie 6'2, 205 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8447 21 28 207 1 0 75.0% 0 0.0% 7.4
Taylor Alie 6'0, 175 So. NR NR
Morgan Mahalak 6'3, 205 RSFr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.9081
Vernon Adams Jr. (EWU) 6'2, 200 Sr. NR NR 251 380 3483 35 8 66.1% N/A N/A N/A
Travis Jonsen 6'3, 194 Fr. 4 stars (6.0) 0.9483

3. One hell of a security blanket

It's hard to worry about the Oregon quarterback position too much in 2015. First of all, in cleanup time, Jeff Lockie looked just fine last year. He completed 17 of 20 passes against South Dakota and Wyoming. He was also incredible in this year's spring game: 9-for-9 for 223 yards and three scores. He wasn't the most elite recruiting prospect in the world, and we don't know much about his mobility yet, but with the supporting cast around him, he could shine.

Second, Vernon Adams Jr. is still supposedly on the way. [Update: Adams is official, though he missed the first week of August camp while finishing classes at EWU.] The Eastern Washington transfer nearly won the 2014 Walter Payton Award, the FCS' Heisman, and while he is expecting to finish his course work late enough to miss a couple days of fall camp, he's still on pace to be there. As a three-year starter in EWU's high-flying offense, Adams threw for more than 10,000 yards and 100 touchdowns, and in two games against Pac-12 North competition (Oregon State in 2013, Washington in 2014), he shined.

If they don't work out, Oregon's got a four-star redshirt freshman (Morgan Mahalak) and true freshman (Travis Jonsen) to try. Odds are good that someone will be solid.

Mariota was the ultimate security blanket last year. Without a Heisman-caliber quarterback, the ship wouldn't have remained on course with the number of injuries the Ducks suffered.

Bralon Addison, Oregon's leading receiver in 2013, missed the entire year. Byron Marshall moved from No. 1 running back to No. 1 receiver, and presumptive new starting rusher Thomas Tyner missed four games. [Update: Tyner will miss the 2015 season after shoulder surgery.] Tight end Pharaoh Brown emerged as a breakout star, then missed the last five games. Plus, after exploding in the postseason (14 catches, 291 yards), Darren Carrington got suspended for the Ohio State game.

Without Mariota, Oregon probably doesn't overcome that. Oregon's 2015 starter will be good; he probably won't be a magician.

Running Back

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Rushes Yards TD Yards/
Carry
Hlt Yds/
Opp.
Opp.
Rate
Fumbles Fum.
Lost
Royce Freeman RB 5'11, 230 So. 4 stars (6.0) 0.9817 252 1365 18 5.4 4.4 42.1% 1 1
Thomas Tyner RB 5'11, 215 Jr. 5 stars (6.1) 0.9899 113 573 5 5.1 3.4 42.5% 1 0
Marcus Mariota QB
105 959 15 9.1 6.6 65.7% 6 3
Byron Marshall RB 5'10, 200 Sr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.9510 52 392 1 7.5 8.0 44.2% 2 1
Kenny Bassett RB
31 159 2 5.1 3.9 38.7% 0 0
Kani Benoit RB 6'0, 210 So. 2 stars (5.3) 0.8274 23 98 1 4.3 7.1 21.7% 0 0
Charles Nelson WR/CB 5'8, 170 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8706 13 103 0 7.9 7.5 53.8% 1 0
Lane Roseberry RB 6'1, 233 Jr. NR NR 6 23 0 3.8 1.2 50.0% 0 0
Jeff Lockie QB 6'2, 205 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8447 6 4 0 0.7 7.9 16.7% 3 1
Tony Brooks-James RB 5'9, 185 RSFr. 4 stars (5.9) 0.8960
Taj Griffin RB 5'10, 175 Fr. 4 stars (6.0) 0.9742
Malik Lovette WR 5'11, 205 Fr. 4 stars (5.9) 0.9389







