Jalen Jelks

Oregon's injuries not an excuse, but a serious reality

Oregon's injuries not an excuse, but a serious reality

When a player goes down for Oregon the team emits the battle cry of "next man up."

It's a valuable mindset that means the following: Nobody is going to feel sorry for you because of injuries. Don't allow injuries to be an excuse. Someone must fill the void. 

That's all well and good but every team has its breaking point and Oregon's rash of injuries cannot be ignored as having played a factor in the Ducks' 2-3 start that could easily move to 2-4 after UO faces No. 5 Washington at home on Saturday.

The loss of left tackle Tyrell Crosby for the season hurt the offensive line. The speed of wide receiver Devon Allen, out for the year with a knee injury, is also missed. 

The pass rush has been decimated by the five missed starts from freshman linebacker Troy Dye and redshirt sophomore defensive end Jalen Jelks (knee). They share the lead for sacks with two each in just five combined starts. Let that sink in for a moment. Both missed the loss at Washington State and its quarterback Luke Falk had all night in the pocket. 

Super star running back Royce Freeman missed seven quarters of action between the Nebraska and Colorado losses. 

And so on, and so on. 

To Oregon's credit, nobody on the team has blamed injuries for the team's poor start. Nevertheless, this is one of the more injury-plagued seasons the Ducks have experienced in recent memory.

Here is a look at some of the key injuries Oregon has suffered this season:

Tyrell Crosby, junior left tackle: Out for the season with a foot injury and being replaced by promising redshirt freshman Brady Aiello. The Ducks are starting four redshirt freshmen along the offensive line. 

Devon Allen, redshirt junior wide receiver: The Olympian and team's fastest receiver had a breakthrough game against Virginia (141 yards and a touchdown) only to suffer a season-ending knee injury the following week at Nebraska. 

Johnny Ragin III, senior linebacker: He was lost for the season when he suffered a leg injury at Washington State. He leads the team with 29 tackles. 

Royce Freeman, junior running back: Injured his right leg during the first quarter at Nebraska then missed the following week's loss at home to Colorado. The Ducks likely wouldn't have called a fade pass to Darren Carrington II from the seven-yard line that was intercepted in the final minute against the Buffaloes had Freeman been in the backfield. 

Troy Dye, freshman linebacker: Already the team's best defensive playmaker, Dye was limited to special teams play at Nebraska due to an illness and missed the team's trip to Washington State because of a concussion. He is expected to return this week against Washington. Despite missing so much time, Dye is tied for third on the team with 27 tackles and is tied for the team lead with two sacks. 

Jalen Jelks, redshirt sophomore defensive end: Jelks had two sacks in the teams' win over Virginia but has not seen the field since due to a knee injury. He is likely out again this week against Washington.

Johnny Mundt, senior tight end: Injured his leg in season opener and hasn't played since. Could return this week.  

Jake Pisarcik, offensive lineman: The backup lineman has missed four games because of injury.

A.J. Hotchkins, junior middle linebacker: He missed the Nebraska loss with a lower leg or foot injury (undisclosed) after being seen wearing a walking boot and limping days before the game. 

Pharaoh Brown, senior tight end: He missed the team's loss against Colorado with a leg injury. 

Drayton Carlberg, redshirt freshman defensive tackle: Carlberg became a starter at Nebraska, got injured and has missed the last two games.  

Dwayne Stanford, senior wide receiver: He left the WSU game after getting injured and fumbling in the third quarter. He is likely out this week against Washington. 

Kani Benoit, redshirt junior running back: Injured his right shoulder when being hit after catching the first ever completion for freshman quarterback Justin Herbert. Benoit is likely out this week against Washington, according to sources. 

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Oregon entered the season with holes that have been magnified by youth and injuries. Yes, all teams suffer from injuries, but not many teams could survive this list of afflictions and still remain a contender. 

 

Oregon linebacker Troy Dye expected to play vs. No. 5 Washington

Oregon linebacker Troy Dye expected to play vs. No. 5 Washington

Oregon freshman linebacker Troy Dye is expected to return to action this week when the Ducks host No. 5 Washington, according to sources. 

Dye missed last week's loss at Washington State with a concussion. Two weeks ago at Nebraska, Dye was limited to special teams while dealing with being ill. 

Dye is already the team's best and most reliable playmaker, and the benefits of his will be magnified by the loss of senior linebacker Johnny Ragin III for the season. 

