With Pac-10 media day now in the books, it's time to start looking toward training camp and the actual 2010 season, which will likely be one of the more wide-open races in the recent history of the conference. We certainly know a lot of the ins-and-outs of the USC roster, but how much do we know about our Pac-10 counterparts? To shore up any gaps in our knowledge, we'll be running a 9-part interview series with many of the best team-specific Pac-10 blogs on the web. For part two, here's a Q&A with Jared Light of SB Nation's Addicted To Quack for some info on the Oregon Ducks:
Q: Since I'm an LA guy, I want to know; which divorce has been nastier: Jeremiah Masoli/Chip Kelly or Reggie Bush/USC?
A: Bush/USC by far. Masoli made some incredibly dumb decisions, but also didn't do anything that actually took away from previous seasons. Unlike the Bush scandal, other teams can't accuse Oregon of cheating during the season.
I think that a lot of Duck fans are saddened by the whole Masoli story, and wish him success in his future endeavors. It's not often that someone's life can fall apart that quickly, and a lot of Duck fans want to see him be able to put his life back together, but just away from Oregon. There are obviously some Duck fans that are bitter, but I think those fans are in the minority.
Q: With Masoli gone, and LaMichael James to be suspended for the opener against New Mexico, do you anticipate the offense to be just as explosive in 2010 as it was in 2009. In other words, are you guys really going to put 47 points up on the scoreboard against our Trojans again?
A: The offense will not be as explosive in 2010, and I doubt they'll put up 47 on USC again (though really, the 613 yards was more impressive). But that may not be a bad thing. Though Oregon was very explosive last year, they had a lot of issues with consistency. They would be brilliant at times, and fall apart at others. USC saw one of Oregon's only complete games offensively (Cal would be the other). For almost two quarters, Oregon could not move the ball against Arizona, and had similar problems against OSU, which almost cost them both games. three and outs for the offense have been a real problem for Oregon the last two seasons.
This year, Oregon should be improved in the passing game, as either Nate Costa or Darron Thomas should be an improvement in the passing game. Masoli was simply too inconsistent, and that showed, especially in the Rose Bowl. While Costa or Thomas won't be the home run threat Masoli was on the ground, I am hopeful that both can make up for that by keeping the defense more honest in the passing game, which will hopefully lead to more sustained drives.
Q: Last year, UO didn't really seem to have a #1 wide receiver step up on take command. Jeff Maehl was the leading receiver, but for how effective the offense was, it didn't seem as if Masoli had a "guy." Does that change at all this year?
A: Most likely not, but we may see someone step up if the passing game improves. I'm really excited to see what D.J. Davis and Lavasier Tuinei can do. Both have the potential to be downfield threats, and I'm hoping that either QB will be able to exploit that.
However, I still don't see a "guy" developing. None of the receivers seem to be dominant that they will be a focal point in the offense. So the ball will be spread around to everyone, rather than one player dominating the touches.
Q: There's been a lot of talk this offseason about how this could be the best Oregon defense in a while. Is that just preseason hype or is there any truth in that assertion?
A: I think there's plenty of truth to that assertion. Oregon was the top defense in the Pac-10 last season according to metrics that measure by play, which is very important when looking at Oregon due to the number of plays they run per game.
Oregon has one of its most athletic and talented linebacker units in school history, which gives defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti a freedom and creativity he hasn't had since the 1994 season. They also have a lot of experience and talent in the secondary, which was able to withstand injuries to Walter Thurmond and T.J. Ward last season. On the line, they have few dominant players, but also no one that will get pushed around.
The unit really works together well, and that's borne out in last years numbers. With the added experience, Duck fans expect a lot this season.
Q: With all the offseason trouble, many 'SC fans have taken to referring to Eugene as Gainseville East. Do you anticipate any of the off the field distractions playing a role when the season comes around?
A: There's always that possibility, but we don't expect that. Let's not forget that last season, many were writing off Oregon's season after LeGarrette Blount's punch in Boise. But, the team fought through the adversity and channeled that to win a Pac-10 title.
If anything, I think the combination of the Rose Bowl loss and the offseason issues have helped the team come together and given them resolve to attain their goals this season. That may not happen, but I don't think the offseason issues (outside of personnel loss) will affect the team in a negative way.
Q: Last year, Oregon won the Pac-10 and ended up celebrating New Year's in Pasadena. What are the chances the Ducks up in the Granddaddy this year as well?
A: I'd say they are very good, especially since USC isn't eligible to go. Oregon returns a ridiculous amount of talent from a Pac-10 winning team. They return their entire offensive line, lose only 2 players off the entire offensive two deep (that's including Masoli), have the best RB unit in the Pac-10. Should they get even adequate QB play, they will compete for the conference title. If they can develop a downfield passing game, watch out.
For Duck fans, it's an odd feeling having most of the question marks on the offensive side of the ball. But Chip Kelly has been able to churn out great offenses with ease, helps give us quite a bit of confidence going into the season.
The Pac-10 will be very tough this year, but despite the loss of Masoli, Oregon is rightly the favorite to head to Pasadena.