Receiving Corps

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Targets Catches Yards Catch Rate Target
Rate
%SD Yds/
Target
NEY Real Yds/
Target
RYPR
Byron Marshall RB/WR 5'10, 200 Sr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.9510 106 75 1011 70.8% 22.6% 70.8% 9.5 120 9.9 151.3
Bralon Addison (2013) WR 5'10, 190 Jr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.9580 103 61 890 59.2% 26.3% 62.1% 8.6 119 8.9 150.1
Devon Allen WR 6'0, 185 So. 4 stars (5.8) 0.9078 65 42 712 64.6% 13.8% 75.4% 11.0 205 10.2 106.5
Dwayne Stanford WR 6'5, 205 Jr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.8935 64 43 639 67.2% 13.6% 54.7% 10.0 123 9.9 95.6
Darren Carrington WR 6'2, 195 So. 4 stars (5.8) 0.9181 50 37 704 74.0% 10.6% 70.0% 14.1 268 13.7 105.3
Keanon Lowe WR
45 28 414 62.2% 9.6% 60.0% 9.2 73 9.3 61.9
Charles Nelson WR/CB 5'8, 170 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8706 34 23 327 67.6% 7.2% 82.4% 9.6 52 11.9 48.9
Pharaoh Brown TE 6'6, 250 Sr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.9233 33 25 420 75.8% 7.0% 78.8% 12.7 126 12.6 62.9
Evan Baylis TE 6'6, 250 Jr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.9153 23 15 143 65.2% 4.9% 73.9% 6.2 -38 5.5 21.4
Royce Freeman RB 5'11, 230 So. 4 stars (6.0) 0.9817 19 16 158 84.2% 4.0% 63.2% 8.3 -27 8.2 23.7
Thomas Tyner RB 5'11, 215 Jr. 5 stars (6.1) 0.9899 14 11 68 78.6% 3.0% 42.9% 4.9 -60 3.7 10.2
Johnny Mundt TE 6'4, 245 Jr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8504 4 2 29 50.0% 0.9% 100.0% 7.3 4 N/A 4.3
Zac Schuller WR 5'10, 180 Sr. NR NR 2 2 9 100.0% 0.4% 0.0% 4.5 -14 N/A 1.3
Koa Ka'ai TE 6'4, 240 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8792
Jalen Brown WR 6'1, 200 RSFr. 4 stars (5.9) 0.9471
Alex Ofodile WR 6'3, 200 Fr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.9443
Kirk Merritt WR 5'11, 205 Fr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.9241
Jacob Breeland TE 6'5, 221 Fr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8600

4. If everyone's healthy ... wow

Bralon Addison is back. Pharaoh Brown might be. Byron Marshall could be an all-conference runner or receiver. Charles Nelson could star at either receiver or cornerback (or both). Royce Freeman was more efficient than a freshman running back is supposed to be. Oh yeah, blue-chipper Taj Griffin and a load of former four-star recruits are waiting their turn.

Oregon is loaded. Loaded. This is ridiculous.

Offensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs

LY/carry
Pass.
Downs

LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs

Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs

Sack Rt.
Team 136.8 3.79 4.25 45.8% 68.8% 13.6% 119.0 4.1% 9.4%
Rank 1 1 2 12 54 6 41 51 97
Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Career Starts Honors/Notes
Hroniss Grasu C 52 All-American, 2014 1st All-Pac-12
Jake Fisher LT
35 All-American, 2014 1st All-Pac-12
Hamani Stevens LG
28
Tyler Johnstone LT 6'6, 295 Sr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.9070 26
Cameron Hunt RG 6'4, 290 Jr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.9012 21
Matt Hegarty
(Notre Dame)
C 6'4, 295 Sr. 4 stars (5.9) 0.9708 13
Tyrell Crosby RT 6'5, 310 So. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8784 9
Matt Pierson LG 6'6, 285 Sr. NR NR 7
Andre Yruretagoyena LG
2
Jake Pisarcik C 6'2, 300 So. 2 stars (5.2) 0.8081 2
Doug Brenner C 6'2, 305 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8270 1
Stetzon Bair LT 6'9, 295 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8396 0
Haniteli Lousi RG 6'5, 310 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8917 0
Evan Voeller RT 6'5, 290 So. 4 stars (5.8) 0.9017 0
Elijah George LT 6'5, 290 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8228 0
Braden Eggert RT 6'6, 315 RSFr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8694
Davis Miyashiro-Saipaia LG 6'2, 300 RSFr. NR 0.7667
Zach Okun C 6'4, 310 Fr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.9058
Brady Aiello LT 6'7, 275 Fr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8774
Shane Lemieux RG 6'6, 302 Fr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8706
Calvin Throckmorton LT 6'6, 290 Fr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8675
Jake Hanson RT 6'5, 288 Fr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8591

