Oregon Ducks

Opposing leadership styles working for Oregon Football

Opposing leadership styles working for Oregon Football

You can hear Oregon strength and conditioning coordinator Aaron Feld before you can see him. And that’s momentous, considering his larger than life dance moves and body builder physique bulging from his all-black Oregon-Nike-Air Jordan collaboration outfit.

From 100 yards away I can hear Feld, clear as the sunny mid-August Eugene day, scream, “Turn it upppp!!!!”

The beat drops to Hypnotize by Notorious B.I.G and the Ducks start their 10th fall football practice, buzzing.

“If you had my arms, you’d be the biggest running back in the country,” Feld says to sophomore Cyrus Habibi-Likio, who ran with the first-team offense. Habibi-Likio laughs, turns around and mouths to me with a shrug, “He’s right.”

Just 15 yards away, the leadership style is much different. Senior quarterback Justin Herbert lines up, commanding the quarterback unit with precise stretching, smiles and quiet high-fives. Lingering nearby, a Los Angeles Rams scout dutifully watches him.

The juxtaposition is palpable.

The reality, of course, is not the extreme. Feld is not a screaming psychopath with a crisp mustache and Herbert is not a shy pushover with a good arm.

Actually, the mustache and arm element ring true.

The 2019 Oregon football team looks to these two completely different leaders in preparation; and it’s working for the Ducks.

Let’s start with the loud. Feld has been igniting energy into the program since January of 2018. It’s easy to see the focus in the weight room is paying off; much of the team has exceeded personal records in most lifts. Last year, Oregon had 29 players who could squad 400 or more pounds. That number has almost doubled to 56 players in the “400 club”, according to coach Mario Cristobal. 15 Ducks can squat 500 pounds compared to three a year ago.

Yes, the Oregon Ducks are feeling swole, hanging around the Hatfield-Dowlin Complex with their sleeves filled.

If you haven’t heard of Feld’s “Fill the Sleeves” motto yet, this tweet will explain.

Their more muscular physiques are adding up to increased physicality, durability and upgraded size. While every position group has benefitted, the difference particularly on the offensive and defensive lines is impressive. Which is imperative, considering the Ducks have a date with Auburn in week one and the better team in the trenches will likely be the victor.

Feld’s most impressive work may be getting UO’s incoming freshmen ready for the college game. Freshman defensive lineman Kayvon Thibodeaux had never squatted before becoming a Duck and he just joined the 500-pound squat club. Brandon Dorlus and Keyon Ware-Hudson are raw talents that may be able to make an impact on the defensive line this season.

Feld can be heard at practice, while Herbert can be seen.

Steady eddy Herbert, standing at 6-foot-6, 240-pounds, on his final season at Oregon, is months away from making millions in the NFL. Entering the second week of fall camp, there hasn’t been much news of the Heisman Trophy hopeful. His junior campaign flashed brilliance that caused NFL scouts to project him as a top pick in the 2019 NFL Draft had he chosen to leave school.

A rare slight on the passer with the powerful right arm and sneaky fast wheels from scouts was his “shy” and/or “immature” personality. That notion has drifted away through Herbert’s evolution. His teammates have noticed exponential growth in his leadership.

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

Herbert isn’t going to get in your face, unless he needs to. Herbert’s leadership is truly set by his example.

“He’s exactly what you want on your football team,” Cristobal said. “He acts like he’s a freshman that just got here and is trying to prove something.  He lives each day as if he’s the guy who’s trying to prove that he belongs here. When your best players are doing that, you’ve got a chance to be a good football team.”

Quiet, loud…whatever… It’s working. The Oregon football team is motivated and 18 days away from the national spotlight.

Former Oregon running back Darrian Felix has a new home


Former Oregon running back Darrian Felix has a new home

Just three days after entering the NCAA transfer portal, former Oregon running back Darrian Felix has a new home: The University of South Florida. 

Clemson's co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott was named the new head football coach at the University of South Florida this past Monday.

The 5-foot-11, 197-pound running back from Fort Meyers, Florida saw action in nine games as a freshman in 2017. In those nine games, Felix averaged 6.1 yards per carry and wasn’t stopped for a loss on any of his 30 carries.

Felix utilized a redshirt season after suffering a season-ending injury in 2018.

His best game in an Oregon uniform came against Nevada on Sept. 7, 2019. Felix recorded eight carries for 80 yards, his longest run at 62 yards and one touchdown against the visiting Wolf Pack. 

This season, Felix sat behind CJ Verdell, Travis Dye and Cyrus Habibi-Likio while also competing with freshmen Sean Dollars, Cross Patton and Jayvaun Wilson. His transfer doesn’t come at much surprise. Sitting that far down the depth chart is tough especially with the talent that Felix brings to the table and the young backs he’s sitting behind (all of the current backs are either sophomores or freshmen). He ran with aggression, poise and swiftness along with his powerful 5-foot-11, 197-pound frame.

