The upcoming season is a tough one to gauge. On one hand, hard to call it anything other than a rebuilding year – 3 coaches in 3 seasons will do that.
On the other hand, we’ve got a few things going for us. A defense on the upswing. A QB with (maybe) NFL potential. A surprisingly high amount of existing coaches sticking with Oregon after the WT Affair. Plenty of positive signs on the recruiting trail, and current players that seem to be buying in to the Cristobal experience - these coaches seem to Get It on the leadership front, in a way that Helfrich & Co didn’t (nice guy though).
The conventional wisdom we keep hearing right now is “We should win at least 8 games against this schedule”, but to me that sounds suspiciously like 2016’s “At least he defense can’t get any worse, right?”.
Mark my words, as things stand now it looks like we’re fully capable of losing to any Pac-12 team on our schedule (this year’s nonconference slate is a different story). We’ll be favored in many games and we’ll win some, sure, but the potential’s there for either side of 8 wins.
So rather than trying to evaluate by W-L – that’ll come later this summer - right now I’ve got some other maybe more subjective goals.
Here are my 3 for this year:
1. Development of backup QBs
Obviously this has been brutal the past few seasons, thus my expectations are tempered. When Herbert inevitably misses time with injury, I just want a functional game manager – a point guard, if you will. Complete some passes, keep the opposing D honest, and I’m good. If we see occasional flashes of more potential all the better.
If Burmeister winds up being this guy it’d be a great redemption arc, but the job’s 100% open.
2. A Front Seven That Will Sack Your Ass
After several years of utter defensive depravity, we were quick to dub Leavitt a miracle-worker for raising us to the comparative height of “serviceable”. But one season’s a pretty small sample size – you can’t say continued improvement is guaranteed. So I’m looking for at least “pretty good”. Two years trending up is a positive sign that Leavitt’s the guy, assuming he sticks around.
One of the things that got us to “serviceable” was defensive players in the right place at the right time more often than not – players out of position were probably the most infuriating thing about the Pellum-Hoke years (a strong runner-up being tackling, which also improved).
Building on that, I want to see a fast & aggressive front seven every single game. If they sometimes overpursue & get beat (a recent USF visitor said that was a weakness of Leavitt defenses), so be it. But I want opposing QBs to hear footsteps & show it.
3. A Competitive Fuskies Game
Pains me to include this and not have it read “Beat The Fuskies”, but not sure we’re there yet. If we can keep it a one-possession game into the 4th quarter that will be acceptable to me. The last two games were….. not good. It’s remarkable how dramatically the scales flipped in this rivalry.
Home field didn’t help us whatsoever last time, then again we were in utter disarray in every facet in 2016. Like the defense, all I want is to trend upward. And who knows, maybe it’s winnable after all – again, tough season to gauge.
What about you – what are your 3 Ducks goals for the 2018 season?