Despite missing so much time, Dye is tied for third on the team with 27 tackles and leads the team with 5 1/2 tackles for loss. His two sacks are tied for the team lead with redshirt sophomore defensive end Jalen Jelks, who has missed the team's last three games with an injury. Jelks is doubtful for this week. 

When Dye missed the team's trip to WSU on Saturday, some outside of the program seeking controversy wondered if he had been disciplined for committing a transgression. Oregon coach Mark Helfrich addressed that rumor on Tuesday.

"There's no discipline of any kind," Helfrich said. "I don't know how this got out there. If a guy is disciplined we'll announce it and make a note. By the same token, we don't talk about injuries and availability, so you can probably put two and two together on that one." 

Translation: Dye was injured. 

Oregon LB Troy Dye lives up to the hype

Oregon LB Troy Dye lives up to the hype

EUGENE - It took all of about three minutes into Oregon's 53-28 win Saturday over UC Davis for Ducks freshman linebacker Troy Dye to live up to the hype that surrounded him during fall camp. 

Two plays into his first college game Dye already had two tackles, including one for a three-yard loss in which he flew into the backfield off the edge to run down his prey. 

By the end of the first quarter, the 6-foot-4, 225-pound Dye already had six tackles with three for losses. He finished the day with 11 tackles, seven solo, with 4 1/2 tackles for loss. 

Keep in mind that last season Tyson Coleman led the team's linebackers with 12 tackles for loss. DeForest Buckner had 17. Dye is on pace for roughly 58 in 13 games. 

Certainly, that won't happen, but it does put Dye's performance in perspective. For those watching, the site of the ultra fast Dye tracking down ball-carriers was something to behold. To those on the team, it was just Dye being Dye. 

"How he played is how he's practiced every single day that he's been here," Oregon coach Mark Helfrich said. "He's just been one of those guys that's electric."

"He's been doing this since the first day of fall camp," redshirt sophomore defensive end Jalen Jelks said. "It's nothing new to us."

The college game is new to Dye but it certainly didn't seem like it. 

Dye, whose older brother played in the NFL and coached him in high school, said knowledge of the game helps him play fast. He enjoys studying the playbook and game film so he can go out and play fast and physical. 

"Sometimes I was out there and I knew what was coming. We watched a lot of film this past week and we dissected their offense really well. There were a lot of indicators and keys that they had so I just read 'em and went." 

Where does Dye go from here?

"He set a great benchmark for how he is going to play in the future," Helfrich said. 

Chances are he lives up to it. Dye is the type of linebacker Oregon has been craving, do-everything playmaker that opposing offenses will have to account for. 

That said, much tougher competition looms. UC Davis isn't exactly Washington or Stanford. But nobody on the team doubts Dye is only scratching the surface of his talents. 

"He's a very, very good athlete," UO defensive coordinator Brady Hoke said. "I think his football instinct IQ is pretty good. I don't know if that absolutely surprised anybody But there's a ton of stuff that he can do better, too." 

That's a frightening thought. 

UO game prediction: Five reasons to watch opener vs. UC Davis

UO game prediction: Five reasons to watch opener vs. UC Davis

No. 24 Oregon will obliterate UC Davis on Saturday. If not, cancel the season right now. 

So why should anyone watch? Well, let's countdown the top five reasons why watching the Ducks when the game kicks off at 2 p.m. won't be a waste of time. 

No. 5 - Don't remember the Alamo: It's opening day, and the last time fans saw the Ducks, well, they were imploding in Texas during the Alamo Bowl. What better way to help erase that horrific memory than watching Oregon look like Oregon again? The opening game for the Ducks is rarely ever about competition. It's usually more about simply celebrating the return of another season. In this case, it's also about finally starting the process of moving forward after one of the worst losses in program history. 

No. 4 - The new front seven under defensive coordinator Brady Hoke: We've heard so much about this attacking 4-3 scheme Oregon has installed and now it's time to see it in action. The Aggies, who averaged 22 points per game last season, shouldn't offer much of a challenge but that only means we should see at least 12 tackles for loss with about six sacks. Exotic blitzes, frenzied speed, mass confusion, quarterbacks fearing their safety, running backs faking injuries to exit the game.  Let's see if the Ducks can strike fear in the hearts of a vastly inferior team. Oregon has six new starters in the front seven including athletic freshman linebacker Troy Dye and maybe the next Dion Jordan in redshirt sophomore defensive end Justin Hollins.  Plus, Oregon supposedly upgraded at the middle linebacker spot with tansfer A.J. Hotchkins.  Finally, they will be turned loose. 