Felix’s fellow running back took to social media to wish him well. 

A competitor off and on the field, Felix will do great things at his next opportunity.


Ashley Young contributed to this story

Marcus Arroyo will coach Oregon in the Rose Bowl… Why this matters

Marcus Arroyo will coach Oregon in the Rose Bowl… Why this matters

On Friday, UNLV held an introductory press conference for their next head football coach, Marcus Arroyo. He walked up to the stage, sporting a dark suit, bright red Rebel tie, slicked comb-over hairdo and a grin from ear to ear eager to begin his next adventure in his coaching career.

But before doing so, Arroyo has one final piece of unfinished business to attend to: coaching the No. 6 Oregon Ducks in the Rose Bowl.

The Rose Bowl is an opportunity that I plan on being apart of and that is ultra exciting for what we’ve done and the athletes that I’ve had a chance to be apart of. Again, that’s an awesome thing. But I’m locked in here [UNLV] and full speed ahead since we had this conversation about the opportunity [UNLV football head coach]. -- Marcus Arroyo


Two big points stand out in Arroyo’s decision to coach the Ducks in the Rose Bowl.

- Team morale. Keeping the train moving forward. After being in an offensive drought for two straight games against Arizona State and Oregon State, Oregon’s offense got rolling once again in the Pac-12 Championship and did so against a great defense in Utah, defeating the Utes 37-15. Arroyo’s play-calling combined with senior quarterback Justin Herbert’s arm and legs put the beat down and physically outmatched Utah.

- For Justin Herbert. The relationship between offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach and quarterback cannot go understated. It is the fuel behind the engine. Senior quarterback Justin Herbert and Arroyo have been inseparable for the past two seasons and have the utmost trust in one another. 

It is important for the two to maintain this connection with that stout Wisconsin defense looming around the corner.

Oregon Ducks forward Shakur Juiston ruled out, N'Faly Dante will travel against No. 5 Michigan

Oregon Ducks forward Shakur Juiston ruled out, N'Faly Dante will travel against No. 5 Michigan

The No. 10 Oregon Ducks (7-2) will not be at full strength Saturday morning on the road against No. 5 Michigan (8-2).

Ducks Coach Dana Altman ruled starting forward Shakur Juiston out for the contest due to a knee injury suffered late against No. 17 North Carolina in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament. The UNLV transfer currently averages 8.8 points and 6.5 rebounds per game on 43.1 percent shooting from the field. 

Altman will replace him in the starting lineup with freshman C.J. Walker who averages 5.8 points per game and 55.6 percent from behind the arc. However, his 57.9 free throw percentage indicates that three point percentage is a standard deviation or two above his true average. Regardless, the former five-star recruit should perform amicably in Juiston’s place. 

Freshman center N'Faly Dante will also travel with the team for the first time all season. He can officially enroll at the Unversity of Oregon on Saturday and plans to play this season. If he plays this weekend is unlikely. 

As for what Juiston’s absence means overall for the game, Payton Pritchard and Will Richardson will be called upon even more to create offense since Walker’s shot creation isn’t as good as Juiston’s. 

Defensively speaking, the Ducks run a fierce match up zone so it’s unlikely the Wolverines will be able to exploit Juiston’s absence by going after the more inexperienced Walker each possession. 

The Wolverines started the season unranked but catapulted into the top five of the AP poll following wins over ranked UNC and Gonzaga to win the Battle 4 Atlantis. Since then, they have dropped two games on the road at No. 1 Louisville and unranked Illinois. 

The Ducks and Wolverines tip off at 9:00am PST in Ann Arbor, MI.

A picture worth a thousand words: What this photo means is more than just another Oregon recruiting visit

A picture worth a thousand words: What this photo means is more than just another Oregon recruiting visit

Mario Cristobal is a darn good recruiter... but, we all knew that. The proof is in the pudding. 

In his second season as head coach for the Oregon Ducks, Cristobal signed the No. 1 recruit in the nation, defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux. This season, he has already landed commitments from five-star inside linebacker Noah Sewell (Orem, UT - younger brother of Penei Sewell); four-star receiver Johnny Wilson (Calabasas, CA); four-star quarterback Jay Butterfield (Brentwood, CA); etc, etc.

In his two years, he has obtaining the top two recruiting classes in program history. 

Cristobal isn’t afraid of recruiting anywhere, anytime. He was seen recruiting and making home visits hours after winning a Pac-12 Championship. Maybe his tactics and efforts were the reason Cristobal didn’t win the Pac-12 Coach of the Year…. But that’s beside the point.

