We’re almost there Duck fans! The opener against Auburn is just around the corner, and while the preseason hype has begun to snowball there is still much to learn about this Oregon team.
Here are five questions for those that haven’t kept up with the Ducks:
1. Who is your most important player on offense this season?
Most would assume that senior QB Justin Herbert would be named as the most important offensive player with good reason. He’s the point guard of the offense; he makes things go and is a future top draft pick. I’m going in a different direction, however. My choice would be the winner of the right guard battle between Dallas Warmack and Brady Aiello. The offensive line is largely set outside of the right guard spot and a team is only as good as the weakest link on the line. Why the right guard? The line is chock full of All-Americans and All-Pac-12 contenders along with multiple future draft picks. Dallas Warmack was the lowest graded Ducks offensive lineman according to Pro Football Focus. He was injured for most of last season as well. Brady Aiello is untested due to being blocked by a much more talented player in Calvin Throckmorton. Honorable mention goes to left tackle Penei Sewell because Ducks fans know how important he is to the offense. He showed glimpses of being a franchise left tackle before he got injured last season. The offensive line play curtailed dramatically after his injury forced him out after just seven games.
2. Who is your most important player on defense this season?
The selection here is inside linebacker Troy Dye. The 2019 season is a resumption of his command of the defense. He’s been the steady rock in the linebacker room while the other inside linebacker spot next to him has been a constant churn due to injury or ineffective play. Naturally as an inside linebacker, he’s the field general of the defense. He has plenty to play for even as a senior, his draft stock is not assured due to physical limitations. New defensive coordinator Andy Avalos has a history of churning out standout linebackers for the next level so Dye is just a natural progression of that, one would hope.
Dye has been battle tested for three years so he’s seen just about everything opposing PAC-12 offenses have to offer. The other defensive assets may have changed but Dye was a constant in a swirl of defensive upheaval. A big senior season will really help his draft chances.
3. What should be the biggest change between last year and this year?
The biggest change is the defensive scheme under new defensive coordinator Andy Avalos. The three years prior, the Ducks ran a base 3-4 with very little adaptability. Avalos has stated that he doesn’t want to have a specific base defense but wants to be multiple. I would expect some base 3-4 looks while some switching between 3-3-5, 1-5-5, and 4-2-5 looks for certain situations. Avalos has produced quality defensive prospects with Boise State level resources so that trend should continue with better resources at his disposal at Oregon. The elements of an even greater pass defense are there regardless of the loss of key defensive prospects to the 2019 draft.
4. What is the most important game on this schedule, and why?
Some would say the season opener against Auburn, but my answer is the Washington game as it would more than likely determine the North division winner. Provided that the Ducks don’t trip on any other landmines in the division (i.e Stanford and Washington State), this game should determine a lot of things, including a possible playoff berth. It most definitely will determine a lot of recruiting decisions as well.
5. What is your prediction for W/L record and postseason destination?
9-3 with losses to Auburn, Washington, and USC. Auburn has too fearsome of a defensive front for the much ballyhooed Oregon OL to compete with over the course of a game. Beating Washington in Seattle is a tough ask for a team that has shown little evidence of getting over its road game issues. USC, while not USC of yesteryear, still has the talent and offensive firepower to make things interesting.
I have the Ducks going to San Antonio once more to play in the Valero Alamo Bowl; Let’s pray they don’t meet TCU there!