5. A lot gone, a lot back

In the first game of the year, Oregon started a line that featured Jake Fisher, Hamani Stevens, Hroniss Grasu, Jake Pisarcik, and Andre Yruretagoyena. Four of those five players are gone, so Oregon is rebuilding up front, right?

Not exactly. Fisher missed two games, Grasu missed three, and Pisarcik and Yruretagoyena started just one more game each. Only Stevens started all 15 games, and even he had to play a couple of different positions in the process.

The talent out the door is immense: Grasu was a four-year starter and a 2014 All-American. Fellow All-American Fisher was a three-year starter, and Stevens started for two. But last year's shuffling and the signing of a key graduate transfer -- Notre Dame center Matt Hegarty -- mean that the Ducks still return seven players with starting experience. Tyler Johnstone and Cameron Hunt have combined for 47 starts, and three sophomores combined for 12 starts as freshmen.

Despite what they lost, the Ducks will likely be starting three seniors and a junior. The new QB isn't going to be lining up behind a sieve.

SIGN UP FOR OUR COLLEGE FOOTBALL NEWSLETTER

Get all kinds of college football stories, rumors, game coverage, and Jim Harbaugh oddity in your inbox every day.

Defense

FIVE FACTORS -- DEFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 0.74 12 IsoPPP+ 116.7 27
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 43.7% 91 Succ. Rt. + 104.9 46
FIELD POSITION Off. Avg. FP 31.7 29 Off. FP+ 106.0 15
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Trip in 40 3.8 21 Redzone S&P+ 108.1 39
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 32.5 ACTUAL 34.0 +1.5
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 89 38 49 27
RUSHING 62 52 61 36
PASSING 111 36 42 32
Standard Downs 27 37 21
Passing Downs 62 73 52
Q1 Rk 37 1st Down Rk 36
Q2 Rk 29 2nd Down Rk 35
Q3 Rk 49 3rd Down Rk 21
Q4 Rk 46

6. Letting teams off the hook

Oregon's defense was good at the right things in 2014. The Ducks forced turnover opportunities, recording 37 sacks, forcing 22 fumbles, and defensing 84 passes. When you've got an offense like Oregon's, your defense can afford to take some risks, go for the ball, and aim to open up floodgates.

The touchdown-turnover-touchdown combo has become an Oregon specialty through the years, and the Ducks were good at it. Plus, as Florida State learned, they were stout in short-yardage situations as well.

The Ducks created turnovers, forced passing downs, kept you out of the end zone in scoring opportunities, and did a solid job of preventing big plays despite the risk-taking. As they proved, you can win with a defense like this when you've got an offense like that.

Still, Oregon let a lot off offenses off the hook. Forcing passing downs only matters if you convert them into punts. Despite a solid sack rate, Oregon ranked just 73rd in Passing Downs Success Rate+. On third-and-7 or more and fourth down, opponents completed 57 percent of their passes, with 68 percent of their completions resulting in a first down.

While the pass rush was solid, it opened Oregon up for draw play success: the Ducks ranked 124th in passing downs line yards per carry. Somehow, the Ducks struggled in ways that suggested they were both too aggressive and too passive in these situations.

