The moment you've all been waiting for. Don't worry, Justin Roper is still at #10. First, let me preface this with a short theory: if the Internet didn't exist, the 2009 Oregon Ducks would not be a Top-10 ranked team.
Of all the D-1 (I refuse to conform with that FBS bullshit) teams in college football, Oregon is the team of the future. We are at the forefront of college football exploration, from offensive schemes to uniforms to marketing. We make huge splashes nationwide in the form of billboards and diamond plating, and have PR'd our way into a place as a perennial conference threat. Most of all, our teams have a high propensity for making highlight-reel, replay-worthy plays, be in in the form of big hits, trick plays, more big hits, or sideline antics. Last season was a veritable gold mine for YouTube-worthy plays, as evidenced by 071903's recent post, which is chock full of amazingness. A side effect to the hype machine however, is that the team has to live up to the hype, and after rising to #2 in 2007, expectations are at the highest in Oregon history. We lost three important skill players, three starting offensive linemen, and a host of defensive players. Our highlight ability is what is keeping us so highly thought of in the national media. Anyway, on to the top 3...
1a. Jeremiah Masoli
1b. LeGarrette Blount
1c. TJ Ward
I'm lumping these three together. Sure, Masoli and Blount will touch the ball a little more than TJ Ward. Sure, we could survive a bad game from Blount if other things happen. But if we're going to have a BCS-caliber season, we need these three more than anyone to take their game to the next level. Let's start with TJ.
- last season's leading tackler, with 101 (64 solo)
- his only INT came @ Purdue last year. He also had 8 pass breakups, 2nd on the team
- forced four fumbles, including two against Cal
One thing is clear: TJ Ward can hit. He can hit people really hard. The shitty part about YouTube though, and my thesis for this FanPost, is that YouTube lets us vividly remember the really amazing things about Oregon football. You have to dig a little to find the bad stuff. I couldn't find an Oklahoma State Holiday Bowl compilation video, but our pass defense was shaky at best before Dez Bryant got hurt. TJ looked really bad against Boise State, but so did everybody else on our defense. TJ has never been strong as a cover DB, which is why he's now a safety. But he has to be able to do a better job of picking up the deep threats and locking them down. Case in point, about 40-50 seconds in to the Boise State video, as well as numerous instances from the spring game where he flat out lost his recievers in coverage. Granted, that was Jamere Holland at least a couple of those times, and he's real real fast. Still. Opposing teams know TJ's gonna whap you if you come over the middle, so they can and will go challenge him deep, and this will start with Boise State on September 3rd. For the Ducks to be successful, he needs to expand his scope of dominant territory. If TJ's on his game, it lets the rover do his job, it takes pressure off the corners, and it gives the front 7 more opportunities to make big plays in the pass rush. In short, he's important.
- 1002 yards rushing (7.3 yards per carry)
- 4 100+ yard games, and three more of 90+, with a high of 132 against Utah St.
- Oregon record 17 rushing touchdowns, including 3 against WSU, and 2 in five other games
- 9.3 YPC in Oregon's wins, 3.1 YPC in Oregon's losses
Well shoot, if this guy isn't just a YouTube superstar. The Oregon Duck fan's infatuation with LeGarrette Blount extends back to last year's spring practices. We had just lost Jonathan Stewart to the NFL Draft, and we thought it would be tough, nay impossible, to replace a future every-down NFL running back. In walks this JC transfer from the South, and wows everybody at the '08 spring game with his raw power. Naturally it came to no one's surprise when he started running people over last season. Blount as the feature back however, draws a few concerns from me. It's not fair to compare him to J-Stew, but J-Stew had the balanced package. He could run inside and out. He knew when to try and cut it back and when to just lower his head and go through people. He had, and still has in the pros, unbelievable field vision, and could find holes better than anyone I've seen. Blount still doesn't have the outside running or the decision making necessary to stake a claim as a potential first-round draft pick and otherworldly Pac-10 running back. Concerns about his conditioning and his off-field issues have to be considered, but my main issue with Blount is his potential to become one-dimensional. Teams with good LB corps have been able to neutralize him (see USC and Cal). He has proven to be relatively easy to string out on outside runs, and this concern grows as our offensive line's health depletes. Do I think Blount will have a great year? Emphatically yes. But let's not start the Blount for Heisman campaign just yet.
- 136-239 for 1744 yards, 13-5 TD-INT ratio
- 718 rushing yards (5.7 YPC) with 10 TDs
- changed his number to 8, after Takimoto wore it in the band Civil War
- finished 2008 strong, going 50-75 for 830 yards and 6 TDs in his final 3 games.
He's 1a not only because he's the quarterback, but because of three, he's the one I'm most confident about. Yes, Masoli's passing skills come with a very low sample size. He also has a great reputation as a thrower extending back to his time at CCSF, and has only improved in all facets of his game as his knowledge of the offense has grown. He looked crisp in the spring game, hooking up with Aaron Pflugrad especially well. The strong showing by the recievers can only serve to benefit Masoli, who has got to be excited about throwing to new guys like Tunei and eventually Tyrece Gaines and Diante Jackson, as well as the returning wideouts. He's proven he can win games with his arm. He can win games with just his legs. He can take a hit, and he can dish them out. There are concerns, like his fondness for throwing rockets when he could put touch on his throws. But with a summer to throw, as well as fall practice to work with new QB coach Helfrich, he can only get better. He also has intangibles. He has unwavering confidence, as evidenced by his comments after the USC game last year. The thing I like most is the "it". You don't know what it is until you see someone who has it. Michael Jordan had it. Joe Montana had it. It's that competitive fire, that extra level of in-the-moment will that makes good players great, and great players unforgettable. Masoli has it. He thrives on big games, he knows how to win any way he can, and he's not afraid to jump into the trenches and get the W. He has that swaggar that his teammates can feed off of in game situations. And he's the most important Duck for 2009.