Oregon Ducks

The 2018 Ducks will contend if (Part 5)...: Young DBs must develop

The 2018 Ducks will contend if (Part 5)...: Young DBs must develop

Oregon's promising 2017 season ended with a wild two weeks that saw Willie Taggart depart for Florida State, coach Mario Cristobal take over the program, recruits decommit left and right and then the Ducks fall flat during a 38-28 loss to Boise State in the Las Vegas Bowl. Still, the 2018 season could see Oregon return to Pac-12 prominence. That is, if a lot of variables play out in the Ducks' favor. We will take a position-by-position look at the team to discuss what must happen in order for Oregon to rise again in 2018. 

Other position entries: QuarterbackRunning backsReceivers/Tight endsOffensive lineDefensive backs; LinebackersDefensive line.   

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Today: The 2018 Ducks will contend if (Part 5)...: A young secondary develops.

Key losses: Cornerback Arrion Springs and safety Tyree Robinson completed their careers. 

Projected 2017 starters: Cornerback Thomas Graham Jr., So., (5-10, 189); cornerback Deommodore Lenoir, So., (5-11, 190); safety Ugochukwu Amadi, Sr., (5-9, 197); safety Brady Breeze, RSo., (6-0, 194).

Key backups: Nick Pickett, So., (6-1, 198); Mattrell McGraw, RSr., (5-10, 193); Billy Gibson, So., (6-1, 179). 

What we know: Graham played well enough as a freshman to indicate that he has true star power. Amadi is versatile enough to start at wither cornerback or safety. Breeze, Pickett and Lenoir showed flashes but mostly performed like the young players that they were. 

What we don't know:  Breeze and Pickett both had strong moments last year but injuries and inconsistent play prevented them from having a huge impact. At least one will be needed to elevate his game to start alongside Amadi, or, should he return to cornerback, both Pickett and Breeze could end up starting. 

How that would work out is a mystery, as would be the results of starting Lenoir opposite Graham, which would give the Ducks two very young starting cornerbacks in a strong passing conference. 

The Ducks could very well be better off with Amadi back at cornerback and rolling the dice on Breeze and Pickett at safety. Both are extremely athletic and have star potential. 

McGraw shouldn't be forgotten. He began last season as the starter but ended up as a backup. At the very least, he provides veteran leadership to a defensive backfield in desperate need of experience. 

What must happen for Oregon to contend:  Graham, Lenoir, Pickett and Breeze could very well make up the starting secondary in 2019 and 2020. But they will be desperately needed to perform at a high level in 2018 if the Duck are going to contend now. 

Having an inexperienced secondary in the Pac-12 is a recipe for disaster, as we all saw in 2015 when Springs (sophomore) and Amadi (freshman) both started at cornerback. 

Some help and depth could be on the way. Freshman four-star recruits, Verone McKinley II and junior college transfer Haki Woods could push for playing time. But they shouldn't be counted on to help create a contending-caliber secondary in their first season in the Pac-12. 

That will require rapid development of the four aforementioned defensive backs that could be a year away from truly blossoming as a group.  

Next up: The 2018 Ducks will contend if (Part 5)...: Troy Dye gets some help. 

Oregon football traditions ranked from 1-10

Oregon football traditions ranked from 1-10

Traditional may not be the word that comes to mind when thinking about Duck football. However, any Oregon fan knows that there are traditions galore on game day in Eugene, Oregon. I’ve ranked my Top 10 best Oregon football traditions from 1-10. Do you agree or disagree with my list? Would you rearrange it?

10. “The Pick”

In 1994, Kenny Wheaton made what remains the most iconic play in Oregon football history, when he intercepted a pass and ran 97 yards for a touchdown to help UO beat Washington and reach the Rose Bowl. Before each home game, the play is replayed on the video board, causing the crowd to erupt. 

9. The vroom vroom introduction

Some stadiums light fireworks, while others blare loud rap music to announce the team’s arrival to the field. At Autzen, they rev up a motorcycle driven by a guy wearing a football helmet, along with the Duck, and lead the team onto the field. It’s loud, it’s unique. It’s tradition.

8. Uniforms

Known for some of the most unique uniforms in college football, it’s always all eyes on the Ducks’ swag. Since Mario Cristobal has taken over as head coach, the program has decreased the amount of uniform combinations and moved to a more simple, big numbered look. Even with less combinations, the uniforms are still a major part of the identify of Oregon football.

