KNOW YOUR ENEMY: Previewing the Oregon Offense

Steve Dykes

This is gonna be so bad.


We're gonna get smoked.

2012 THUS FAR: 9-0 (6-0 in PAC-12)

Week 1: Won vs Arkansas State (57-34)

Week 2: Won vs Fresno State (42-25)

Week 3: Won vs Tennessee Tech (63-14)

Week 4: Won vs Arizona (49-0)

Week 5: Won @ Washington State (51-26)

Week 6: Won vs Washington (52-21)

Week 7: Won @ Arizona State (43-21)

Week 8: Won @ Colorado (70-14)

Week 9: Won @ USC (62-51)

2012 OFFENSIVE STATS

Passing: 220.0 Yards/Game (76th)

Rushing: 341.2 Yards/Game (2nd)

Scoring: 54.3 Points/Game (1st)

QB

STARTER: Marcus Mariota, Freshman (RS) - 6'4, 211 lbs

The ill-advised early departure of Darron Thomas to test the NFL Draft waters (oops) created a battle for the starting quarterback spot between sophomore Bryan Bennett and redshirt frosh Marcus Mariota that saw Mariota get the nod just a week before the start of the season. It's looking like Chipper made the right call. Lightly recruited out of high school, Mariota has made the most of his opportunity and is looking like a tremendous fit in this offense. He's leading the conference in Passer Rating (168.53) and completion percentage (70.5%). That accuracy isn't due to some dink and dunk offense either; Mariota is third in the conference with a healthy 8.2 yards per attempt. Thus far on the season, he has passed for 1787 yards, 22 touchdowns and 5 interceptions. And since this is Oregon, he runs a lot too: 72 rushes for 474 yards and another 3 touchdowns. That's a healthy 6.58 yards per carry. Mariota has even caught a touchdown too. I see serious shades of Colin Kaepernick when I watch Mariota in this offense. He's tall, lanky and fast. And it makes me scared. Of course, he does suffer from the occasional brainfart as a redshirt frosh would. Fumbled snaps, ball security issues, and a bad throw or two have arisen at times, but it hardly puts a damper on what he has been able to do. Many expected this to be a transition year for Oregon due to a perceived weakness at the quarterback position. Not the case. Not one bit.

UPSIDE: Size, speed, accuracy...Zone Readiness

DOWNSIDE: Ball security

WHAT TO EXPECT:

Yards and scores. We haven't had much success defending mobile quarterbacks this season, and Mariota is a good one. My guess is that we'll use Josh Hill to spy him, and hopefully that we can either keep Mariota in the pocket or make contact with him before he can get to the second level of the defense when he tucks and runs. That could work for a while. But we will not be able to keep this offense bottled up. They are very adept at preying on a defense's weakness, and we have several. Their high tempo and run-heavy attack also keep defenses on their heels and tired. It's hard to attack when you're moving backwards. And Mariota has been very good when it comes to making the right reads. This could be bad.

RB

STARTER: Kenjon Barner, Senior - 5'11, 192 lbs

The Michael hasn't been missed much. Kenjon Barner is leading the conference in rushing and is top 5 nationally in just about every rushing category that matters. After a banner day in the Coliseum last week where he went for 321 yards and 5 touchdowns on 38 carries, Barner has 1295 yards and 19 touchdowns on the year...averaging an impressive 7.23 yards per carry. Questions about Barner's durability seem to have been answered this season, as he's shown an ability to run inside for the hard yards and carry a heavier workload while still possessing that breakaway speed and quickness that all of these little Oregon backs are so known for. Speaking of little backs and quickness, there is one other dude worth mentioning here. I'll discuss DAT in this space, even though he will frequently line up out wide. In fact, he's the Ducks' leading receiver with 29 catches for 277 yards and 4 touchdowns. But he's listed as a running back, and has 61 rushes for 508 yards and 7 touchdowns on the year. That's 8.33 yards per carry, in case you were wondering. While very slight in stature, he's big on speed and agility...capable of making DB's look like defensive linemen in the open field. A truly absurd talent. There's a high likelihood that we'll also see true frosh Byron Marshall this Saturday...probably in the third quarter or so if this game plays out how I expect it to. Marshall has rushed for 371 yards and 3 touchdowns on 71 carries in mostly mop-up duty this season. He's bigger than Barner and Thomas and plenty fast, but more of a straight-ahead runner than those two.

UPSIDE: That would be just about everything.

DOWNSIDE: Size?

WHAT TO EXPECT:

It will take a truly inspired effort to hold this stable of backs in check. One that I don't think we have in us. We're dinged up in the front 7, and our open field tackling has been lackluster this season. Those things make a poor recipe for success in defending this running game. They're shifty, fast, athletic, and as a team Oregon is fully committed to wearing a defense down until it tires and they can exploit a mistake. If we had an offense capable of sustaining drives and keeping our defense off the field, I would be more hopeful about our chances here. As it stands, I'm not. This could be real bad.