Here is something that doesn’t come at a surprise: Cristobal in the home of a five-star recruit:

Kelee Ringo is a five-star defensive back from Scottsdale, Arizona in the 2020 class. Ringo has narrowed his future down to five schools: Alabama, Georgia, Ohio State, Oregon and Texas. 

Here is something that may come as a surprise: featured in the photo (from left to right) is defensive coordinator Andy Avalos, Cristobal, safeties coach Keith Heyward, Ringo and cornerbacks coach Donte Williams. 


On Wednesday, it was announced that offensive coordinator Marcus Arroyo accepted the head coaching position at UNLV. A part of every head coach’s responsibilities is filling a coaching staff, whether that be from the previous coaching staff or making your hires outside of the program. Would Arroyo try and hire any Oregon coaches away with him to UNLV? Well, Heyward’s name came up recently as a possibility.

On the other hand, those are just rumors and Heyward is still a Duck. You coach and recruit for the team that has employed you. Until that Oregon “O” is no longer on his chest, Heyward will continue to coach and recruit the future success of the Ducks’ defense. 

And we like it that way. Oregon’s defense took major strides this year under this coaching staff that has worked so well together. A Pac-12 Championship; a defense that ranked No. 16 nationally in yards per play; No. 9 in points allowed per game and No. 1 nationally in red zone touchdowns allowed. 

Add this along with the incoming 2020 class, and that would arguably be hard to walk away from.

Penei Sewell wins Outland Trophy for nation’s best interior lineman

Penei Sewell wins Outland Trophy for nation’s best interior lineman

What a week it has been for Penei Sewell.

It started off last Friday winning the Pac-12 Championship to Pac-12 first team All-Conference honors to now winning the 74th Outland Trophy, which recognizes the nation’s best interior lineman on offense or defense. 

Sewell beat out other nominees Wisconsin junior center Tyler Biadasz and Auburn senior defensive tackle Derrick Brown.

Winning this award is impressive; winning this award as a sophomore is even more impressive. The 6-foot-6, 325-pound lineman has played 19 games in his collegiate career. Sewell had to overcome an injury during his freshman year.

Sewell is named alongside Wisconsin junior center Tyler Biadasz and Auburn senior defensive tackle Derrick Brown.

To put this into even more perspective, Sewell and senior offensive lineman Calvin Throckmorton allowed zero sacks through a combined 1,557 snaps.

Senior offensive lineman Shane Lemieux also chimed in on Sewell’s play:

If you’re a corner or something, you should definitely fear him especially in screens because he’s willing to come… I’ve never seen a guy his size be able to move in space like that. It’s really impressive.

There’s no denying Sewell’s production. The numbers are there to back it along, plus his leadership is undeniable. The Ducks are in good hands for the future with Sewell on the line. 

Chip Kelly’s vertical hops, hang time highlights one of best moments in 2011-12 Rose Bowl

Chip Kelly’s vertical hops, hang time highlights one of best moments in 2011-12 Rose Bowl

Let’s rewind the clock.

It’s the 2011-12 Oregon football season and the No. 5 Ducks are headed to the Rose Bowl to take on opponent No. 10 Wisconsin. The Badgers' run-heavy play, led by quarterback Russell Wilson and Heisman candidate running back Montee Ball along with that stout offensive line, clashed against the Ducks’ speed led by quarterback Darron Thomas, and running backs LaMichael James and De’Anthony Thomas. 

This season wasn’t just all about the speed and new style from the Oregon offense, but something that would also change the game of football forever… the birth of the winged, full chrome helmets. It has changed the game at a sponsorship, business level down to recruiting. 

In an article posted by the Salt Lake Tribune, UCLA Coach Chip Kelly reflects on how other teams have changed due to the Oregon influence.

When I first came in the league we were the only ones that ran a spread offense and had shiny helmets. Now everybody runs the same offense and has shiny helmets.

It was cute when Adidas released a special helmet for Wisconsin prior to the Rose Bowl that featured a rose pattern inside the “W”.

Here is our list of the best moments from the 2011-12 Rose Bowl:

DAT TD run

With time expiring in the first quarter, freshman De’Anthony Thomas busted up the middle and exploded for a 91-yard touchdown. The ever-dangerous, elusive, Thomas wreaked havoc and literally turned heads in opposing secondaries throughout his entire career at Oregon. 

DAT TD run (again)

So nice he did it twice. On a jet sweep up the left sideline, Thomas goes untouched all the way to the end zone. If you watch the video above closely, DAT was so fast he actually slows down to wait for his block the last 10 yards to get into the end zone. 

This score gave Oregon the first lead of the Rose Bowl, 34-28 with 14:22 in the third quarter.

Kiko Alonso INT in third quarter

A huge moment swing with less than a minute to go in the third quarter. With Wisconsin riding a 10-0 run, linebacker Kiko Alonso jumps a route and lays out his whole body for a diving interception. 