7. Throwing your O

Throwing your O became a tradition when former quarterback Joey Harrington made the "O" sign with his hands after beating the Beavers in to 2001 Civil War en route to the Fiesta Bowl. Now, the gesture is cemented into Oregon culture and is a sign to show support.

6. It Never Rains at Autzen Stadium

You have to live in Oregon to really understand the irony behind this iconic statement; and only true fans truly believe it. Before the start of every home game, PA Announcer Don Essig leads the entire Autzen crowd in letting the visitors know that “It never rains in Autzen Stadium."

5. Deafening noise

Although Autzen’s seating capacity is only 50,000, you’d never know it if your eyes were closed. Most speculate that because of its shape and construction, Autzen’s noise level can reach crazy high decibels.

4. Tailgate

Whether it be in the parking lot, at the “Mo” or at Taylor’s bar on campus… The tailgating options are endless on Oregon football game day.

3. The Autzen footbridge

Over the river and through the woods, you go! Not to grandmother’s house, but to Autzen Stadium. On game days, fans flock together over the Willamette River on the beautiful path to Autzen. Excitement builds as scattered “Go Ducks!” chants break out.

2. Shout

Yes “Mighty Oregon” is the Oregon fight song, but “Shout” is the unofficial tune of Duck football. Picture this, the third quarter dwindles and the energy rises. Students, children and season ticket holders sing and dance to the catchy tune roaring through Autzen Stadium. To add further to the tradition, Nike recently remade the scene from the Animal House movie with famous University of Oregon Alumni and of course, the Duck.

1. The Duck

One of the most recognized and iconic mascots in the nation, the Duck is the official mascot of the University of Oregon.  Truly one-of-a-kind, the Duck rides a motorcycle, does push-ups, takes selfies and will certainly make you laugh.

 

Honorable mention

The addition of Eugene-native singer Mat Kearney's "Coming Home" after the first quarter certainly adds to the aura of Autzen.

Louis King gets a shot at big paycheck and to develop into NBA talent with Detroit

Louis King gets a shot at big paycheck and to develop into NBA talent with Detroit

Four days after going undrafted in 2019 NBA Draft, Louis King and the Detroit Pistons have agreed to a two-way contract, per Shams Charania of the Athletic. King was widely expected to be drafted in the second round but can still can make a pretty penny and develop into an NBA talent with the Pistons.

CONTRACT DETAILS

Each organization is allowed two, two-way players. The arrangement allows King to spend up to 45 days at the NBA level as a rookie, though the bulk of his action is likely to be in the G League with the Grand Rapids Drive. The contract is non-guaranteed and is salary dependent on which league he plays in next season. Two-way players, who maximized their 45-day allotment in the NBA last season, earned $506,215.

The 6-foot-9 forward will play the Pistons NBA Summer League team, which begins in early July.

Did you know? King became the third one-and-done player in Oregon men’s basketball program history (Troy Brown, 2018; Bol Bol, 2019).

WHAT THE PISTONS ARE SAYING

“Definitely a talented kid,” according to an article by the Detroit Free Press. “Good size, too. Needs to mature a little.”

AT OREGON

A five-star recruit in Oregon's star-studded 2018 recruiting class, the Ducks’ leading scorer chose to strike when the iron was hot and leave UO after one season. King’s draft stock certainly climbed through Oregon’s run in the Pac-12 and NCAA Tournament after scoring in double-figures in each game and being named to the Pac-12 All-Tournament team. In seven postseason games, he averaged 16.4 points per game on 50 percent shooting, including an impressive 61.1 percent from beyond the arc. 

WITH THE PISTONS

King has the potential to be a force on both ends of the floor if the Grand Rapids' staff can tap into his potential. King is a prospect who is able to play positionless ball and develop into a two-way player. His power forward size, tenacious defense and perimeter skill set make him an attractive pickup for the Pistons.

PRAISED FOR 

At 6-foot-9 and 195 pounds, King is a talented scoring wing with great size and length. King is long, fluid and surprisingly quick and explosive. On the defensive end, he is a menace: He had at least one steal in 16 of the 31 games played as a freshman.

NEEDS TO WORK ON 

He needs to develop his post moves so that he can take advantage of mismatches on smaller or weaker defenders at the next level. His three-point shooting and dribbling must continue to improve and develop to space the floor. The Pistons will want to see him get stronger and put on more weight.

HOMETOWN Jersey City, N.J.

