2005 RECORD: 10-2 (7-1 in Pac-10) RETURNING STARTERS: 15
WR James Finley (Sr.)
Precise route runner caught 57 passes in '05
FS J.D. Nelson (Sr.)
A big hitter whose fiery attitude energizes the defense
C Enoka Lucas (Sr.)
The leader of a line that has all five starters back as well as several capable reserves
Big Man on Campus
The rover, a cross between a defensive back and a linebacker, is the key to the Ducks' defense, and speedy sophomore Patrick Chung (5'11", 205) is a natural at the position. Lining up anywhere on the field, he often causes the offense to audible and is around the ball on seemingly every play.
A breakout year from sophomore tailback Jonathan Stewart could put the Ducks into the PAC-10 race
The Ducks don't have a back on their roster with more than 300 career rushing yards. That would seem to indicate that they're looking for a topflight runner, but they're not; they believe that they already have one. They're just waiting for him to show how good he is.
If sophomore Jonathan Stewart lives up to the reputation that made him one of the most heralded recruits in Oregon's history, he could elevate the team from Pac-10 contender to top 10 material. While his freshman statistics (188 yards, 3.5 yards per carry) may not reflect it, Stewart is a potent blend of power and speed and was one of the country's most sought-after prospects a year ago, when he came out of Timberline High in Lacey, Wash.
Stewart's playing time was limited last season by the presence of since-departed Terrence Whitehead, a three-year starter, and by injuries. He suffered a nagging hamstring pull early in fall workouts, then sprained his left ankle in the second game, forcing him to miss the next two games. But Stewart gave a glimpse of his talent with a 97-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against Oregon State. "There were a few things that slowed me down in making the adjustment to college," he says. "But overall it was a pretty good start. I learned a lot, and I'm ready to take on a bigger role."
The 5'11", 234-pound Stewart is quick considering his bulk, but his greatest asset is his ability to break tackles. And while he's strong enough to withstand a pounding, coach Mike Bellotti plans to spell him with Terrell Jackson and Jeremiah Johnson. "I think our running backs present various problems to a defense," Bellotti says. "Jonathan is going to run over you; Terrell is going to make you miss; and Jeremiah can do both. I love the balance and depth that we have there."
Still, Stewart is clearly the back most capable of providing a punishing ground complement to the Ducks' pass-happy spread offense. If he has a breakout year, it will be particularly galling to Washington fans, since he grew up only 60 miles from Seattle and acknowledges that he might have enrolled there had coach Tyrone Willingham been hired earlier in his recruitment. "But everything worked out fine," Stewart says. By season's end the Huskies won't be the only ones to have had a hard time corralling Stewart. -- Phil Taylor