Oregon Ducks

How Oregon's recruits fit in: LBs - Tough competition ahead

How Oregon's recruits fit in: LBs - Tough competition ahead

Oregon coach Willie Taggart last week signed his first recruiting class, which Rivals.com ranked No. 18 in the nation. Now CSN is taking a look at how each new recruit could fit into the Ducks' plans next season.

Other entries: QuarterbacksRunning backsWide receivers/tight endsOffensive line, Defensive line, Defensive backs.

Today: Linebackers.

New Ducks: Inside linebackers Sampson Niu (6-1, 217, Madison, H.S., San Diego, Calif.) and Isaac Slade-Matautia (6-1, 206, St. Louis High School, Honolulu, Hawaii), and athlete Cyrus Habibi-Likio (6-1, 211, St. Francis H.S., Mountain View, Calif.). 

Projected starters (3-4 defense): Outside linebacker Troy Dye, Soph., (6-4, 225), inside linebacker A.J. Hotchkins Sr., (5-11, 230), inside linebacker Jimmie Swain, Sr., (6-2, 235) and outside linebacker La'Mar Winston Jr., Soph., (6-3, 220).

Key backups: Inside linebackers - Danny Mattingly, RSr., (6-5, 245) and Keith Simms, Soph., (6-3, 235). Outside linebackers - Eric Briscoe, RFr., (6-3, 225), Justin Hollins, RJr., (6-6, 235) and Kaulana Apelu, Jr., (5-11, 200).

The situation: Oregon has plenty of young talent to work with here. Dye is a star. Simms and Winston were 4-star recruits in 2016. Hollins could be an interesting option if he moves to linebacker from defensive end. 

Only Dye is untouchable in the starting lineup with Swain and Hotchkins as the front-runners to start inside. However, they will have to fend off Simms and two very talented inside linebackers, four star recruits Niu and Slade-Matautia. 

Niu, ranked by Rivals.com as the No. 12 inside linebacker in the nation, has a chance to play right away assuming he adds some weight. Playing inside at 217 pounds likely won't cut it.  Slade-Matautia was rated No. 11 in the nation. He is listed at 206 pounds and must add bulk. 

If they live up to their billing, Niu and Slade-Matautia could have an impact in 2017. But that's a big if. 

There's reason to believe that the young outside linebackers, Winston and Briscoe, will take the next step and compete for playing time. They will be joined in that race by Habibi-Likio should he start off his career at linebacker. He could play safety, or even running back.  

The verdict: This competition should be wild. Oregon has seven linebackers that are freshmen or sophomores. Something has to give. On the inside, Swain came on strong late last year but Hotchkins was wildly inconsistent. Expect at least one of the two freshmen inside linebackers to play in 2017. Habibi-Likio might have a tougher battle in front of him on the outside because of the potential of Briscoe and Winston. But only Dye has established himself there. In other words, who truly knows what's going to happen? This could be the Ducks' most interesting position group to watch. 

Next up: Defensive backs

Which college football team should Duck fans be rooting for now?

Which college football team should Duck fans be rooting for now?

The Oregon Ducks may hold their College Football Playoff fate in their own hands right now. A lot of people believe if they win out, whip Utah in the Pac-12 championship game, they will punch their ticket to the national playoff.

But I’m not sure Auburn – the only team to have beaten the Ducks this season -- doesn’t still own a big piece of Oregon’s postseason fate. That’s because the Tigers meet Alabama on 11/30 in a crucial SEC game. The Crimson Tide, of course, will be playing without its All-America quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, who is out for the season. If ‘Bama can somehow figure out a way to win at Auburn without Tagovailoa, I would guess it has a real shot at finishing ahead of the Ducks in the rankings.

Oregon lost 29-21 to Auburn on a neutral field with nine seconds to go, after leading all the way. But the Ducks had an edge in that game, playing the Tigers in the very first college game for Auburn’s true-freshman  starting quarterback Bo Nix. And although Nix was terrific late in the game, he was shaky early and Oregon didn’t take full advantage of that. If Alabama can beat the Tigers on the road, that would certainly make it easier for the committee to pick the Tide over the Ducks.