ICYMI - Kenjon Barner gifts dad with a special gift for Fathers Day

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kenjon barner instagram

ICYMI - Kenjon Barner gifts dad with a special gift for Fathers Day

ICYMI - It is the Fathers Day gift that keeps on giving.

Former Oregon football running back Kenjon Barner gifted his dad for Fathers Day his Super Bowl 52 ring. 

“My Number 1 inspiration! We made a pact way back in 2004 “You do your part, I do mine, What’s mine is yours and what’s yours mine” we’ve done exactly that! Love you Daddy I could never repay you for everything you have given to me and taught by setting an example on what a father is supposed to look like, be like and do! I never had to look for you because You were at every game, every practice, every sport from NJB, AAU, baseball, and football high school and college all the way up until I made to the league! I love you and thank you if I am half the father you are to me to my kids, they have the second greatest father of all time because I have the GREATEST! Love you Daddy.”

And in a second post later:

“This means more to me than anything, being able to see the happiness that this stuff brings my Dad means the world to me! This why I do what I do, the joy that my family gets from this game I play, is my why!” said Barnes in his Instagram post. 

Barner played for the Philadelphia Eagles from 2014-17, and won the Super Bowl his final year with the team. The second ring comes from his short stint with the New England Patriots last season.

Now, the six-year player finds himself on his fifth team with the Atlanta Falcons on a one-year contract. Fun Fact: Barner and Tony Brooks-James both found roster spots on Atlanta this upcoming season.

NBA Draft: What's next for Louis King and Kenny Wooten?

NBA Draft: What's next for Louis King and Kenny Wooten?

Call it a cautionary tale, a shock or not, but the futures of Louis King and Kenny Wooten are unclear.

Both Ducks decided to leave the Oregon men’s basketball program following UO’s shocking run to the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 and enter into the 2019 NBA Draft.

Neither was among the 60 players selected on Thursday night's event and will now enter the free agency market to try to sign with a team. As of Friday afternoon, both were still looking for an NBA Summer League spot, which would be a solid opportunity for either Duck in hopes to garner some attention and strike a free agent deal.

Not to mention, a chance to validate their decision to leave school early to pursue their professional career.

[Denver acquires Bol Bol at No. 44: Gains a potential mismatch for the ages]

Freshman King was a former five-star recruit and became Oregon’s third ever one-and-done when he left for the draft. King’s draft stock certainly climbed through Oregon’s run in the Pac-12 and NCAA Tournaments after scoring in double-figures in each game and being named to the Pac-12 All-Tournament team. In seven postseason games, he averaged 16.4 points per game on 50 percent shooting, including an impressive 61.1 percent from beyond the arc. 

The Ducks’ leading scorer has NBA potential and was told by his agent to prepare to be drafted in the 15-40 range. The 6-9, 200-pound forward is a prospect with the potential to be a force on both ends of the floor. King is able to play positionless ball and develop into a two-way player. His power forward size, tenacious defense and perimeter skill set make him an attractive pick up for a team.

It remains to be seen which team or if there will be a team that sees the upside on King. He would be a project; the wing needs to develop his post moves so that he can take advantage of mismatches on smaller or weaker defenders at the next level. His three-point shooting and dribbling must continue to improve and develop to space the floor. NBA teams will want to see him get stronger and put on more weight.

Then there is Wooten, who wasn’t included in any mock drafts entering Thursday. Wooten’s decision to leave Oregon after his sophomore season was more shocking. Wooten was not invited to the NBA Combine, yet still was flown all over the country to conduct 12 pre-draft workouts.

The 6-foot-9 rim protector’s athleticism is undeniable but concerns surrounded his NBA readiness. Wooten’s offensive game is raw. If he’s not catching and dunking, he doesn’t do much offensively and only totaled 33 assists in 70 college games. He must develop his shot and be able to space the floors.

The upside? Wooten has a standing total jump of 12’6”, recorded at the G-League Elite Camp. His vertical explosion paired with his excellent timing makes for a dangerous shot blocking recipe. He excels at swatting the ball to teammates to keep the play alive. In his two seasons at UO, Wooten ranks third all-time in Oregon history for blocked shots with 166, earning back-to-back All-Pac-12 Defensive team honors.

Will there be a team that rolls the dice on the master of contesting shots? He’s a menace in the paint but he needs to show that he can develop his offensive game.

