No. 10 Oregon Ducks
Published: Wednesday, June 16, 2010 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, June 16, 2010 at 12:35 a.m.
Gatorsports counts down our Top 25 Preseason teams heading into the 2010 college football season.
No. 10 OREGON DUCKS
2009 record: 10-3, 8-1 in Pac-10 (1st); lost to Ohio State 26-17 in Rose Bowl
Returning starters: 9 on offense; 9 on defense
Strength: Running backs. The Ducks led the Pac-10 in scoring last year at 36.1 points per game, and with nine starters back, should be potent again this season. Sophomore running back LaMichael James returns after an outstanding freshman season (1,546 yards, 14 TDs) when he replaced suspended starter LeGarrette Blount the second week of last season. The Ducks also signed one of the top high school running backs in the nation in Lache Seastrunk, who should see action as a freshman. Senior center Jordan Holmes (6-foot-5, 285 pounds) and senior tackle Bo Thran (6-5, 293) anchor an experienced line, and senior wide receiver Jeff Maehl had a team-leading 53 catches last season for 696 yards and six TDs.
Weakness: With two-year starting quarterback Jeremiah Masoli kicked off the team after his second run-in with the law (both within six months), senior Nate Costa (6-1, 215) and sophomore Darren Thomas (6-3, 217) are expected to share time at quarterback. Costa has more experience but Thomas has the athletic ability as a runner and passer that coach Chip Kelly likes in his spread set. Unlike the last two years, there is no set starter at quarterback this season with the Ducks.
Biggest star: Just when it looked like Oregon was in trouble with Blount's suspension, James took the opportunity and ran with it, literally. He became the first Duck freshman to rush for more than 1,000 yards, and was named the Pac -10's Offensive Freshman of the Year. But James has also had his bout with the law, being arrested for domestic violence on his girlfriend. Kelly has suspended him for the season opener against New Mexico, but he is expected to play when Oregon visits Tennessee on Sept. 11.
Rising star: Seastrunk is not a big back (5-11, 190), but is explosive with the ball and a game-breaker that Kelly will love to slip in his offense. Reportedly, Seastrunk, of Temple, Texas, was set to commit to USC but then Pete Carroll left, and the door suddenly opened for Oregon.
Toughest game: When the Ducks visit Southern Cal on Oct. 30.