And I think the big problem for the Ducks is that Alabama is, well, Alabama. That game a week ago vs. LSU drew a terrific television rating and that counts for something, I would guess. Even though it’s not supposed to count.

Oregon must overcome the Alabama aura and also hope that Georgia doesn’t knock off LSU in the SEC championship game, which would probably push both those teams into the final four. along with Clemson and Ohio State.

Can the Ducks get into the final four? Yes, I think so. But remember, the final four is a football’s version of a dog show. It’s all about appearances. You better be ready to look charming, cute, adorable, etc. when the judges are looking.

You must not only be the best team, you have to look good doing it. And that’s not going to be easy, especially coming out of the Pac-12, where I believe it’s difficult for teams to improve throughout the long season because the caliber of opposition is often not going to be challenging. Just last week, Oregon wasn’t at its best but Arizona wasn’t good enough to even make the game close.

A lot still has to go Oregon’s way -- including Auburn putting a good beating on Alabama next week.

Injury updates to Mycah Pittman, CJ Verdell from Mario Cristobal

Injury updates to Mycah Pittman, CJ Verdell from Mario Cristobal

No. 6 Oregon (9-1, 7-0 Pac-12) defeated Arizona 34-6 on Saturday night to officially claim the Pac-12 North crown and lock in a spot in the Pac-12 title game in December.

Before the Ducks can think that far ahead, they must also take care of business with their remaining schedule: at Arizona State and vs. Oregon State. 

Oregon Coach Mario Cristobal gave an injury update to true freshman wide receiver Mycah Pittman as well as sophomore running back CJ Verdell, who both left the game in the first half.

Mycah Pittman - right wrist

“Mycah hurt his arm. The severity of it, we’ll know but it’s a pretty good shot, everyone saw it on film. He took a pretty good hit there when he had his hand planted in the ground.”

Pittman tweeted the following this morning, further details have not been released:

CJ Verdell - arm

“CJ was more of a stinger. He got hyper-extended so he just wanted to get full strength back in his arm by the end of the game. He was back to full strength,” said Cristobal.

Sophomore running back Travis Dye finished with 14 attempts for 71 yards, but it was Darrian Felix, the back that has battled injury throughout his Oregon career, who made an appearance on Saturday and recorded 11 attempts for 49 yards.

More to come from Cristobal on the progress of these players when he gets a report.

MORE ON THE DUCKS

In search of his own legacy, Justin Herbert has one of his biggest nights with Marcus Mariota in the house 

What they're saying: Oregon claims the North crown, clinches spot in Pac-12 title game

In search of his own legacy, Justin Herbert has one of his biggest nights with Marcus Mariota in the house

In search of his own legacy, Justin Herbert has one of his biggest nights with Marcus Mariota in the house

The No. 6 Oregon Ducks are Pac-12 Conference North Division Champions, contenders for the College Football Playoff, on a nine-game winning streak and have their first 7-0 start to Pac-12 Conference play since 2012.

In a 34-6 victory over Arizona, official King of the North quarterback Justin Herbert demonstrated how he helped lead Oregon (9-1, 7-0 Pac-12) to those massive accomplishments.

“Magical” is how teammate senior linebacker Troy Dye described Herbert’s performance.

“You get the ball in (number)10’s hands and it’s ridiculous, anything can happen,” Dye continued. “He’s a magician with the ball…I’ll tell you what, he makes throws even crazier in practice.”

Herbert’s 333 passing yards marks his most this season and fourth most in his Oregon career. He became just the second player in Oregon history to surpass 10,000 total career yards and 100 total career touchdowns, sharing the milestone with former Oregon quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota.  

Witnessing from the sideline donning an Oregon-clad baseball hat pulled down, was Mariota. Despite his efforts to remain incognito, the camera found him, which brought 54,219 Ducks fans to their feet in a standing ovation. He took his hat off and bowed to the crowd in appreciation.

“I can always tell when he’s in town because it’s the loudest the crowd ever gets,” Oregon Coach Mario Cristobal said of Mariota. “There is nothing like being a player and seeing not only all the greats, former Oregon Ducks coming back and being around the program…I love it, will continue to invite them and want to see it happen much more.”