It's hard to get a read on what to expect from this defense in 2015. Don Pellum is no longer a first-year defensive coordinator, and he gets most of last year's front seven back. But the secondary is replacing three starters, and the two-deep will be stocked by almost all freshmen and sophomores. The Ducks are again a contradiction -- experienced and young.

Defensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs

LY/carry
Pass.
Downs

LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs

Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs

Sack Rt.
Team 100.1 2.96 4.03 39.2% 53.7% 17.5% 95.8 3.2% 9.1%
Rank 62 69 124 68 5 93 75 98 36
Name Pos Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
DeForest Buckner DE 6'7, 290 Sr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.9143 15 58.5 6.4% 13.0 4.0 0 4 1 0
Arik Armstead DE
13 35.5 3.9% 5.5 2.5 0 0 1 0
Sam Kamp NG



15 15.5 1.7% 1.0 0.0 0 3 0 0
Tui Talia DE 6'5, 285 Sr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.8869 15 13.5 1.5% 1.0 0.5 0 1 0 0
Alex Balducci NG 6'4, 310 Sr. 4 stars (5.9) 0.9184 15 13.0 1.4% 3.0 1.0 0 0 0 0
T.J. Daniel DE 6'6, 275 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.7508 15 9.5 1.0% 1.5 1.0 0 1 0 0
Austin Maloata NG 6'1, 300 So. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8585 11 6.0 0.7% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Henry Mondeaux DE 6'5, 290 So. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8631 15 5.5 0.6% 0.5 0.0 0 0 0 0
Jalen Jelks DE 6'6, 268 RSFr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8694
Canton Kaumatule DE 6'7, 295 Fr. 4 stars (6.0) 0.9907
Gary Baker DE 6'4, 298 Fr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8585
Drayton Carlberg DE 6'5, 290 Fr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8584
Rex Manu NG 6'3, 315 Fr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8523
Gus Cumberlander DE 6'6, 250 Fr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8403








Linebackers

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Joe Walker ILB 6'2, 240 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8166 15 65.0 7.1% 8.0 1.0 0 0 0 0
Derrick Malone Jr. ILB
15 62.0 6.8% 2.5 0.5 0 2 1 0
Rodney Hardrick ILB 6'1, 245 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8503 15 58.0 6.3% 6.0 1.0 0 1 1 1
Tony Washington OLB
15 48.5 5.3% 11.5 6.0 0 2 3 2
Tyson Coleman OLB 6'1, 235 Sr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8824 15 33.0 3.6% 7.0 3.0 1 1 1 0
Torrodney Prevot OLB 6'3, 220 Jr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.9238 15 24.0 2.6% 6.0 5.0 0 2 3 0
Christian French OLB 6'5, 250 Sr. 4 stars (5.9) 0.9062 15 20.0 2.2% 7.5 6.5 0 0 1 0
Danny Mattingly ILB 6'5, 245 So. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8898 11 14.5 1.6% 3.0 1.0 1 1 1 0
Johnny Ragin III ILB 6'3, 225 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8591 14 11.0 1.2% 0.0 0.0 0 1 0 0
Jimmie Swain ILB 6'2, 235 So. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8929 9 8.5 0.9% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Justin Hollins OLB 6'6, 230 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8504 14 7.5 0.8% 1.0 0.0 0 0 0 1
Isaac Ava LB
8 3.5 0.4% 1.0 1.0 0 0 0 0
Eddie Heard ILB 6'3, 245 So. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8570
Jonah Moi LB 6'2, 235 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8517
Paris Bostick OLB 6'1, 218 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8457
Fotu Leiato OLB 6'1, 200 Fr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8650








7. Depth? Check. Play-making? Hmm...

Ten of the 14 members of last year's front-seven two-deep are back this fall. That includes a genuine stud in senior end DeForest Buckner and two nice, run-stuffing inside linebackers in Joe Walker and Rodney Hardrick. Tony Washington and Arik Armstead are gone, but that hurts depth more than overall talent. The trio of Tyson Coleman, Torrodney Prevot, and Christian French should easily replicate Washington's numbers, at least.

