Oregon football is at it’s absolute historical apex right now. Chip Kelly joined the Oregon staff as Offensive Coordinator in 2007. The Ducks won 9 games that season, won 10 in ’08 and ‘09, and with Kelly promoted to Head Coach, won 12 the two seasons after that. Last season the Ducks shook the BCS bowl monkey off their back with their 45-38 win over Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl.

Phil Knight continues to pump the program full of money and Nikeness, meaning Oregon now has the best facilities, and coolest uniforms in the country to go along with arguably the best stadium and most innovative coach. In other words, the Ducks are killing it right now.


Oregon is all about offense, but this year, the Ducks have some of their best returning players on the other side of the ball.  Safety John Boyett and Linebacker Michael Clay are the #1 and #2 leading returning tacklers in the Pac-12, and Boyett is probably the best free safety in the conference. Considering that Chip Kelly’s quick strike offense leaves the Ducks D on the field a pac-12 worst 35 minutes per game, Oregon fans should be excited to know this year’s D should be Kelly’s best ever.

On offense, the departure of 2nd round pick LaMichael James simply paves the way for Kenjon Barner and De’Anthony Thomas to finally get the carries they would have been getting for years at pretty much any other University.

Last season Barner rushed for nearly 1,000 yards as LaMichael’s backup, averaging an absurd 6.2 ypc. Thomas saw only 55 carries behind the other two stars but he made the most of them, gaining 608 yards. That’s a 10.8 yard average!

ROSTER CHANGES: QB Darren Thomas made the single most perplexing move of the football offseason when he declared for the NFL Draft as a Junior, in spite of a total lack of interest from NFL teams. Thomas was undrafted and has not impressed in his tryouts with NFL clubs. His future remains very uncertain.

Reports now out of Oregon, have unnamed sources saying that part of Thomas’ decision to leave the Ducks was based on a legitimate fear that he would not even be named Oregon’s starter in 2012. Bryan Bennett played some significant snaps last season while Thomas was injured and threw 6 TDs without being intercepted. The offense looked great with Bennet at the helm, and under Chip Kelly’s meritocracy, many Oregon insiders suspected that he could beat Thomas out during the offseason.

Now,of course, we know that Bennett wasn’t Thomas’ only competition. Oregon’s starter this year won’t be Thomas or Bennett, but Marcus Mariota. The redshirt freshman from Hawai’i was the breakout star of Oregon’s spring game and (as you would expect of an Oregon QB) is a true dual threat who appears to be as accurate as Thomas and runs at 4.48  40 speed.

Chip Kelly rolled the dice with Darron Thomas as a freshman three years ago and started him over the more experienced Nate Costa. That worked out pretty well. This year, Oregon fans hope their newest frosh QB can produce similar results.


The Ducks have a tough slate of 5 Pac-12 away games including a trip to USC, but they get their toughest two division games (Stanford and Washington) at home. The non-conference is (cough!) manageable with home games against Arkansas State, Fresno and a school calling itself Tennessee Tech.

PROSPECTS: With Thomas and James departing, the Ducks lose the most successful starting backfield in school history…and will start this season in ranked in the AP top 5?  Wait. What?

It seems absurd, but if you watch Oregon football, you can’t be surprised. Last season against Arizona State (one of the Pac’s better defenses), both James and Thomas left the game with injury and Oregon simply plugged in Bennett and Barner in the backfield. By the mid-3rd quarter the Ducks’ backups looked up at the scoreboard and saw they were beating the Devils 45-0.

Chip Kelly has a phenomenal scheme and does an outstanding job preparing his players to execute it. And now that he’s had success, it’s as though he has a private luxury bullet train to Texas running three loads per day of the fastest recruits in America direct to Eugene.  (Somewhere, Phil Knight is rubbing his beard and thinking, “hmmmmm….bullet train you say?”)

USC is peaking this season and the Ducks are (sorta) rebuilding making it likely that the Ducks will face the Trojans on the road twice this year, but they will be favored in their other 11 games, and should go to a BCS Bowl for the third consecutive season.