Cristobal stressed the top priority to bring the “Men of Oregon” back to strengthen the Duck legacy and “Oregon family.” He continued to share that when he was a player at Miami, meeting alumni was one of his favorite aspects of the game. Crisobal emphasized that it brings a perspective that the current Ducks are “borrowing the jerseys” and apart of something bigger.

The attention shifted back to the other sneaky-quick quarterback with an elite arm.

Herbert’s show started right away. On the second play of the game, he launched a 73-yard touchdown pass to Johnny Johnson III, the longest pass play of his season. The highlights continued with a reverse flea flicker 53-yard touchdown toss to an extended Juwan Johnson, worthy of a SportsCenter Top 10 nod. Herbert whipped his third touchdown with a back-shoulder bullet to Spencer Webb for 24 yards. Herbert’s fourth touchdown went to Travis Dye on a perfectly-timed 33-yard screen pass, extending Oregon’s comfortable lead before turning the reins over to back-up quarterback Tyler Shough.

Picking the best moment would be challenging. Good thing it’s not necessary. What is mandatory, however, is keeping the offensive momentum as the Ducks finish their two remaining Pac-12 games and beyond. Arizona’s defense is the worst in the conference and looming is a title game against the stout No. 7 Utah Utes.

It'll be the first time Oregon competes for the conference title since 2014 during Mariota's final season. When Mariota is in town, his legacy is loud enough to hurt an eardrum. Now, it’s Herbert’s opportunity to establish his own.

What they're saying: Oregon claims the North crown, clinches Pac-12 title spot

What they're saying: Oregon claims the North crown, clinches Pac-12 title spot

Goal accomplished.

It was said at the beginning of the season, that a goal was set out for a Pac-12 Championship. The No. 6 Oregon Ducks inched one step closer to that with a 34-6 win over the Arizona Wildcats on Saturday night in a Pac-12 After Dark special in Autzen Stadium.

The Ducks advance to 7-0 in conference play and now, with two games still remaining on their regular season schedule, have officially locked up the north and are heading to San Jose in December.

Here's how the fans, players reacted to this accomplishment.

MORE ON THE DUCKS

In search of his own legacy, Herbert has one of his biggest nights with Mariota in the house

Instant Analysis: Oregon beats Arizona, clinches Pac-12 North

 

Instant Analysis: Oregon beats Arizona, clinches Pac-12 North

Instant Analysis: Oregon beats Arizona, clinches Pac-12 North

EUGENE – In a decisive game, the No. 6 Oregon Ducks beat Arizona, 34-6, in front of a deafening 54,219 fans at Autzen Stadium, clinching their third Pac-12 North Division title and punching their tickets to the conference championship game.

The win extends the Ducks’ winning streak to nine games and improves them to 7-0 in Pac-12 Conference play for the first time since 2012. Under Coach Mario Cristobal, Oregon (9-1, 7-0 Pac-12) is now 12-1 at home. With the victory, a berth into the College Football Playoff is still possible. 

Here are the top three takeaways from the contest.

1. Duck Dominance

The win exhibited balanced strengths all over the field. 

Offensively, Oregon’s passing attack thrived. Quarterback Justin Herbert threw incredible highlights, including a 73-yard touchdown pass to Johnny Johnson (longest pass play of UO’s season) and 53-yard touchdown to Juwan Johnson, who made a Sports Center Top 10-type catch. When utilized, the Duck running game was powerful.

UO’s defense smothered. The Ducks held the Wildcats to two field goals through the first half, while pressuring Arizona quarterbacks Khalil Tate and Grant Gunnell. Senior Troy Dye, senior Bryson Young and junior Austin Faoliu provided a third-down sacks to end Arizona’s drives.

2. Injury bug strikes

Oregon freshman wide receiver Mycah Pittman suffered a potential season ending injury in the first quarter. Pittman and quarterback Justin Herbert connected on an 11-yard pass and Pittman came down awkwardly after being tackled. Early indications suggest that Pittman's injury could be a broken wrist.