The draft was unsuccessful for both of these Ducks, leaving their futures murky. However, “unclear” doesn’t always mean “bad”. If King and Wooten get a chance at summer league, they best take full advantage of showing scouts they are capable of playing in an NBA uniform.

Justin Herbert's NFL Draft hype is one for the decade

Justin Herbert's NFL Draft hype is one for the decade

Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert is receiving literally off the charts hype. 

[WATCH: Juwan Johnson and Justin Herbert's intensifying connection]

Herbert, the 6-foot-6, 235-pound passer with the powerful right arm and sneaky fast wheels, has already been pegged as a top 10 prospect in the 2020 NFL Draft. However, as the 2019 season inches closer, scouts have ranked Herbert as the top NFL prospect from the senior class, with one of the best senior rankings of the decade.

I caught up with Bleacher Report's Matt Miller to get his take on the NFL career that awaits Oregon's ultra-talented quarterback in a Q&A.

What is your favorite thing about Herbert you think will translate well to the NFL?

Miller: He’s a beautiful passer. And I don’t even mean the hair. Mechanically he’s flawless. He has excellent size and arm strength. He can move well out of the pocket. There’s a lot to love. 

You can read the rest of Miller's scouting report here.

Yes, the possibility of Herbert as a top selection in 2020 NFL draft is exciting. Even more exciting for Oregon fans is that his teammates have seen an exponential growth in Herbert. 

"Justin has never been the athlete he is now," said senior Shane Lemieux, who has started 38 straight games at left guard, "Especially off the field, he’s such a better leader… He’s always the one that brings us back in."

It'll be all eyes on Herbert and the Ducks from the start. Oregon opens up the 2019 season in prime time versus Auburn in AT&T Stadium in  Arlington, Texas.

Denver acquires Bol Bol at No. 44: Gains a potential mismatch for the ages

Denver acquires Bol Bol at No. 44: Gains a potential mismatch for the ages

The highest-rated basketball player to ever sign with Oregon seemed to have come and gone in a blink of an eye. The Miami Heat selected Bol Bol with the 44th pick of the 2019 NBA Draft and then traded the former Duck to the Denver Nuggets. Last year's player selected at No. 44 played overseas, according to RealGM.com

Here is what the Nuggets are getting with the one of the most talked about prospects and how Bol fits the team’s needs.

DID YOU KNOW?

Bol became the second one-and-done player in Oregon men’s basketball program history (Troy Brown, 2018). Bol would make six Ducks on NBA rosters - the most Oregon would have ever had in the NBA at one time. He is the first top four national recruit not taken in the first round since 2013. 

THE NBA REACTED when Bol fell to the second round after being considered a consensus lottery pick a few months ago.

AT OREGON

Bol’s talent was undeniable during his short stint in green and yellow. A five-star recruit in Oregon's star-studded 2018 recruiting class, Bol elected to exhaust his eligibility after playing in just nine games at Oregon. However, he made the most of his time; the center reached double figures in all nine games and recorded a double-double in four of those games. Bol averaging 21 points, nine rebounds and 2.7 blocks per game.

TEAM NEEDS 

Denver decided Bol’s potential reward is worth the risk and rolled the dice on his unique skillset. 7-foot 2 centers with 7-foot-8 wingspans with terrific outside shooting (52 percent from three) don’t come along often. Bol’s ceiling is high as a floor-spacing, rim-protecting big man. The Nuggets are getting a major mismatch potential.

PRAISED FOR 

He is one of the longest players in NBA, measuring at 7’2 with a 7’7 wingspan and 9’7 standing reach at the combine. Even with his length, he is surprisingly quick. He is a serious weapon from beyond the arc; hitting 52 percent of his three-pointers at Oregon. Bol is an effective shot blocker; blocking 12.4 percent of opposing shots while he was on the floor at Oregon.

NEEDS TO WORK ON 

Bol’s measurements are a red flag. At the NBA combine, Bol weighed in 208 pounds, the same weight as Duke’s 6'8" Cam Reddish. He also was listed at 7.1 percent body fat, one of the highest percentages measured. On the 2018-19 Oregon basketball roster, Bol was listed as 235 pounds before his season ending foot injury. It’s highly possible Oregon rounded up on his weight, so it doesn’t necessarily mean that the 18-year-old has dropped almost 30 pounds. However, NBA teams will want to see him get stronger and put on more weight. 

It’s imperative Bol lives in the weight room and works on his endurance to reach his NBA potential.

HOMETOWN Olathe, Kan.

