The Oregon Ducks started their season off just like many expected at 3-0. Their fast tempo offense, new facility and bright shiny uniforms are still the talk of the town. Even their No. 2 ranking in the country was expected at the start of the season. So what is it that makes these Ducks any different than the teams of the past?
Here are five observations about the Ducks after their victory over Tennessee:
Coaching change doesn’t seem to have a negative impact
During the offseason, many people speculated that the offense would look different with Mark Helfrich as the head coach and Scott Frost as the offensive coordinator. After Chip Kelly left for the NFL, the future of Ducks seemed up in the air. After three weeks of play, it doesn’t appear that much has changed. The offense is still putting a lot of points up on the scoreboard and they are still moving at a blazing pace.
Oregon’s depth bodes well for the future
The Ducks seem to have incredible depth at almost every position. Their offensive and defensive lines appear to be as solid as they have been in the past, maybe even better. The group of linebackers took a hit after losing two of their starters at the end of the season, but the new group seems to be filling in quite well so far.
The depth continues at the running back position, where the Ducks have three backs that could start for any top program. Against Tennessee, they had a true freshman at tight end step up and catch five passes for 121 yards and two touchdowns. John Mundt filled in for Colt Lyerla, who was out with an illness, and had a phenomenal game. This is just one example of the Ducks’ depth.
Carrying the load
De’ Anthony Thomas is proving that he can be an every down back despite his size. Thomas has been the team’s starting running back this season and has already carried the ball 42 times in just three games. So far, he has seven rushing touchdowns, which isn’t surprising.
What is surprising is that many of his runs have gone up the middle instead of around the edge. Thomas is only 5’-9” and 169 pounds, so he’s not your prototypical every-down back. But so far he has proven that he has the toughness and ability to be a complete back. The question is, can he continue to take the beating throughout the entire season.
Marcus Mariota is the real deal
Despite some early accuracy issues, Marcus Mariota is even better than he was last season. He is making all the right decisions when reading the opposing defense and his stats reflect it. In 2012 through the first three games he had 674 passing yards, eight passing touchdowns to one interception, had no rushing touchdowns and a quarterback rating of 84.6.
This season he has 889 passing yards, seven touchdowns to no interceptions, four rushing touchdowns and a quarterback rating of 97.4. He is making a real case to be in the running for the Heisman Trophy.
The defense is underrated
Oregon’s defense is better than they get credit for. The Ducks didn’t record a sack or a tackle for loss in their win over Tennessee. However, the Volunteers struggled to get anything going on the ground or through the air.
Tennessee had 178 yards rushing and 138 yards passing in the game. Having a total of 316 yards of total offense isn’t a horrible number. However, that was after the Volunteers had their offense on the field 14 different times, which is an average of 22.6 yards per possession. Considering that Tennessee has one of the best offensive front lines in the nation, Ducks fans should be very happy.
Furthermore, the tempo that Oregon’s offense plays at is so fast that the defense is on the field longer in each game. The statistics are deceiving due to the amount of plays the opposing offense gets to run. If the Ducks’ defense continues to improve, they will have a real shot at going undefeated.
Photo Credit: Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports
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