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Feeling Ducky: Addicted to Quack

Our latest addition to every growing SBN family couldn't be timelier. Check out the cool new online digs for Oregon Ducks at Addicted to Quack. And the prolific Duck bloggers from ADQ were kind enough to answer some of our queries heading into Bruin's most important game of the season (to date).

We posed some specific questions for ADQ re. Ducks no. 4 ranked offense in the nation and their injury plagued defense. And wrt the name screwup on former Oregon QB Akili Smith, you will see the connection when you see our response to their first Q, which should go up on ADQ later today. That was a brain cramp on my part (for some reason I was thinking of former Bruin RB) but pretty ironic considering the hard time I gave ADQ blogger wrt his first question to us. Hey all in good fun. Again ours responses will go up on ADQ later tonight.

Meanwhile, here are the answers from ADQ. Enjoy:

BN: Besides Dennis Dixon, Jonathan Stewart, and Jaison Williams (Pac-10's top WR) who are the key weapons in Ducks #4 ranked offense in the nation?

ADQ: Well, the biggest weapon is the offensive line. They have been great this year, giving up only two sacks. They are all returning starters, and are regarded as the best in the conference. As far as skill positions, there are a few names to key in on. Backing up Jonathan Stewart is Jeremiah Johnson. He is a speedster averaging about eight yards a carry and is a big change of pace from the power of Stewart. Stewart bullies his way over people while Johnson is a more elusive back with the most wicked stiff arm I have ever seen. Oregon has a number of talented receivers, but a few to watch out for are Jordan Kent and Brian Paysinger. Williams is by far the best of the bunch and Dixon's go to man, but these two have really shined at times. Paysinger seems to be at his best on slant and post patterns. Kent is a much different animal. Of course, he is known for being on the track and basketball teams, and only took up football last year. But he has learned how to catch. Corners have to play off him because of his speed. If Kent gets the ball in the open field, he will go a long way. Finally, tight end Dante Rosario is a quality pass catching tight end. The defense cannot forget about him.

BN: Also on offense we would love to hear your explanations on Jonathan Stewart's inconsistent numbers this season? He had huge performances against Stanford, OU, and ASU, but fizzled out against Cal (and missed the Fresno St game?). What happened? How did the Bear defense stifle Jonathan?

ADQ: Well, there are a few things going on with Jonathan Stewart right now. The first seems to be chronic ankle problems. His ankle plagued him last year and has continued to do so this year. This is why he played only two snaps against Fresno State. His ankle is not 100% and will not be all season. That being said, his performance against Cal was due to a couple of factors. Cal had a great game plan. They just put 8 and 9 in the box, and there was no running room up the middle for Stewart. Cal was able to do this for a couple of reasons. The first is that Daymeion Hughes is such a great corner that he could cover Jaison Williams one-on-one, and they had enough team speed to cover all the screens and slants that the Ducks like to run with their safeties. What Oregon needed to do was put in Jeremiah Johnson to try to speed around the outside, and try to stretch the defense by going four wide then throwing it deep. Instead, they stayed with Stewart and a lot of bubble screens, and Cal's speed was too much for that game. So chalk some of it up to the coaches, too. But there were so many defenders who were so quick on Stewart that he just couldn't break through. It's a defensive gameplan that I expect to see UCLA try. There are two keys to it working though--you have to have a corner that can cover J-Will one-on-one, and you have to have a damn quick defense. I think that Stewart will be fine. The coaches just need to react differently to that defense.

BN: How good is Dennis Dixon compared to recent great Duck college QBs such as Bill Musgrave, Akili Harris, Joey Harrington? Is he best of the bunch?

ADQ: First off, no quarterback name Akili Harris has ever attended the University of Oregon. We had a pretty good one a few years back named Akili Smith, but never Akili Harris. Anyway, is Dennis Dixon the best? Not yet, but he could be. Musgrave was such a great pure passer, but wasn't the most mobile guy out there. Akili Smith was as physically gifted as any quarterback, but wasn't the sharpest knife in the drawer (see his lack of success in the NFL). Joey Harrington was a great college quarterback, another pure passer whose smarts just made him a great quarterback. As far as the best all-around Oregon quarterback recently, I am inclined to say Kellen Clemens, because of what he could do both through the air and on the ground. What made Kellen so great is that he was smart--you could count on him to make the right decision, and poised--he never panicked under duress. But he combined that with a strong and accurate arm, as well as deceptive speed and elusiveness on the ground. He was also easily the toughest QB of the bunch. He gets kind of overshadowed because Joey had more talent around him, but Kellen was the better player. Dixon has many of the physical tools that Kellen had. He's got a great arm, and is much more quick and elusive than even Clemens was. However, Dixon still has a lot to prove. He seems to have trouble throwing the deep ball, which has always been an integral part of the Oregon offense. If you look at the few times Oregon went deep during the Cal game, Dixon consistently overthrew his receiver. He seems to be best in the short to intermediate passing game, which is the bulk of passing plays in the spread. He also has to prove himself in the big game. Dixon threw two interceptions vs. Oklahoma and three vs. Cal. The picks in the Oklahoma game were kind of forgotten because Oregon came back to win, but they illustrate the problem; he has panicked in big games (see the first play of the Cal game). The last 1:12 of the Oklahoma game was the exception. Another knock is that some question his toughness. He has only been sacked twice this year because the O-line has been so good, but he has to prove that he can take a big hit. He seems wiry and fragile. But he is only a junior, and if we're not asking these questions at this time next year, then we might be able to consider Dixon the best.