OREGON COACH DANA ALTMAN SAID

“Bol is a very talented young man who will continue to grow as a player as he gets stronger,” said Altman. “He has some unique skills that will allow him to have a long and prosperous career.”

Talkin' with the Ducks: Oregon's offensive line dinners are legendary

Talkin' with the Ducks: Oregon's offensive line dinners are legendary

Welcome into a new running NBC Sports Northwest feature; Talkin’ with the Ducks. Joining us on the second edition is the top-ranked guard in the Pac-12 Conference, senior Shane Lemieux. The video above is part one, where we dive into Lemieux's perspective on quarterback Justin Herbert. 

[WATCH: Juwan Johnson and Justin Herbert's intensifying connection]

Oregon's 2019 offensive line has been pegged to be one of the best, if not THE best, in the nation. Lemieux,  who has started 38 straight games at left guard, says Ducks fans should expect a "nastier, tougher more versatile”  line this season.

Something you may not know about the position group is that they have a dinner together every week. These "O-Line Dinners" have become legendary in Eugene and buffets won't allow them in. 

[WATCH Talkin' with the Ducks: Justin Herbert more than a "quiet guy who can sling the rock"]

Louis King an attractive selection for Trail Blazers

Louis King an attractive selection for Trail Blazers

Oregon basketball star Louis King traveled back to the state for a Trail Blazers pre-NBA draft workout on Sunday. It marked the 6-foot-9 forward’s ninth workout ahead of the draft, which will be held on Thursday, June 20.

The Ducks’ leading scorer chose to strike when the iron was hot and leave UO after one season. King’s draft stock certainly climbed through Oregon’s run in the Pac-12 and NCAA Tournament after scoring in double-figures in each game and being named to the Pac-12 All-Tournament team. But how far? Is it possible the Trail Blazers, who hold the No. 25 pick, draft King?

The former five-star recruit has been listed as the No. 36 prospect in the draft by ESPN. Most mock drafts are first round only and do not have King listed, the consensus is that he will be selected in the second round.

[READ:Red flags and stress: NBA analyst says pass on Bol Bol]

The Trail Blazers own one pick- the No. 25 overall selection of the first round. While it is unlikely King would be selected that high (although his agent has his draft range from 15-40), the former Duck playing for Portland is not impossible.

When asked if staying in Oregon and becoming a Trail Blazer was an attractive scenario, King responded, “Absolutely.”

“It’s been going great. I’m just excited to come here and compete in front of the front office for every workout,” King said.

If the Blazers trade away the 25th pick for a package deal, Portland could end up with a later second round pick. In which case, it’d make sense for Portland to target an athletic wing player.

“The depth at wing could be a concern for the Blazers with both Al-Farouq Aminu and Rodney Hood hitting free agency this summer,” NBC Sports Blazers Insider Jamie Hudson said. “Not to mention, the Blazers drafted two guards last year, so they would likely bring in a young forward to grow alongside Anfernee Simons and Gary Trent Jr.”

If King is still on the board and the Trail Blazers end up with a second round pick, his power forward size, tenacious defense and perimeter skill set would make him an attractive pick for Portland.

King has one remaining workout with the Cleveland Cavaliers prior to Thursday's draft, which begins at 4 p.m. (PT).

Talkin' with the Ducks: Justin Herbert more than a "quiet guy who can sling the rock" says Shane Lemieux

Talkin' with the Ducks: Justin Herbert more than a "quiet guy who can sling the rock" says Shane Lemieux

Welcome into a new running NBC Sports Northwest feature; Talkin’ with the Ducks. Joining us on the second edition is the top-ranked guard in the Pac-12 Conference, senior Shane Lemieux. The video above is part one, where we dive into Lemieux's perspective on quarterback Justin Herbert. 

[WATCH: Juwan Johnson and Justin Herbert's intensifying connection]

Lemieux, who has started 38 straight games at left guard, has witnessed Herbert evolve over their careers at Oregon but he's noticed exponential growth as of late. 

"Justin has never been the athlete he is now," Lemieux said. "Especially off the field, he’s such a better leader… He’s always the one that brings us back in."

Herbert, the 6-foot-6, 235-pound passer with the powerful right arm and sneaky fast wheels, has already been pegged as a top 10 prospect in the 2020 NFL Draft. 

In the video, Lemieux divulges that Herbert's personality is different than the common perception. Also, he answers the question, if Herbert had social media, what would his Instagram look like?