Column: My Wild Expectations for The 2017 Spring Game

Saturday, April, 29th // Eugene, OR // 11:00am // By @WildKingdumb

Are ya’ll going to talk about a PRACTICE?!  Yes.

Are you going to talk about Oregon Football leaving ‘Win The Day’ for ‘Do Something’?  No.

Now Spring Games are great for the starving football fan lost in the wilderness, or a dessert or… whatever analogy you want to use.  Its football, we love it and want to think about it.  But this is the time of year when we hyper focus on the 40 plays of a single practice until the season starts. Though that over analysis might be tempered this year by Coach Willie Taggart’s open practices.  With more reporters and eyes on practice those wild stories about how Royce Freeman bench-pressed a pickup truck will be curbed.  Though I doubt it.  I mean, I’ve seen Royce pick up a truck, but I will save that story for another post. 

To understand where we are now, we need to see where we’ve been.  And because I know you all forgot the Ducks finished last year 4-8 and 2-7 in PAC-12 play.  Three of the Ducks losses were by less than one score, that’s good right?  In those three close losses the Duck offense scored an average of 39.5 points.  I mean, that’s pretty dang good for the offensive side of the ball.  But the problem is that Oregon got absolutely housed on the defensive side of the ball allowing more than 27 points in EVERY game last year and gave up on average 518 yards per game.  ((Throws up all over myself)) Ok, I’m back.  But if someone is out there telling you that, “once the ‘D’ is fixed we are gon’ get us dat Natty” they didn’t actually watch the Ducks play last year. 

Oregon DID have a complete breakdown on the defensive side of the ball we all know it and we don’t need to talk about it anymore today but, in my humble and caffeine filled opinion, two other areas greatly hurt the team last year: The Injury to Tyrell Crosby (and really all the Offensive and Defensive line injuries) and Horrific Special Teams.

Ok, so I am not some unbiased media member, mainly because I am not a media member and Crosby is one of the coolest dudes west of the Mississippi.   But the loss of Crosby threw Oregon’s run game in disarray.  The cornerstone of the teams identity *is* the run game, this allows the offense to hurry up, it allows for play action and initiates the defensive confusion for big plays down field.  The pass protection for Oregon was not reliable week to week, and with a freshman quarterback we saw the results.  Not to throw the rest of the offensive line under the bus ((a bus I once saw Royce Freeman pick up)) but Crosby has NFL level talent and the void that was created by his loss had the entire group playing out of position.  If Tyrell was healthy last year, despite the poor play on D, this Oregon offense that averages 491 yards per game would have been even more prolific and stayed on the field much longer. 

I know that Special Teams isn’t all-together sexy, but when your Special Teams are good it can make your Ford Focus feel like a Ford Mustang ((I don’t know if this is a good analogy, I don’t know anything about cars and drive a Nissan Leaf… don’t tweet at me)).  The point is we gave up horrible field position all year with Oregon punts averaging 37.8 yards.  It felt like every possession for our opponents started on the 40 yard line. 

On the flip side we only took back one kick back for a score.   Only one.   There was nothing special about this unit last year, but when you look at the talent on the field it’s absolutely unexplainable.  Aidan Schneider only attempted 12 field goals ALL YEAR.  He was 75% on those kicks, so for the Beaver fans reading this he made 11 kicks.  ((Don’t help them.))  The Ducks gave up horrific field position to opposing teams all year, couldn’t get good field position ourselves and didn’t “take the points” enough with field goals.  Could we have won a couple more games if Special Teams were better last year, YES.  Would it have fixed the real issues of this team, HELL NO.   

I thought you were gonna talk about practice? 

Shut up, this is my post. 

Ok, now on to talking about practice.


Here are my four areas of interest going into the summer:

Arms Race – Will Herbert show the leadership that Coach Taggart is looking for?  Will Travis Jonsen and Terry Wilson make an impression?  Can Braxton Burmeister upset the depth chart?  Will Chad Kennedy be a breakout star? ((You are hopefully Googling Chad Kennedy right now and realizing he isn’t a real player for the Ducks.))  The point is this, it’s a spring practice.  Don’t over value the big plays, don’t stress about missed tackles and for the love of all that is holy don’t mention the word Rhabdomyolysis.  For me a Spring Game needs to be viewed through the lens of are the players; playing hard, and staying healthy.  Under this new coaching staff I have a feeling the product on the field will feel like a brand new squad.

Defensive Identity – Who will Oregon be on defense?  Under Coach Nick Allioti the Duck defense didn’t worry about how many yards they gave up but instead how many turnovers they forced.  Under Coach Brady Hoke it was hard to see anything other than a 3-4 defense disguised as a tire fire.  Will new defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt return to a 4-3?  Will the Ducks get pressure without blitzing?  Will Pepsi be put straight into the veins of Coach Leavitt?  I vote yes on all three.  Keep an eye on the coaching staff during the game in what draws both positive and negative responses from them.  Energy and strength were sorely missed last year especially in the trenches and I think the new coaching staff and freshman like Jordan Scott will not allow a repeat performance of 2016. 

Breakout Star – Who will make a big jump from 2016 to 2017?  Which new Duckling in Eugene will make his impact felt as a freshman?  I absolutely love all of our running backs and Tony Brooks-James will be giving the Pac-12 defensive coordinators nightmares with a healthy offensive line to run behind.  Keep your eyes on Freshman Darrian McNeal as a WR and kick returner.  Can he ease the burden on Charles Nelson in the return game?  Provide a deep threat to open up passing routes for a talented receiving squad?  Can the young Oregon corners come together and make a difference in the passing game this year with Freshman Thomas Graham Jr.?  These questions won’t get answered on Saturday, and any reporter that tells you they will be answered most likely hadn’t been to more than three Ducks games last year. 

Breakout Year for Dye – Here is hawt take for you: Troy Dye will be the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year.  I’m not sure if that’s a real award, and if it isn’t we will get some papier-mâché and make a trophy.  The point is that Dye was a beast when healthy and if he can stay on the field he will be a difference maker.  As a Sophomore I hope to see him emerge as a leader and tone setter for a squad that dealt with injury after injury in 2016.   I hope to see more on field leadership and this Spring Game will be the first chance to see a glimpse of that.

That’s all I got for right now.  Make sure to check us out all season posting our fan-centric opinions and views on the Oregon Ducks, but also make sure to read and follow online “real” reporting as well.  Good reporters help bring light and truth to a topic, and help all of us form valid opinions.  Avoid clickbait and don’t give “bad reporters” an audience.  

Ok, so this one time I saw Royce Freeman pick up a truck… Hello?  Did you just leave?  Dammit. 

So now it’s time to sit back and enjoy watching a conference mandated televised practice.  I mean… THE 2017 OREGON DUCKS SPRING GAME!


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