Already this season, Pittman rehabbed back from a broken collarbone that caused him to miss the opening four games. In five games, Pittman has 13 receptions for 186 yards and three touchdowns. One of Oregon’s most dynamic receivers, the loss of Pittman would be a serious blow to the Ducks and their Pac-12 title goals.

Sophomore running back CJ Verdell was shaken up the second quarter, he left the game and did not return to play in the second half. 
 

3.  VIPs in Autzen Stadium

Through donated tickets, Oregon had more than 1,000 military veterans and their families at the game in conjunction with Veterans Day. Former Ducks Marcus Mariota, Tony Brooks-James, Jeff Lockie and Charles Nelson also were on the sidelines and in attendance for the win.

--

More to come with quotes and videos from Coach Mario Cristobal and Ducks players.

 

Oregon Ducks in action vs. Arizona, follow us on social for live updates

Oregon Ducks in action vs. Arizona, follow us on social for live updates

The No. 6 Oregon Ducks (8-1, 6-0 Pac-12) can punch their ticket to the Pac-12 title game with a win over Arizona (4-5, 2-4 Pac-12). The wildcats, and quarterback Khalil Tate, stand in their way of doing so. 

Our Oregon Ducks Insider Bri Amaranthus and Digital Producer Ashley Young are in Eugene, OR for the game, so make sure you follow along on social. Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m. (PT).

NUMBERS TO KNOW

In the last 12 games between Oregon and Arizona, the Ducks are 7-0 when scoring more than 40 points per game and 0-5 when scoring less than 40.

Coming off a bye, a Duck win this Saturday vs. Arizona (4-5, 2-4 Pac-12) would clinch their third North Division title and a spot in the Pac-12 championship.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

Senior linebacker Troy Dye, who suffered a broken thumb in the first quarter against Washington, has turned up his intensity at practice. Dye realizes that at any moment, at any snap, the game of football can be taken away from you. He is relishing every moment in his final season at Oregon.

“I’m at a 12. I’m having a blast. I wake up every morning with a smile on my face, I come here (to practice) with a smile on my face and I’m going to leave with a smile on my face," says Dye.

GAME INFORMATION

Time: Saturday, Nov, 16 at 7:30 p.m. (PT)

Where: Autzen Stadium, Eugene, OR.

TV: ESPN

Radio: KUGN-AM (590), KUJZ-FM (95.3), KZEL-FM (96.1)

 

The one thing Mario Cristobal emphasized during the bye week: penalties, penalties, penalties.

The one thing Mario Cristobal emphasized during the bye week: penalties, penalties, penalties.

If Oregon Coach Mario Cristobal could wave his magic wand and fix one thing about his team’s performance, it would be easy: penalties. 

In the latest Talkin’ Ducks Podcast with Jordan Kent and Anthony Newman, Kent sits down with Cristobal to talk about what changes Oregon has emphasized and practiced during the bye week.

“Penalties. We had been the least penalized team in the conference. I understand it, we have 49 guys from California and a lot from southern California, and that game went over the edge at times. You can’t do it. And it doesn’t make you any tougher or make you any better, but look I’m behind our guys one hundred percent. We just aren’t behind the stuff that can compromise winning,” said Cristobal.

The No. 6 Ducks went from first to worst in the span on three games accumulating over 100 yards in penalties in each of those games. At USC, more uncharacteristic penalties plagued the Ducks highlighted by an ejection from defensive lineman Austin Faoliu. 

Cristobal added, “We play with a lot of passion. We play with a lot of emotion, but we kind of let emotion play with us a bit in the course of that game. But then, in the second half, we were able to take control and get stronger and able to wear down our opponent.”

From the moment Cristobal was hired as head coach, one of his main philosophies has been disciplined football. The Ducks haven’t shown that in recent games racking up all these yards in penalties, but Cristobal can assure you that he is getting it under control.

Listen to the full Talkin’ Ducks Podcast below:

MORE ON THE DUCKS

Podcast: You can't reward a one-loss, no conference champion team with a CFP spot, right?

