Heading into this season, the running back situation is just about the best it could be, but I'm most excited about the quarterback situation.
Darron Thomas has been under Chip Kelly for 3 full years, and has a full year of game experience under his belt. The last time the Ducks had this type of experience and stability coming back, Kellen Clemens was starting the 2005 season. This alone would be reason for optimism, but Darron's performance last year has raised the bar very high.
Last year, he was 2nd in the conference and 17th in the country in passing efficiency. While Thomas was overshadowed by LaMichael James, Thomas was able to take the Oregon offense to the next level last season. Under Jeremiah Masoli, the Ducks offense could be spectacular, but could also sputter to a halt due to inconsistent execution. Thomas' ability to read through progressions and throw with accuracy downfield completely changed the Oregon offense. Three and outs became very infrequent and Oregon used this offensive consistency to wear opponents out, even if they were not able to score on drives.
Thomas is now a year older, with an entire offseason as the unquestioned leader of the Oregon offense. Before the 2010 season, surgery forced him to miss winter conditioning, and he then battled Nate Costa for the quarterback job. This year, he became stronger and faster over the winter, and led the team through offseason conditioning.
Despite all the praises, Darron has struggled with accuracy at times. To make the jump from very good to great quarterback, he'll need to improve his consistency, especially down the field and in the seam.
Darron has the physical and mental tools to be one of the top QBs in the nation. He blew away all expectations last year, and I expect Darron to improve significantly from last season.
Backing up Darron, the Ducks look to be in great shape as well. Redshirt Freshman Bryan Bennett has all the tools to be a star when he takes over the offense. As with most young QBs, he's struggled with consistency, but Duck fans should feel reassured with him behind Darron.
It should be an exciting year at the QB position. With new faces along the offensive line and and an untested group of receivers, Thomas will be under a lot of pressure. But I think that he's more than up for the challenge, and will continue to improve and excel, and hopefully lead the Ducks to another BCS game.