No. 3 - The UO debut of quarterback Dakota Prukop: The senior transfer from Montana State gets his first taste of Autzen. The savior. The next Vernon Adams Jr. The link between the Ducks and possible contention. Prukop has a chance to live up to all of those things if the dual-threat marvel out of the Big Sky Conference can adapt to the Pac-12. In 2014 he lit up the Aggies to the tune of 509 yards of total offense and six touchdowns. He could do the same on Saturday. What would it prove? Not much. However, he had a mediocre spring game and it would be nice to see if he can demonstrate some consistency within the offense that could pay off down the line in much bigger contests. 

[LISTEN: The Ducks Squad Podcast with guest senior right guard Cameron Hunt]

No. 2 - The defensive backs: Has there ever been a more maligned group of Oregon players in recent history? Probably not. They contributed heavily to the team ranking 116th in the nation last season while allowing 35 touchdown passes. All of the key players are back and they determined to make amends, and to prove that they learned from the extreme growing pains experienced last season. Again, UC Davis' offense is not a great measuring stick. But this is a secondary who looked bad last season against Georgia State. Watching them demonstrate some improved ability to play lockdown coverage and tackle consistently would be a good first step.  

No. 1 - Justin freaking Herbert:  Oh yes. Getting a chance to watch the true freshman quarterback in action will be worth the time spent watching this game simply because of the mystery surrounding the 6-foot-6 kid out of Sheldon High School. His performances in practice have had the entire team buzzing about his potential. It took him three weeks to vanquish redshirt freshman Travis Jonsen and true freshman Terry Wilson Jr., who arrived last spring. Now we will get to see Herbert in action once Prukop's work is done in a sure blowout. Figure late third quarter. All signs point to Herbert being a three-year starter after this season, and it is very likely he could see a start or two this season should Prukop go down. On Saturday fans get a sneak peak at the future of Oregon's quarterback position. 

A quick look at the game:

No. 24 Oregon vs. UC Davis. 

When: 2 p.m., Saturday, Autzen Stadium.  

T.V.: Pac-12 Network.   

Betting line: Off

Records: Oregon went 9-4 last season while the Aggies went 2-9.

Coaches: Oregon's Mark Helfrich (33-8); UC Davis' Ron Gould, former Oregon defensive back, (9-25).

Last season: The Aggies went 2-9 for the second consecutive season to finish tied for 8th in the Big Sky Conference. 

Aggies impact players: Oregon should only concern itself with senior running back Manusamoa Luuga. Last season he rushed for 613 yards and had seven total touchdowns. 

Senior quarterback Ben Scott  when healthy is sold. Last season he passed for 1,598 yards and 11 touchdowns with seven interceptions over eight games. 

Fear factor (five-point scale): Zero. 

Prediction: Oregon, 66-13. 

Ducks depth chart: Prukop No. 1 QB, Herbert No. 2

Ducks depth chart: Prukop No. 1 QB, Herbert No. 2

Oregon released its first 2016 depth chart today and the most surprising revelation is that freshman quarterback Justin Herbert out of Sheldon is listed as the No. 2 quarterback

Senior transfer Dakota Prukop being named the starter was pretty much a forgone conclusion. But the rise of Herbert is a surprise given that he had to beat out redshirt freshman Travis Jonsen, who entered camp being touted as a threat to win the No. 1 job, and freshman Terry Wilson Jr., who had the advantage of arriving to Oregon in time to participate in spring drills. 

Earlier this week, word out of fall camp made it clear that not only could Herbert be named No. 2 but he had already taken the reigns with the second team during practice.

According to coaches, Herbert has exceeded all expectations for a freshman quarterback. According to sources, Herbert has that "IT" factor that former Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota possessed. 

Of course it's premature to compare Herbert to Mariota as a player, but according to sources the 6-foot-6 freshman is very much like the former Heisman Trophy winner in terms of having a natural feel for the game and an aura of confidence. He's unflappable, according to some, and he processes information quickly, coaches have said. 

