Top 25 teams: No. 14 Oregon Ducks


Published: Monday, July 6, 2009 at 11:45 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, July 1, 2009 at 6:11 p.m.

14. OREGON DUCKS

2008 record: 10-3

Returning starters offense/defense: 5/5

Strength: Led by running backs Jeremiah Johnson and former Taylor High star LeGarrette Blount, who both topped 1,000 yards, along with quarterback Jeremiah Masoli, the Ducks led the Pac-10 in total offense (484.85) and points per game (41.9) in 2008, setting school marks for touchdowns, total points and total offense. Masoli came on strong toward the end of last season, as both a passer and runner. With Johnson gone, Oregon will be relying more on Blount to carry the load on the ground. Chip Kelly, former offensive coordinator, takes over as head coach, replacing long-time coach Mike Bellotti, who moved up as athletic director. Despite the change at head coach and the loss of six starters, the Ducks’ offense should be potent once again.

Weakness: Oregon’s pass defense was horrible last season, ranking last in the Pac-10 in and 111th in the country, giving up an average of 270.2 yards per game. This despite having one of the best front lines in the conference, which registered a league-leading 40 sacks. The Ducks only have five starters back on defense, led by senior defensive end Will Tukuafu (17.5 tackles for loss in 2008). Any improvement in the secondary could help Oregon’s chances to compete for a league title.

Biggest star: Senior running back LeGarrette Blount ran for 1,002 yards in 2008, combing with Johnson to give the Ducks dual threats at running back. Now with Johnson gone, Blount will be counted on even more in his final season. At 6-2, 240 pounds, Blount is a punishing and elusive back, averaging 7.3 yards per carry last season and setting a school record for most rushing touchdowns in a season with 17.

Rising star: Junior quarterback Jeremiah Masoli emerged from a possible redshirt season in 2008 to start 10 games, passing for 1,744 yards and 13 touchdowns while rushing for 718 yards and 10 TDs. He capped off his first season as starter with offensive MVP honors in leading Oregon past Oklahoma State in the Holiday Bowl, passing for 258 yards and one touchdown while also running for 106 yards and three scores.

Toughest game: On Saturday, Oct. 31, Southern Cal comes to Eugene, Ore., to face the Ducks. The Trojans pounded Oregon 44-10 last season in Los Angeles, so the Ducks will be looking for revenge in this Pac-10 showdown that will feature two of the league’s best offenses.

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