Oregon swagged out in nightmare green and yellow for Pac-12 After Dark

Legacy of a Leader: Troy Dye's intensity guiding Oregon to a season worth coming back for

Podcast: You can’t reward a one-loss, no conference championship team with a CFP spot, right?

Podcast: You can’t reward a one-loss, no conference championship team with a CFP spot, right?

Minnesota and Baylor just may skip over Oregon to secure a College Football Playoff spot.

Let's run a scenario:

“If Oregon wins out, and there is still a lot of football to be played, the only way a one-loss Oregon team that is the Pac-12 Champion is on the outside looking in, is if you do get a Minnesota running the table or even Baylor running the table,” says Talkin’ Ducks host Jordan Kent on the latest Talkin' Ducks Podcast.

If you look at just the value of wins alone and strength of conference, the Big Ten is home to six of the top-25 teams in the country; the Big 12 has five; the Pac-12 has just two (No. 6 Oregon, No. 7 Utah).

Minnesota upset Penn State (then No. 17 beating then No. 4) which jumped the Golden Gophers up to No. 8 in this week’s CFP rankings.

The Golden Gophers still have two top-20 teams remaining on their schedule: No. 20 Iowa and No. 14 Wisconsin.

The other team that may give Oregon some trouble is Baylor. The No. 13 Bears (9-0) don’t have any promising wins to show for yet this season, but still has to face two teams in the top-20 remaining on their schedule: vs. No. 10 Oklahoma on Saturday and vs. No. 19 Texas on November 23. Both games however will be played at home in Waco, Texas.

It’s a plus and a minus feeling. If both Minnesota and Baylor win out and are they are their respected conference champions, strength of schedule and strength of conference just may be the determining factor to putting either of these teams ahead of Oregon.

On the other hand, Baylor and Minnesota have tough matchups coming up and a loss for either team will put a one-loss Oregon ahead. 

Then there is Alabama. Oh yes, with the history and dominance in college football, can you even imagine a College Football Playoff without Alabama in it? Would the committee put a one-loss, no SEC champ Alabama ahead of (hypothetically) a Pac-12 Conference Champion in Oregon?

“I don’t think you can reward a one-loss team that doesn’t play in their conference championship game and award them a playoff spot ahead of a team with a similar record as far as who goes into the College Football Playoff,” says Kent.

“They shouldn’t, but I think they will,” added co-host Anthony Newman.

Listen to the full podcast below:

MORE ON THE DUCKS

Oregon swagged out in nightmare green and yellow for Pac-12 After Dark

Legacy of a Leader: Troy Dye's intensity guiding Oregon to a season worth coming back for

Talkin' Ducks Podcast: Jordan Kent sits down with Mario Cristobal

Oregon swagged out in nightmare green and yellow for Pac-12 After Dark

Oregon swagged out in nightmare green and yellow for Pac-12 After Dark

Looking to punch their tickets to the Pac-12 Championship game, the No. 6 Oregon Ducks will be swagged out in yellow and nightmare green ­­­­on Saturday at 7:30 p.m in Autzen Stadium. Ducks fans are encouraged to wear green to the crucial matchup.

Oregon's "Nike Vapor Fusion" uniform is celebrating its 20th anniversary of their partnership with Nike. The winged helmets are back and the jerseys feature large "Mighty Oregon" font resembling last season's "Oregon Football 2.0" uniform with slight differences. The addition of Nightmare Green is the biggest change while notably no black set was released (yet). 

Coming off a bye, a Duck win this Saturday vs. Arizona (4-5, 2-4 Pac-12) would clinch their third North Division title and a spot in the Pac-12 championship. A victory keeps the Ducks in the running as a College Football Playoff contender.

Numbers to know: In the last 12 games between Oregon and Arizona, the Ducks are 7-0 when scoring more than 40 points per game and 0-5 when scoring less than 40.

MORE DUCKS

Legacy of a Leader: Troy Dye's intensity guiding Oregon to a season worth coming back for

No. 6 Oregon in excellent position in CFB Playoff Poll: Patience is required

How Oregon can beat Arizona to become kings of the North

The magic number for Oregon vs. Arizona

Mario Cristobal’s ear catching comments on expanding Mykael Wright’s role