Oregon fans will finally have their first look at the 2014 offense this Saturday. The No. 3-ranked Ducks will look to integrate new faces with hopes that they can knock some rust off before Michigan State comes to town on September 6. A lot of hype has surrounded freshman running back Royce Freeman, but he will have his hands full for him this weekend as he will make his collegiate debut.
Marcus Mariota is set to start his Heisman campaign and offensive coordinator Scott Frost has no idea when he will let his junior rest. Oregon is heavily favored in the season opener, but coaches won't speculate on how much of a lead is big enough to allow the starters to rest.
"Those decisions, when they do come up, are always made during the game. Obviously we hope that we have success on Saturday, if we do we will make that judgement then," Frost said post-practice on Wednesday.
The Coyotes will be looking to start four new faces in the secondary, which will match Oregon as they will also incorporate a bunch of new receivers. Duck fans should be excited for the potential of the receiving core as coaches have said numerous times this week that this is the best group of receivers Oregon has had since Frost started coaching the Ducks.
The Coyotes return a monster in defensive end Drew Iddings. A preseason Missouri Valley Football Conference pick, Iddings recorded 51 tackles and 2.5 sacks in 2013. Last season the Coyotes were among the worst in their conference when it came to stopping the run, they gave up 174.8 rushing yards a game. With Oregon having a three-headed monster at running back, expect a heavy dose of rushes Saturday night.
Linebacker Keyen Lage was voted as a team captain earlier this week. The junior did a little bit of everything last season, the outside linebacker had 67 tackles and 12 tackles-for-loss a year ago. One of the Coyotes best defensive players is senior Auston Johnson. The juco transfer is an old high school teammate of Oregon's starting cornerback, Ifo Ekpre-Olomu. Johnson and Lage will look to replace veteran Tyler Starr, the MVFC Defensive Player of the Year. Johnson had 69 tackles and 7 sacks for a productive junior season. The two will have their hands full Saturday night when they will be chasing Oregon running backs across the field for 60 minutes.
After losing their top two leaders in interceptions, the Coyotes young secondary will have one of the hardest tests of their lives Saturday night. Not only will the Coyotes be playing four new starters in the defensive backfield, they will be going against a quarterback who is positioned to break numerous Oregon passing records. Before the night is over Mariota could potentially be the career leader at Oregon for passing touchdowns. The junior quarterback has 63 passing touchdowns entering the weekend and the career mark is set by Darron Thomas at 66 touchdowns.
Who to Watch
If the Coyotes have any chance of shocking the world Saturday the defense will have to rely on Johnson and Lage. The duo at linebacker will have to make fast reads and attack the Duck's offense. If the defense waits for the play to come to them then expect the Oregon offense to score the usual 60-plus points Oregon fans have become accustomed to seeing against low level opponents.