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OREGON DUCKS
GEORGE SCHROEDER
August 10, 2011
The national finalists return with winning experience. They're flying high, but with greater expectations will they be able to stand the heat?
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August 10, 2011

Oregon Ducks

The national finalists return with winning experience. They're flying high, but with greater expectations will they be able to stand the heat?

QB

DARRON THOMAS*

BRYAN BENNETT

RB

LAMICHAEL JAMES*

KENJON BARNER

WR

JUSTIN HOFFMAN

WILL MURPHY

WR

JOSH HUFF

NICK COLE

WR

LAVASIER TUINEI*

DARYLE HAWKINS

TE

DAVID PAULSON*

BRANDON WILLIAMS

LT

DARRION WEEMS*

EVERETT BENYARD III

LG

CARSON YORK*

MANA GREIG

C

KARRINGTON ARMSTRONG

HRONISS GRASU

RG

RAMSEN GOLPASHIN

NICK CODY

RT

MARK ASPER*

RYAN CLANTON

OREGON'S RAPID RISE TO THE TOP OF THE CONFERENCE HAS been accompanied in part by chatter about how soon opponents will catch up to Chip Kelly's frantic offense. The coach scoffs at the thought. "We don't run a gimmick deal," he says. "We run the ball. We throw the ball. We're very balanced." And very good, too. Over Kelly's four years in Eugene (the first two as offensive coordinator)—and with five different quarterbacks earning wins—the Ducks have led the conference in total offense, rushing and scoring, and they're showing no signs of descent.

More important, perhaps, is whether the program can keep up with itself. The standards of production have been raised. After two straight conference titles and last season's near miss of a BCS championship, Kelly is well aware that expectations have never been higher. Scrutiny is more intense than ever too: Oregon is under NCAA investigation for its use of scouting services.

"There can't be any more pressure," he insists. "We expect to win every game we play from now until the end of time."

At first glance Oregon appears loaded for another run at the conference and national crowns. Heisman finalist LaMichael James, the nation's leading rusher in 2010, returns along with junior quarterback Darron Thomas, who developed into a playmaker in his first season as a starter (he threw for 363 yards in the Ducks' loss to Auburn in the BCS championship game), to lead a plethora of talented offensive skill players. And that's before talking about cornerback Cliff Harris, an All-America punt returner, who, if he returns from a suspension for a June speeding incident, will be an additional scoring weapon.

With only 11 scholarship seniors, Kelly says leadership is the biggest void that needs to be filled. Oregon must replace three veteran offensive linemen and must also develop receiving threats to replace departed wideout Jeff Maehl. "Those are the two real question marks," Kelly says. The defensive losses were significant—six starters, including the team leaders in tackles and sacks—but Kelly liked what he saw in spring practice and believes the replacements are ready. If the coach is correct, the Ducks might not be slowing down soon.

THE VITALS

COACH Chip Kelly (3rd year) 22--4 (17--1 in Pac-10)

OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR Mark Helfrich

DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR Nick Aliotti

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