BN: We hear the Oregon defensive is a little banged up as LB Brent Haberly, DE Victor Filipe and DT Cole Linehan, each projected starters beginning the season, are all out for the season. Ducks current have the 9 th worst rushing defense in the Pac-10. What are the Ducks doing to patch up the defensive line? Who is the heart and soul of Duck's front-7?

ADQ: The defensive line has just been a MASH unit for the Ducks all season long. I have no idea how to patch it up--and I'm not sure that the coaching staff does, either. Darius Sanders is very good. Matt Toeaina has also been solid. Beyond that, Jeremy Gibbs will play but is not 100%, Dexter Manley II is still inexperienced, and David Faaeteete is inconsistent. That is about the depth of the Ducks defensive line. The linebackers seem to be holding up a little better, although another injury would devastate that unit. Brent Haberly was a mediocre linebacker, but the fact that he was starting shows the Ducks depth at that position. One bright spots is Blair Phillips. He is a stud at middle linebacker and the cog to the front seven. As far as stopping the run, it's not going to happen. Look for Chris Markey to have a really big day.

BN: Ducks secondary has been awesome but apparently they also have some injury issues. Can you give us the status on CB Terrell Ward? Who has stepped up to replace injured CB Jackie Bates? Who is the heart and soul of Ducks defense?

ADQ: Awesome? The secondary has been surprising, but the only really good passing attack they played (Cal) shredded them . They just didn't have the speed to keep up with DeSean Jackson. And their play against ASU is largely due to the ineffectiveness of Rudy Carpenter--there were a lot of open receivers that game. The corners are inexperienced freshmen--Terrell Ward and Walter Thurmond. All in all, they have done a good job. When Jackie Bates went down for the season, we had horror thoughts of Aaron Gipson and Justin Phinisee in 2002-03 when Oregon's pass defense was the laughingstock of the country. But Ward, Thurmond, and Jairus Byrd have a lot of talent, and that is making up for some of their deficiencies in experience. The safeties, Patrick Chung, J.D. Nelson, and Kwame Ageyman are maybe the best unit in the country. Chung and Nelson especially will knock your helmet off. Oregon runs a base nickel defense, so the secondary is very important. J.D. Nelson is probably the heart and soul of the whole defense. When he makes one of his big hits, the whole defense seems to pick up.

BN: Okay just one more question. Give us your keys to a UCLA win against the Ducks this Saturday?

ADQ: Run the football. Again and again. Chris Markey can have a really big game against the beat up defensive line. Did you see Cal hand off to Forsett 20 straight times? Run the football and wear down the defense. Even mediocre back can have great games against the Ducks. Use the run to set up the pass, and when you do, go deep and test the corners. If you can get Oregon to cheat the safeties up to help the run defense, pick on the freshman corners one-on-one. But always play off the run, especially with a freshman QB. Oregon's offense on the field, you have a good shot. Defensively, I'm not sure if UCLA is fast enough to pick up on Cal's gameplan. You might test it for a drive to see if it works, but be prepared to abandon it if it falls apart. You're not going to get a lot of pressure on the quarterback, so I'd try to play off my safeties. Keep one safety eyeing J-Will and one eyeing Stewart and see if you can make Paysinger and Kent beat you. Keeping J-Will in check will really be key because it seems like Dixon is a different quarterback when he can't go there. If you shut him down and run the football, you have a decent shot of winning the game. You might even find Ben Olson's injury a blessing in disguise as a more conservative offensive game is better against Oregon. If you try to get cute, it could be a long day.

Thanks for the exchange. Lets do it again come basketball season.

BN: Absolutely guys. Good luck rest of the season.  And here is to a great game and no injuries on Saturday.