Returning Starters – Offense: 7 Defense: 5
Preview: Oregon had a great 2014 campaign, but they came up short of their ultimate goal which was winning a national title. The Ducks finished the season 13-2 overall with their final loss coming in the title game against Ohio State by a final of 20-42. Oregon’s fast paced offense couldn’t get going against the Buckeyes’ defense and moving the ball consistently against elite defensive units has been the Achilles heel of the Ducks over the past decade. Mark Helfrich might not be Chip Kelly, but he’s had success through 2 season as the head man picking up a 24-4 overall record.
Oregon has to replace QB Marcus Mariota which won’t be easy, but with 7 returning starters on offense the team should build a successful attack around whoever wins the job. Right now the QB competition is between returning backup Jeff Lockie and top JUCO transfer Vernon who was the FCS version of Marcus Mariota last season. Adams gives the Ducks a higher ceiling and it would be a surprise if he didn’t win the job. The O-line returns just 2 starters to a unit that will be a work in progress. The skill positions are loaded with talent, just like they always are at Oregon starting with returning RB Royce Freeman who could get Hiesman consideration. The receiving corps is also stacked with guys like Marshall and Stanford leading the way.
The Oregon defense was solid last season, but they weren't able to do much to slow the Ohio State offensive attack in the national title game. The defense returns just 5 starts to a unit that will likely have a hard time producing the same kind of numbers the 2014 defense did. The D-line returns 2 starters including end Buckner who’s a future NFL guy that will be a force on the outside. The LB corps returns 2 starters and the unit will look to get more aggressive this season behind experienced players like Coleman, French, Walker, and Hardrick. The question marks arise in the secondary which is young and returns just 1 starters from last season.
Prediction: Without Mariota leading the squad it won’t be as favorable for the Ducks to get back to the college playoff in 2015. This is somewhat of a rebuilding year for the Ducks with how many underclassmen they expect to get on the field, but Oregon has a 1 year stopgap at the QB position by bringing in Adams. The offense should continue to put up huge numbers, but this squad is likely going to need to play harder in the second halves of games this season to get their wins. A Pac 12 title is within reach a tough schedule won’t make things easy on the Ducks.
Projected Record: 9-3 (7-2)