- OTHER DEPTH CHART NOTES - 

  • WR: Promising freshman Dillon Mitchell is not listed on the two-deep depth chart but seven other receivers are, including walk-on redshirt sophomore Casey Eugenio.  Redshirt junior Devon Allen, fresh off his fifth-place finish in the 110-meter hurdles at the Rio Summer Olympics, is listed as a co-starter with redshirt senior Dwayne Stanford at one wide receiver position. 
  • TE: Senior Pharaoh Brown, who missed all of last season with a serious leg injury, is listed as the starting tight end with senior Johnny Mundt as the backup. 
  • RT: Redshirt freshman Calvin Throckmorton is the starter with senior transfer Zac Morgan listed as the backup. 
  • DT: Former offensive lineman, redshirt junior Elijah George, who switched to defensive line during spring, is the backup defensive tackle behind sophomore Rex Manu
  • DE: Redshirt sophomore Justin Hollins is listed as a starting defensive end ahead of redshirt sophomore Jalen Jelks after a fierce battle during camp. Look for both to play a lot. 
  • MLB: As expected, junior A.J. Hotchkins, a junior college transfer, won the staring job over redshirt junior Danny Mattingly Jr. They should make a good one-two punch this season. 
  • OLB: While senior Johnny Ragin III being named one of the two starting outside linebackers is no surprise, the other side has always been up for grabs. That job has been won by true freshman Troy Dye.  He had been a three-star recruit as a safety by Oregon defensive backs coach John Neal. Backing up Dye is redshirt junior Jonah Moi
  • CB: The transferring of Chris Seisay opened the door for freshman Brendan Schooler to slide in at No. 2 behind junior Arrion Springs. Schooler was a two-star recruit who didn't sign with Oregon until late June. He is a big corner at 6-2, 190. 

 

Roses or Roulette?: Ducks Preview Part 5 - Defensive line must be strong up middle

Roses or Roulette?: Ducks Preview Part 5 - Defensive line must be strong up middle

College football is back! The Ducks begin fall camp on Monday so we're breaking down each position to determine if the Ducks, picked to finish fifth in the Pac-12, and their fans will be smelling roses as Pac-12 champs during a trip to the Rose Bowl, or placing bets at a roulette table prior to watching a sixth-place UO team in the Las Vegas Bowl. Each position is graded using the poker hand scale.  

Today: Defensive line. 

Projected starters: Junior defensive end Henry Mondeaux (6-5, 280), junior defensive tackle Austin Maloata (6-1, 305), sophomore defensive tackle Canton Kaumatule (6-7, 295), senior defensive end Torrodney Prevot (6-3, 225).

Key backups: Sophomore defensive tackle Rex Manu (6-3, 315), redshirt senior defensive end T.J. Daniel (6-6, 275), redshirt sophomore defensive end Jalen Jelks (6-6, 268), redshirt freshman Drayton Carlberg (6-5, 290), redshirt freshman defensive end Gus Cumberlander (6-6, 260), redshirt sophomore defensive end Justin Hollins (6-6, 230), redshirt freshman defensive tackle Gary Baker (6-4, 298) and junior transfer defensive tackle Ratu Mafileo (6-3, 300).

Smelling like roses: Oregon has a ton of bodies in position to contribute along the defensive line.

The problem is that just one, Mondeaux (22 tackles, 4 1/2 sacks last season), has ever done anything at Oregon worth mentioning.

That doesn't mean we won't see several fresh faces blossom once given more opportunities. It only means that we simply don't know what to expect.

First and foremost the Ducks must be strong up the middle at defensive tackle and middle linebacker. Otherwise, teams are going to steamroll UO inside and eat game clock, the best recipe for defeating Oregon.

For the Ducks to have a chance at winning the conference it must get major production out of Maloata, Manu, Kaumatule and any other defensive tackle they toss in there. 

I list Kaumatule as a starter only because he has the greatest potential within the group. If the former four-star recruit meets that potential, the Ducks could be in business. If not, it would be a great disappointment to the program, and make succeeding inside more difficult. Not impossible, just more difficult. 

A wild card is Mafileo, a three-star junior college transfer who backed out of a commitment to Texas A&M to attend Oregon. He could be a missing piece in the middle for the Ducks. 

Place your bets: UO signed five defensive linemen last year and three in 2014. The group needs experience and might not be ready to play at a championship level until 2017. Manu and Maloata combined for just 12 tackles last season. Are they really capable of anchoring the interior of the defensive line at a championship level in 2016? Remember, DeForrest Buckner, Arik Armstead and Alex Balducci were far from ready to dominate as freshman in 2012, or as sophomores in 2013. 

Odds are: We will see flashes of greatness here and there, but the group will be inconsistent playing in a new scheme, and doing so with only one proven impact player. It's doubtful any team in the Pac-12 is fearful of Oregon's front four now that Buckner and Balducci are gone.   

Poker hand: Pair of kings with a queen, and the river yet to come. Has potential to be a good hand, but it's dicey.   

Next up: Linebackers.  

Other posts: Quarterbacks; Running backs; Wide receivers/Tight ends; Offensive lineLinebackers; Defensive backs.