College football is right around the corner and the Oregon Ducks are in great position to make a statement this season. For the Ducks, the offseason was nothing short of newsworthy. Injuries, transfers, and coaching changes are just some of the headlines heading into the new season.
Here are the five storylines to look for heading into the 2014 season.
Marcus Mariota returning for another season
When Marcus Mariota decided to return for his another season, Duck fans were beaming. What isn’t there to say about Mariota? He’s simply the nucleus for the Ducks and is responsible for making things happen on offense.
He can throw the deep ball and for accuracy – averaged a 66 percent passing completion in first two seasons – and he’s lightning quick. Many NFL mock drafts had Mariota going No. 1 overall at this year’s draft but the “Flyin’ Hawaiian” will return for the 2014 season in hopes to bring home a national championship to Eugene, Ore.
Who will step up at wide receiver in place for injured Bralon Addison?
Duck fans were in complete shock when Oregon wide receiver Bralon Addison suffered a torn ACL in spring football practice on April 9th. Last season Addison caught 61 balls for 890 yards and had seven touchdowns. While it’s unlikely that Addison will be able to return later this season, Oregon will need someone to fill in at wide receiver.
Redshirt senior Keanon Lowe has the most experience at wideout for the Ducks. Last season, Lowe recorded 233 yards on 18 catches, scoring three touchdowns. However, there is a bit of a void at receiver after. Redshirt sophomores Chance Allen and Dwayne Stanford are in great position for breakout seasons while freshmen Darren Carrington and Devon Allen will be utilized at the receiver spot as well.
Michigan State vs. Oregon at Autzen Stadium, Sept. 6
On Sept. 6, Autzen Stadium will host Big Ten Champion Michigan State (13-1) when the Spartans come to play the Ducks. The early season nonconference game has huge implications and will set the tone for the rest of the season.
Michigan State is coming off of a huge Rose Bowl victory over Oregon’s nemesis Stanford and the Spartans have a similar style of play as the Cardinal. Oregon will need to know how to slow down the run game if they want to beat the defending Rose Bowl and Big Ten champs.
Can New Defensive Coordinator Don Pellum fix issues at linebacker?
Don Pellum is now the defensive coordinator for the Ducks heading into the 2014 season. With over 20 years of experience coaching linebackers at Oregon, Pellum is well qualified for the job; however, issues need to be addressed at the position. At times last season, it seemed as if Oregon’s linebackers were nonexistent against teams like Stanford and Arizona. The Ducks gave up 578 rushing yards to those two teams alone. In addition, up and coming linebackers Tyrell Robinson and Oshay Dunmore transferring away doesn’t make things any easier.
It’ll be up to Pellum to find the right group of backers to slow down opposing team’s rushing attacks.
Thomas Tyner’s sophomore season
As an Oregon native, all eyes will be on Thomas Tyner entering his second year as an Oregon Duck. With De’Anthony Thomas gone to the NFL, the Aloha, Ore. product will be sure to see more carries this year than his freshmen year.
Tyner finished last season with 711 yards rushing and nine touchdowns. With Oregon only two deep at the running back position, don’t be surprised if Tyner surpasses 1,000 rushing yards next season. Tyner has a unique combination of speed (10.35 in the 100 meters in high school) and size (5’11” 215 lbs.).
Photo Image: Thomas Boyd/The Oregonian
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