Oregon Ducks Preview: Part I - Coaching and Offense

It is fitting that Coach Rick Neuheisel's last game at UCLA comes against Oregon. While at Washington, he developed quite a bit on animosity in Eugene that has not calmed in the many years after his departure. The Bruins should expect a rowdy crowd that will want to finish of Neuheisel with an exclamation point.

Oregon is clearly a nightmare on offense. The sheer speed of the team and the manner which they play will expose any deficiency, and UCLA's defense has shown to have more than a few flaws. Oregon is not unbeatable, but they have only lost 3 games in the past 2 years, and 2 of them were to the #1 team in the country. In order to win, the UCLA defensive line will have to consistently beat Oregon's offensive line, UCLA will have to prevent big plays, and UCLA will need to force turnovers. It's a tall order for a team that just lost 50-0 to a lesser opponent.

Oregon has the #6 offense in the country in total yardage and are ranked #5 in rushing offense with 291 yards per game. They throw for approximately 220 yards per game, which is middle of the road, but it is much higher than any of the other top rushing teams in the country. Oregon scores 45.9 ppg, ranking #3 in the nation, and allow only 23 ppg. Oregon does allow 384 ypg, but only allow 4.94 yards per play, which is higher than some defenses ranked in the top 20 in total defense.

Coaching Staff

Chip Kelly has firmly placed his stamp on the Oregon football program. Truly gifted coaches find a way to impose their personality on the team, and Oregon plays football exactly the way Kelly wants them to. They are fast, aggressive, and unrelenting. Prior to Oregon, Kelly coached in the Division 1-AA ranks at Columbia, Johns Hopkins, and New Hampshire between 1990-2006. He spent one year as Mike Bellotti's offensive coordinator before essentially taking his job. Oregon is 32-6 since he took over.

Defensively, Nick Aliotti has devised a similar scheme to Oregon's offense. The defense is very fast and force a lot of turnovers, sacks, and tackles for loss. They will give up yardage, but they do not give up many points. Their opponent's offensive numbers are also skewed somewhat because their offense does not generally hold the ball for long.

Quarterbacks

Darron Thomas (6-3 215 Jr.) leads the charge. He is a capable runner and passer, but he has been more of a passer this year. He has thrown for 2274 yards with 27 TD's and 5 INT's in 11 games, and has run for 145 yards. Last year, he threw for 2863 yards with 30 TD's and 9 INT's while rushing for 486 yards in 13 games.

Bryan Bennett (6-3 205 Fr.-RS) has shown more than capable as a backup quarterback, and the future looks bright for Oregon. Bennett has appeared in 6 games this season, including a start at Colorado and has thrown for 361 yards with 6 TD's and 0 INT's as well as ran for 200 yards.

Running Backs

The heartbeat of the Oregon team is the running backs. LaMichael James (5-9 195 Jr.) is listed as the starter, but he injured his elbow last week. Of course, he previously injured his other elbow against Cal and missed 2 games, and it is unclear at this point whether or how much he will play. James has 1427 rushing yards and 14 TD's on 197 carries in the 10 games that he has played.

If James cannot go, Oregon will plug in Kenjon Barner (5-11 195 Jr.), who will see plenty of action whether or not James can go. Barner has 830 yards and 11 TD's on 128 carries this season.

While not on the depth chart, De'Anthony Thomas (5'9 173 Fr.) will play RB and WR. He has 53 carries for 440 yards and 5 TD's on the ground, and has also caught 40 balls for 558 yards and 9 TD's.

Tra Carson (6'0 227 Fr.) is the bigger back of the group. He has 45 carries and 254 yards and a TD.

James, Barner, and Thomas may all be utilized in the return game as well. Thomas has returned 2 kickoffs for TD's and James returned a punt for a TD.

Receivers and Tight Ends

Justin Hoffman (6-1 206 Jr.), Lavasier Tuinei (6-5 216 Sr.), and Josh Huff (5-11 207 So.) are the listed starters at WR, but the aforementioned Thomas will see plenty of time here as well. Thomas is the leading receiver, but all of Oregon's receivers are capable of making plays. Tuinei adds 37 receptions for 421 yards and 8 TD's, Huff has 25 catches for 359 yards and 2 TD's, and Hoffman has 10 receptions for 123 yards and 2 TD's.

Rahsaan Vaughn (6-2 192 Jr.) and Daryle Hawkins (6-4 197 So.) may also see action.

At tight end, David Paulson (6-4 241 Sr.) starts and Colt Lyerla (6-5 238 Fr.) will back him up. Paulson has 28 catches for 286 yards and 5 TD's, and Lyerla is extremely talented and adds 6 catches for 140 yards and 4 TD's.

Offensive Line

The supposed weak link of the Oregon team has played pretty well this season. They start two seniors, two juniors, and a redshirt freshman. As a unit, they have allowed 10 sacks and 65 tackles for loss. Oregon's offensive production speaks for itself, and a team cannot rush for 291 ypg without a pretty solid offensive line.

Only three of the starters break the 300 lbs. barrier. RG Mark Asper (6-7 325 Sr.) is the biggest of the group, followed by LT Darrion Weems (6-5 302 Sr.) and RT Nick Cody (6-5 301 Jr.). LG Carson York (6-5 292 Jr.) and C Hroniss Grasu (6-3 291 Fr.-RS) round out the starting unit.

Everett Benyard III (6-7 325 So.) has played in every game this season at backup RG, and Jake Fisher (6-6 285 Fr.) has played in 10 of the 11 games at his back up RT spot. All of the starters have played every game this season.

That concludes Part I of the Oregon Ducks preview. Fire away with any additional thoughts and comments.

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