This Saturday, the Oregon Ducks open their 2015 campaign against Eastern Washington, one of the top teams in the FCS. Make no mistake, this ain't no cupcake game. The Eagles had one of the best offenses in the FCS last year, eventually reaching the quarterfinals of the FCS playoffs.
However, nearly 65 percent of Eastern Washington's offense last season came through the air, courtesy of Vernon Adams. On Saturday, Adams will face his former squad in what is shaping up to be one of the more anticipated season openers in recent years, despite Eastern Washington's FCS status.
So how does Eastern Washington's offense shape up heading into this matchup? Let's take a look.
Obviously, the big storyline on Saturday will be Vernon Adams suiting up against his former team. If Eastern Washington still had Adams in 2015, I'd say that the game would have a much higher chance of being more competitive. Instead, Adams is with the Ducks, which leaves some question marks at the position for the Eagles.
Stepping into Adams' shoes will be Jordan West, a junior from Maple Valley, Wash. Last season, West appeared in seven games, completing 60.6 percent of his passes for 1,072 yards with nine touchdowns and one interception. While Adams was out injured, West led the Eagles to three wins in his four starts.
In three spring scrimmages this year, West completed 61 percent of his passes for 258 yards. In Eastern Washington's spring game, West completed 10-of-12 passes for 112 yards.
West is no Vernon Adams, but he at least has experience as a starter from last season as the Eagles try to fill an unexpected hole at the quarterback position.
In addition to losing Adams, the Eagles will also need to replace their top two running backs from last season. Quincy Forte and Mario Brown, who combined for nearly 1500 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns in 2014, are both gone.
Jalen Moore is the top returning rusher for Eastern Washington heading into the 2015 season. Last year, Moore had 81 carries for 378 yards and five touchdowns. Moore stepped in for an injured Quincy Forte, rushing for 230 yards and three touchdowns in two games.
Also returning in the backfield is Jabari Wilson, who ran for a career-high 132 yards on 24 carries with three touchdowns against Portland State on November 21 while Forte was injured.
The brightest spot on Eastern Washington's offense is without a doubt Cooper Kupp. Last year, Kupp had 104 catches for 1431 yards and 16 touchdowns. Kupp is only a junior and already ranks sixth in team history in receptions (197). Kupp is one of the most experienced returning starters on offense for the Eagles with 28 starts under his belt.
The Eagles also return Kendrick Bourne, who had 52 catches for 814 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2014, earning honorable mention All-Big Sky honors. In three spring scrimmages this year, Bourne caught eight passes for 104 yards.
Also at the receiver position is Shaq Hill, who is also a threat on special teams. Last season, Hill was named the Big Sky Conference Special Teams Player of the Week after returning a kick 90 yards for a touchdown, helping the Eagles clinch the conference title in their win over Portland State.
X-Factor: Cooper Kupp
Kupp is without a doubt the most talented weapon the Eagles have on offense. With a lot of receivers, you could say that the quarterback makes a tremendous difference in the stats. While that is still true, Kupp will be just as dangerous, even without Vernon Adams. The Ducks aren't quite as strong in the secondary as they are up front, so you can bet Kupp and the Eagles will be looking to exploit that.