WR

STARTERS:

Josh Huff, Junior - 5'11, 205 lbs

Daryle Hawkins, Sophomore - 5'9, 181 lbs

Bralon Addison, Freshman - 5'10, 189 lbs

To the best of my knowledge, Huff, Hawkins and Lowe will be the starters this week. Thing is, the Ducks will rotate in anywhere between 6 and 30 different wide receivers during the course of a game. On the season, 11 different wide receivers have caught a pass, and no one guy has truly emerged as a the primary threat in the passing game. Junior Josh Huff (15 catches for 246 yards, 4 TD's) was expected to be that guy, but a knee injury that sidelined him for a couple games early in the season set that back a bit. As of last week, it's looking like he's returned to form though. He caught 6 balls for 125 yards and 2 touchdowns against the Trojans. Junior Daryle Hawkins (16 receptions for 169 yards, 3 TD's)will likely man the slot. Two of his three touchdowns on the season have come in the last two games. Sophomore Keanon Lowe (15 receptions for 173 yards, 2 TD's) will likely be lined up out wide opposite Huff. Lowe is shifty, and also used occasionally on punt returns. In addition to these three guys, expect to see true frosh stud Bralon Addison (19 for 226, 3 TD's), and about 5 other guys in rotation. Thanks for a terrific run game and a healthy amount of athleticism in the receiving corps, Oregon averages an impressive 11.51 yards per catch as a group.

UPSIDE: Ability to get open, speed, system

DOWNSIDE: Under-utilized due to the nature of the offense

WHAT TO EXPECT:

Possibly the one area where I feel a little better about how our defense could stack up. The problem is that a defense that commits to stopping the run inevitably leaves holes in the secondary that the Duck receivers are adept at finding. They're also fast enough as a group to exploit a secondary that bites hard on a run fake. We haven't been a real disciplined group defensively, and while we may have the athletes to hang with the Duck receivers, we haven't demonstrated the mental fortitude necessary to avoid mistakes and big plays. I think any lack of big numbers out of this group will just mean that the Ducks didn't have to pass much to score. Sweet?

TE

STARTER: Colt Lyerla, Sophomore - 6'5, 246 lbs

Incumbent David Paulson is gone, but he's been replaced with a T1000 sent by Skynet from the future to eradicate opposing defenses. It goes by the name of Colt Lyerla. As you would expect of a machine composed of liquid metal, Lyerla is big, powerful and fast. He has 13 catches for 202 yards and 4 touchdowns on the year, but has also been lined up in the backfield and carried the ball 13 times for 77 yards and 1 touchdown. He's a sturdy run blocker as well. The biggest issue with Lyerla may be the fact that he isn't a more prominent piece of the Oregon offense. He's that good. Lyerla is backed up by two freshman: redshirt frosh Koa Ka'ai is a serviceable run blocker but used only sparingly in the passing game, and true frosh Pharaoh Brown is an athletic freak at 6'6/235.

UPSIDE: Colt Lyerla

DOWNSIDE: ...

WHAT TO EXPECT:

Let’s just hope Oregon forgets they have a tight end.

OL

STARTERS:

LT- Tyler Johnstone, Freshman - 6'6, 292 lbs

LG- Kyle Long, Senior - 6'7, 311 lbs

C- Hroniss Grasu, Sophomore - 6'3, 294 lbs

RG- Ryan Clanton, Senior - 6'5, 305 lbs

RT- Jake Fisher, Sophomore - 6'6, 294 lbs

This group has shuffled quite a bit, both due to injury and because that's just the way the Ducks do it. The line took a major hit when incumbent starting left guard Carson York went down with a season-ending knee injury in the week 2 win over Fresno State. York had started 38 games before going down. This is the group that started against SC, so I think we'll see about the same. Left tackle Tyler Johnstone is a redshirt freshman who has really surpassed early expectations and held his own. Left guard Kyle Long is a JuCo transfer who was brought in to man the left tackle spot, but Johnstone beat him out for it. he's working on the transition to guard and has the kind of strength and nastiness to excel once he's gotten all of the assignments down. At center, Hroniss Grasu started 14 games in 2011 as a true frosh and did really well. He's struggled with his snaps and consistency a bit this year though. Left guard Ryan Clanton has been very solid this season, after playing in 11 games as both a guard and tackle in 2011. Likewise right tackle Jake Fisher has been very consistent holding down the right side. He's got prototypical length and athleticism. As a group, this line has had its ups and downs, but you don't rush for over 340 yards per game without winning a lot of battles up front. They've been a little weaker in pass protection, but have still surrendered just 10 sacks on the year. That's one more sack than what we gave up in the SC game.

UPSIDE: Run-blocking, execution

DOWNSIDE: Pass-blocking

WHAT TO EXPECT:

We can expect at least one lineman or linebacker to be unblocked on just about every snap...but that's just part of the plan! The zone read leaves a defensive end or OLB unblocked and forces them to make a decision on whether to crash down on the running back or go after the quarterback. If the quarterback reads it correctly, the defender ends up pursuing a dude without the ball. Oregon is good at this, and their line is fit, lean and nasty. They get a great drive out of their stances when the ball is snapped and it takes an extremely fast and aggressive front to achieve consistent penetration. We have yet to be particularly fast or aggressive this year, and haven't been good against lesser run games at all. Feels like I say this every week these days, but we don't stand a chance unless our defense has opportunities to get off the field and rest while the offense eats clock and scores points. Man to man, we're not so bad off here. Oregon could be exploited based on the personnel on this line. But system to system, team to team, coach to coach...things aren't so rosy. Expect yards in chunks , oodles, and bundles. You'll find no sunshine here.

IN SUMMARY

Pretty simple this week I'd say. We're playing a better team that has more to play for. Oregon has a great offense and we have a mediocre defense. Our fanbase is utterly deflated and any real homefield advantage will exist only in the minds of the players. We can't compete with this team.

So try to enjoy it. Or just keep ticking the days off until November 18.

Go Bears!

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