|LaMichael James is poised to run through the competition for his |
junior campaign as the Ducks look to return to the BCS championship
As the Ducks' remarkable season came to an end the 2011 season started. The Ducks turned their attention to the 2011 freshman class, and they made huge strides. Rivals rated the Ducks' recruiting class 9th in the nation. They snatched one of USC's most coveted recruits right from under their noses. The 5'9, 160 pound speedster De'Anthony Thomas is rated one of the top athletes in the country. He is a native of southern California, which makes it even more impressive that he signed with the Ducks. Not only are the Ducks dominating the Pac 10 competition on the field, but it seems that they are now dominating the recruiting. They signed another 5 star athlete who is from Hillsboro, OR. Colt Lyerla has an impressive 6'5, 225 lb frame. Rivals believes that he can play many positions at the collegiate level, he has the ability to play wide out, safety, or even linebacker and defensive end. They also add 9 four star recruits, who most notably include WR Tacoi Sumler who is one of the fastest players in the country. The Ducks may have also landed their future signal caller, Jerrard Randall the 8th ranked QB in the country, according to ESPN, is poised to join this class if he passes all academic requirements. This class positions the Ducks to be a offensive powerhouse for years to come.
While it still remains to be seen if any of these incoming freshmen will make an impact on the field in 2011, the Ducks have an impressive roster full of returning talent, lead by Heisman candidate LaMichael James. The Ducks bring back quarterback Darron Thomas who should really develop after being thrown into the fire after Masoli's dismissal last spring. Playing well in the championship should give Thomas the confidence he needs to succeed this year, and also playing down the stretch when every game mattered should really improve his poise. Kenjon Barner, LaMichael's key running mate also returns and maintains the 1-2 punch of the Ducks' backfield. Red shirt freshman Lanche Seastrunk should get some opportunities as the 3rd string running back this year. Seastrunk, who considered transferring after James' decision to return, is in the mold of Barner and James and will replace them as the lead back once the tandem departs for the NFL.
One of the Ducks' main concerns is the departure of key senior talent on the offensive line. Because of Chip Kelly's system of playing 8-9 players on the offensive line this should not be a concern. They will plug in 6 experienced senior offensive linemen along with 3 juniors. At the wide receiver position the 6'5 senior Lavasier Tuninei returns to lead this talented group. They are expecting a breakout year from sophomore wideout Josh Huff, who made some explosive plays last season with his track-level speed. The senior tight end David Paulson rounds out what should be an even more explosive offense than last year, if that is even possible.
Defensively the Ducks bring back plenty of talent led by junior cornerback Cliff Harris. Harris had a breakout year last year showing his explosive return ability and his big play ability as a ball-hawking cornerback. In 2011 Harris will have to improve on his gambling for the big play because for as many big plays that he made he gave up just as many. Strong safety Eddie Pleasant is returning for his senior campaign. Pleasant will provide the senior leadership this group will need. The big hitting free safety John Boyett is also returning. Boyett, who has been a defensive leader for the Ducks since his freshman season, should flourish into an all Pac-12 player this year. He is consistently in the right place to make big plays and always punishes receivers.
Oregon's front seven brings back plenty of senior talent. They bring back Terrell Turner who is one of the team leaders in the weight room. Junior linebacker Michael Clay was the teams top reserve at the position last season and he should step right into Mathew's position and produce right away as a starter. Again, because of the system Chip uses many of these players are not stepping into action blind, they have plenty of game experience. These aren't big name guys and Coach Aliotti will have to work hard this spring to work this defense into national championship quality.
The Ducks' special teams are set with 2010 4th team Pac-10 kicker Rob Beard, who will continuing his production next year. Rice Jackson is also holding down the punting position. Both are juniors who have started for at least one year and have experience in pressure situations.
The Ducks' 2011 season starts out against one of the top teams in the SEC, LSU. The game is in Cowboys stadium, and this will be the one of the most important games of the season. LSU was very good last year and will be very talented again, this should be a great game and an impressive way for the Ducks to start their season. If they come away from this game with a victory Oregon's toughest games will be against USC and Stanford. The Ducks have USCAutzen Stadium.
Overall, I think Coach Kelly and his staff have the Ducks ready for another national title campaign. If they make it back to the top I believe that the Ducks will have the leadership, experience, and way more than enough talent to bring the national championship trophy home to Eugene.