Oregon's front seven should be able to replicate last year's numbers. And at first glance, those numbers appear strong -- Buckner, Walker, and Hardrick combined for 21 non-sack tackles for loss. Coleman, Prevot, and French combined for 14.5 sacks. But Oregon played in 15 games last year, so those are all a bit inflated.

Oregon ranked just 93rd in stuff rate (run stops behind the line) and 98th in standard downs sack rate. They could send guys off of the edge on third-and-7, but there still wasn't enough play-making here. (Plus, as mentioned, the passing downs blitz opened up run opportunities.)

Experience should make this unit better, but it wouldn't hurt if a couple of younger guys were able to make a quick impact. Blue-chip end Canton Kaumatule is a fascinating talent, and a host of sophomore linebackers have hinted at speed and high upside.

This unit will need to get more successfully aggressive, not only because its numbers weren't great last year, but also because the secondary's going to need more help.

Secondary

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Erick Dargan FS
15 78.0 8.5% 3.5 0 7 6 2 1
Reggie Daniels ROV 6'1, 205 Jr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.9085 15 72.5 7.9% 1.5 0 1 9 1 1
Troy Hill CB
14 65.0 7.1% 4 0 1 18 2 0
Ifo Ekpre-Olomu CB
13 53.0 5.8% 1 0 2 9 1 0
Tyree Robinson FS 6'4, 205 So. 4 stars (5.9) 0.9314 15 31.0 3.4% 1 0 0 1 0 0
Chris Seisay CB 6'1, 190 So. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8739 13 28.5 3.1% 1 0 0 4 1 0
Juwaan Williams ROV 6'0, 190 So. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8609 13 12.5 1.4% 1 1 0 0 0 0
Charles Nelson CB 5'8, 170 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8706 15 12.5 1.4% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Dior Mathis CB
15 11.5 1.3% 1 1 0 4 0 1
Issac Dixon FS
2 3.0 0.3% 0 0 0 0 1 0
Arrion Springs CB 5'11, 205 So. 3 stars (5.7) 0.9595 9 2.5 0.3% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Mattrell McGraw CB 5'10, 185 RSFr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8834
Glen Ihenacho FS 5'11, 185 RSFr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8519
Ugo Amadi CB 5'10, 185 Fr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.8784
Jihree Stewart CB 6'0, 182 Fr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8585








8. A high bar and a lot of sophomores

As impressive as Oregon's balancing act was on offense, the secondary had to use some smoke and mirrors as well.

Starting corner Troy Hill dealt with a knee injury early in the season, and star Ifo Ekpre-Olomu missed the final two games with his own injury. The Ducks adapted, and younger players like Chris Seisay and safeties Tyree Robinson and Juwaan Williams all got their feet wet with minimal disaster.

Because of these sophomores' experience and the return of an awesome safety in Reggie Daniels, all is not lost for the Oregon secondary. But all is young. Daniels is the default leader as a junior. While Robinson and Williams could assure solid safety play, there's a possibility that a freshman (Ugo Amadi) or a converted receiver (Charles Nelson) could end up starting at cornerback.

The Ducks will not lack for athleticism in the back, but missing both the experience and play-making abilities of players like Hill, Ekpre-Olomu, and safety Erick Dargan (combined: 8.5 tackles for loss, 10 INTs, 33 break-ups) hurts. This unit will regress, and it's up to the front seven to keep the pressure off of the DBs.

