With head coach Chip Kelly’s homecoming in Autzen Stadium on the horizon, will he be familiar enough with the Oregon Ducks offense to stop them? Up and down the Ducks’ depth chart, they have a bevy of offensive players who have big-play potential. Here’s how the Ducks stack up offensively.
The offensive line for the Ducks is a well-seasoned group that features only redshirt juniors and they’re under the tutelage of offensive line coach Alex Mirabal. This unit for the Ducks has only surrendered 12 sacks this season thus far. They’ll line up with Jake Hanson at center, while Dallas Warmack and Shane Lemieux hold down the guard positions and Brady Aiello and Calvin Throckmorton round out the tackles. Oregon is averaging 174.9 rushing yards per game and a lot of that has to do with the push the offensive line is getting. The UCLA Bruins are in for a serious battle in the trenches on Saturday.
Junior QB Justin Herbert is questionable for Saturday’s tilt against the Bruins due to a concussion, but he did return to practice on Wednesday.
He has enjoyed a very solid season this season, but certainly not the Heisman-type season people were hoping for this season. He’s racked up 2,069 passing yards with 20 TDs and 6 INTs going into this contest against UCLA. While those numbers are good, his performance the last few weeks have not been all that impressive. His yards per attempt is way down to 7.96 from 9.63 last season. He’s simply not airing the ball down the field as much this season. With Oregon’s defensive struggles, it has put the Ducks into obvious passing situations which makes it easier for opposing defenses to sniff out. By all means, Herbert is very talented and if he plays, he could be in for a huge day against a UCLA defense that gives up 431 yards per game.
Oregon’s top running back is freshman CJ Verdell. The Chula Vista native has turned 115 carries into 600 yards (5.2 YPC) and four touchdowns so far this year. Do not be fooled by his 5’9” frame, as Verdell is a shifty and versatile running back. He’s also been tremendous as a receiver out of the backfield this season. He’s caught 13 passes for 149 yards (11.1 ypc). However, the last few weeks he’s struggled mightily. In back-to-back losses, he has rushed for a combined 69 yards on 18 carries and zero touchdowns, but he will be going up against a UCLA defense that’s giving up an average of 209.3 yards per game on the ground.
While Verdell is the Ducks’ primary back, expect freshman Travis Dye to also get some snaps. He’s carried the ball 69 times for 339 yards and two touchdowns so far this season.
Oregon has a three-headed monster at wide receiver and UCLA’s secondary will absolutely be tested throughout this one.
Junior Dillon Mitchell is Herbert’s favorite target, having already caught 48 passes for 677 yards and four touchdowns. The 6-foot-2 receiver is a deadly weapon in the open field, illustrated by Mitchell’s 14.1 yards per reception. Expect to see a heavy dosage of him in this game. Sophomore receiver Jaylon Redd is second on the Ducks with 22 catches for 271 yards but he does lead them in receiving touchdowns with five. His longest reception this season was a 48-yard touchdown. Tight end Jacob Breeland is also a big play threat. He’s caught 17 passes for 240 yards and two touchdowns with a long of 66 yards.
The Bruins’ defensive unit will be put to the test all game long by the Ducks, especially when you consider that the game will be played at Autzen Stadium in Eugene. The Ducks love to play fast and they’ll try to tire out the Bruin defense early. It is imperative that UCLA tries to stop the run game of Oregon or else they’ll be in for a long afternoon.