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Posted: Monday August 16, 2010 10:51AM ; Updated: Monday August 16, 2010 10:51AM

Top 25 Team Previews

AthlonSports.com
8
Oregon Ducks

Top 25 Athlon Team Previews: Oregon Ducks

2009 Record: 10-3 (8-1 in Pac-10)
Head Coach: Chip Kelly
LaMichael James :: Steve Dykes/Getty Images
2010 Schedule
Sept. 4New Mexico
Sept. 11at Tennessee
Sept. 18Portland State
Sept. 25at Arizona State
Oct. 2Stanford
Oct. 9at Washington State
Oct. 21UCLA
Oct. 30at USC
Nov. 6Washington
Nov. 13at California
Nov. 26Arizona
Dec. 4at Oregon State
2009 Results
Sept. 3at Boise StateL8-19
Sept. 12PurdueW38-36
Sept. 19UtahW31-24
Sept. 26CaliforniaW42- 3
Oct. 3Washington StateW52- 6
Oct. 10at UCLAW24-10
Oct. 24at WashingtonW43-19
Oct. 31USCW47-20
Nov. 7at StanfordL42-51
Nov. 14Arizona StateW44-21
Nov. 21at ArizonaW44-41
Dec. 3Oregon StateW37-33
Jan. 1Ohio State (Rose Bowl)L17-26
2009 Rankings
OFFENSEPER GAMEPac-10NAT'L
Scoring36.1 ppg18
Rushing231.7 ypg16
Passing180.3 ypg998
Total412.0 ypg233
DEFENSEPER GAMEPac-10NAT'L
Scoring23.8 ppg451
Rushing128.7 ypg642
Passing207.6 ypg444
Total336.3 ypg435
TO MARGINPER GAMEPac-10NAT'L
+2+0.15551
2010 Projected Rosters
OFFENSE
WRJeff Maehl (Sr.)Keanon Lowe (Fr.)
WRLavasier Tuinei (Jr.)Justin Hoffman (So.)
WRD.J. Davis (Sr.)Josh Huff (Fr.)
LTBo Thran (Sr.)Darrion Weems (Jr.)
LGCarson York (So.)Ramsen Golpashin (Jr.)
CJordan Holmes (Sr.)Max Forer (Sr.)
RGMark Asper (Jr.)Ryan Clanton (Jr.)
RTC.E. Kaiser (Sr.)Nick Cody (So.)
TEDavid Paulson (Jr.)Brandon Williams (Jr.)
QBDarron Thomas (So.)Nate Costa (Sr.)
RBLaMichael James (So.)Kenjon Barner (So.)
DEFENSE
DETerrell Turner (Jr.)Dion Jordan (So.)
DTBrandon Bair (Sr.)Taylor Hart (Fr.)
DTZac Clark (Sr.)Wade Keliikipi (Fr.)
DEKenny Rowe (Sr.)Tyrell Irvin (Sr.)
SLBJosh Kaddu (Jr.)Bo Lokombo (Fr.)
MLBCasey Matthews (Sr.)Bryson Littlejohn (Sr.)
WLBSpencer Paysinger (Sr.)Michael Clay (So.)
CBTalmadge Jackson III (Sr.)Scott Grady (So.)
CBCliff Harris (So.)Anthony Gildon (Jr.)
SJohn Boyett (So.)Javes Lewis (Jr.)
SEddie Pleasant (Jr.)Marvin Johnson (Sr.)
SPECIAL TEAMS
1Alejandro Maldonado (Fr.)KRKenjon Barner (So.)
1Jackson Rice (So.)PRKenjon Barner (So.)
RETURNING LEADERS
Passing: Nate Costa (147 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT)
Rushing: LaMichael James (230 car, 1,546 yds, 14 TDs)
Receiving: Jeff Maehl (53 rec, 696 yds, 6 TDs)
Tackles: John Boyett (90, 62 solo)
Sacks: Kenny Rowe (11.5)
Interceptions: Talmadge Jackson III (4 for 73 yds)
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PLAYERS TO WATCH

LaMichael James, RB: All he did as a freshman was post the second-best rushing total in school history.