Special Teams

Punter Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Punts Avg TB FC I20 FC/I20
Ratio
Ian Wheeler 6'0, 205 So. 47 39.1 3 13 11 51.1%
Kicker Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Kickoffs Avg TB OOB TB%
Matt Wogan 6'2, 210 Jr. 87 62.0 22 0 25.3%
Aidan Schneider 6'4, 235 So. 36 60.4 7 0 19.4%
Place-Kicker Ht, Wt 2015
Year
PAT FG
(0-39)
Pct FG
(40+)
Pct
Aidan Schneider 6'4, 235 So. 40-42 9-10 90.0% 2-2 100.0%
Matt Wogan 6'2, 210 Jr. 39-41 7-9 77.8% 0-0 N/A
Returner Pos. Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Returns Avg. TD
Charles Nelson KR 5'8, 170 So. 22 19.0 0
Devon Allen KR 6'0, 185 So. 8 26.1 0
Charles Nelson PR 5'8, 170 So. 11 15.5 2
Johnathan Loyd PR 10 13.7 0
Category Rk
Special Teams F/+ 17
Field Goal Efficiency 46
Punt Return Efficiency 12
Kick Return Efficiency 88
Punt Efficiency 49
Kickoff Efficiency 24
Opponents' Field Goal Efficiency 71

9. Speed, speed, speed

Charles Nelson is incredible. He heads into 2015 as one of The Ducks' best receivers, one of their best cornerbacks, their best return man, and perhaps their best coverage man. How he is used remains to be seen, but he'll be good at whatever he's asked to do.

Nelson was a game-changer as a punt returner last year, even if his kick returns were pretty inconsistent. He's the marquee guy for special teams, but everybody else associated with Oregon's top-20 unit is back as well. Ian Wheeler's punts weren't deep, but they were high and rarely returnable. Aidan Schneider became a go-to place-kicker as a freshman.

Oregon survived with tons of youngsters in special teams, and it's hard to imagine the Ducks regressing too much from last year's No. 17 ranking here.

2015 Schedule & Projection Factors

2015 Schedule
Date Opponent Proj. S&P+ Rk
5-Sep Eastern Washington NR
12-Sep at Michigan State 9
19-Sep Georgia State 111
26-Sep Utah 39
3-Oct at Colorado 75
10-Oct Washington State 66
17-Oct at Washington 55
29-Oct at Arizona State 24
7-Nov California 51
14-Nov at Stanford 11
21-Nov USC 13
27-Nov Oregon State 70
Five-Year F/+ Rk 49.3% (2)
2- and 5-Year Recruiting Rk 23 / 17
2014 TO Margin / Adj. TO Margin* 23 / 15.4
2014 TO Luck/Game +2.5
Approx. Ret. Starters (Off. / Def.) 12 (7, 5)
2014 Second-order wins (difference) 12.9 (0.1)

10. Still the champ

The Pac-12 is as deep as it has ever been this year. Stanford isn't too many ifs from playing like a top-10 team again, and both UCLA and USC have top-5 potential. The Arizona schools could both play at a top-20 or top-25 level, Utah is top-40 at worst, and Cal, Washington State and Colorado all stand to improve.

But while we can talk about the Pac-12 South's depth and potential heavyweights, and we can weigh how strong Stanford might be with some defensive turnover, the Pac-12 champion resides in Eugene. And the Ducks return enough to make a pretty strong repeat run.

The secondary is a concern. We can assume steady quarterback play, it's just an assumption until proven otherwise. The offensive line is sturdy but less experienced. The front seven needs to raise its havoc game. But these are issues that will determine if Oregon is a Playoff-caliber team; the Ducks are going to be good no matter what.

If there are pieces Oregon needs to break in before it can become a Playoff-caliber squad, the schedule should help. The early trip to Michigan State is an obvious trial and potential loss. After that, the Ducks get tune-ups against Georgia State and four of the Pac-12's lesser teams. The late-season stretch is rough -- trips to Arizona State and Stanford and a visit from USC -- but the meat of the schedule comes after Oregon has had a chance to find itself.

Oregon is not a far-and-away favorite in the Pac-12, but the Ducks still begin 2015 as the favorites. Mark Helfrich's bunch will have some new faces but will still look like Oregon has looked for most of the last decade: deep, confident, and too fast for you.