Jeff Maehl, WR: His 12-catch performance in the double-OT win at Arizona signaled Maehl's arrival as a star.

Kenny Rowe, DE: He led the team with 11.5 sacks, including three in the Rose Bowl.

IMPORTANT LOSSES

Jeremiah Masoli, QB: Masoli might have been a Heisman contender until an offseason arrest and a marijuana citation led to his dismissal from the team.

Ed Dickson, TE: The Ducks will be hard-pressed to replicate Dickson's blend of size and athletic ability.

Will Tukuafu, DE: Numbers didn't tell the entire story of this respected leader's contributions to the defense.

NUMBERS GAME

5.5: Jeremiah Masoli averaged 5.5 yards per carry in 2009, which was key to keeping defenses off-balance and won't easily be replaced in 2010.

OFFENSE

After the 2009 season ended with Oregon in the Rose Bowl, the Ducks were projected as a top five team for 2010. Masoli and James even earned some early Heisman Trophy buzz. That all changed this winter when Masoli was arrested for burglary and dismissed from the team, and James got into a fight with an ex-girlfriend and drew a one-game suspension.

The Ducks return a wealth of talent on both sides of the ball, but the loss of Masoli and his punishing running style knocked Oregon's preseason ranking down a few notches.

The candidates to replace Masoli are fifth-year senior Nate Costa and Darron Thomas, an athletic but inexperienced sophomore. Costa is a rifle-armed veteran who has endured three knee surgeries, the most recent of which came in fall camp in 2008 and cost him the starting job. Thomas is a big, confident player with good speed, but has an inconsistent arm.

The new quarterback will at least have the luxury of playing behind a line that returns all five starters, and of throwing to a veteran receiving corps. And once James sits out the opener against New Mexico, he'll be available to further ease pressure on the quarterback.

DEFENSE

The Ducks' premier unit is the linebacking corps, which is so deep that 11-game starter Eddie Pleasant has been moved to safety. Inside linebackers Spencer Paysinger and Casey Matthews are experienced veterans, and on the outside the Ducks have two potential breakout stars in Josh Kaddu and Bo Lokombo.

Up front, Oregon will again be relatively undersized, led by 232-pound end Kenny Rowe, an athletic pass rusher. The Ducks will try to overcome a lack of beef with speed and technique, though true freshman Ricky Heimuli will provide ample size if he emerges early.

Pleasant will bring speed and ferocious hitting to one safety spot, and leading tackler John Boyett mans the other after leading the Ducks in tackles as a redshirt freshman. Talmadge Jackson III is a steady veteran at one corner, and athletic sophomore Cliff Harris is expected to blossom on the other side.

SPECIALISTS

Jackson Rice handled himself well at punter as a true freshman, and he is expected to develop into one of the best in the Pac-10. Oregon also has a budding young talent in Kenjon Barner to return punts and kicks. There's a hole at placekicker, however. Walk-on Rob Beard has a big leg but can be erratic, and he's suspended for the opener after an offseason fight. True freshman Alejandro Maldonado may have to handle the job when the Ducks open against New Mexico, and perhaps beyond.

FINAL ANALYSIS

When a talented group of sophomores emerged at Oregon in 2008, fans began to look forward to the 2010 season. National championship dreams don't often bloom in Eugene, but that was the thinking prior to all the offseason trouble the Ducks recently endured.

After the wave of problems, there are questions about leadership and team chemistry. Those damaging issues will be tough for the Ducks to overcome as they try to repeat as Pac-10 champions. However, their schedule is backloaded (though a Sept. 11 date with Tennessee looms as an early tone-setter), giving the Ducks a chance to find their footing early on.

 
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