The Badgers would not score again after this play.

Terrance Mitchell punches ball out, Chip Kelly gets air

Arguably one of Chip Kelly’s best moments as Oregon’s head coach. With 4:17 left in the game, Wilson completed a deep ball to wide receiver Jared Abbrederis and turned upfield. Ducks DB Terrance Mitchell perfectly punched the ball out and it dropped absolutely still mere inches from the Oregon sideline. As the ball laid there for what seemed like hours, linebacker Michael Clay dove on top of it in bounds. Oregon ball. Kelly shows his enthusiasm with rapid jumping getting at least six inches of air off the ground.

The spike that never was

Word to the wise: you need more than two seconds to spike the ball. This was a tough pill to swallow for Wilson. With Wisconsin marching down the field, down by a touchdown and with less than a minute of game time remaining, Wilson tried to spike the football on the 25-yard-line with two second left on the clock. Wilson still had possession of the ball as he tried to ground it when the clock reached 00:00. 

Game over. Ducks win, 45-38.

Fast forward to today, and the No. 6 Oregon Ducks will face No. 8 Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl once again. Only one can hope for a similar result or at least Mario Cristobal jumping for joy at some point during the game.

Jay Butterfield, Nation's No. 3 Pro Style QB, to enroll early at Oregon

Jay Butterfield, Nation's No. 3 Pro Style QB, to enroll early at Oregon

One of the biggest, if not the biggest, question looking ahead to next season of Oregon football, is who will replace the departing Justin Herbert at quarterback?

If Herbert’s heir isn’t already on campus in Tyler Shough, he will be soon when 2020 QB commit Jay Butterfield steps foot in Eugene on January 4th. 

The 6-foot-6, 202 pound signal caller out of Brentwood, CA is rated as the third best pro style passer in this upcoming high school class according to 247Sports. Rivals’ Recruiting Director Mike farrell has claimed he could be a future first day NFL Draft selection. 

Butterfield is a tall quarterback with a great frame to fill out who has a strong arm but can also move around a bit. He’s raw, but his talents are evident and he could be a first-rounder down the line if he develops.

Following the official departure of offensive coordinator Marcus Arroyo, the Ducks commit tweeted out his commitment to UO still stood. Arroyo was among his main recruiters to come to Eugene, but clearly wasn’t the only determining factor. 

Butterfield will join Bradley Yaffe and Cale Millen (coming off shoulder injury) at the quarterback position on the Ducks' roster next season.

When Butterfield starts practicing with the team, expect him to push Shough for the starting job this fall.

His high school highlights are below.

FAU is a dream job... Willie Taggart, probably

FAU is a dream job... Willie Taggart, probably

Florida Atlantic did something. 

On Wednesday, it was announced that Willie Taggart will be the next head coach to replace the departed Lane Kiffin. 

Kiffin will be the next head coach at Ole Miss.

[RELATED]: Oregon State adds home-and-home series with Ole Miss, New Mexico

Taggart spent one season as Oregon’s head football coach before departing for his “dream job” at Florida State. Taggart coached the Ducks to a 7-5 record, but quickly left Eugene before the Las Vegas Bowl for Tallahassee. Taggart lead the team to a 5-7 record in his first season (2018-19). Nine games into his second season, Florida State fired Taggart following a 27-10 loss to the Miami Hurricanes. FSU paid Taggart $18 million to leave.

Now, he's on to yet another position, his fourth team in four years. The Florida Atlantic Owls did something and took a chance on the head coach. They will have to live with that decision, but maybe not for more than a year or two. 

At Oregon, it's a very good time for making an offensive change

At Oregon, it's a very good time for making an offensive change

Marcus Arroyo is leaving the University of Oregon football program at just the right time.

I can’t think of a better time for this to happen to the Ducks. I have no idea how much they will miss him on the recruiting side of the game – time will tell about that.

But I’m pretty confident they can find an offensive coordinator who can move the ball and score points as well as Arroyo did.

And remember, Arroyo has had a quarterback, Justin Herbert, who is expected to be a first-round pick in the NFL draft.

I’ve never been sure that the Ducks got as much out of Herbert as they should have gotten. They always seemed to be torn between wanting to be a power-running team and being a pass-first team. Either would have been OK, but they often didn’t hit on the right balance. And to be fair to them, it was incumbent upon them to play a style most suitable to Herbert's talents, even if it was counter to their long-term philosophy.

And that could have been attributed to the head coach, too. All I know is that, quite often, the offense did not live up to expectations, considering the line and the quarterback behind it.

Now, though, Mario Cristobal has his chance to shape the offense just the way he wants to, with the hiring of a new offensive coordinator.

I wouldn’t at all be surprised to see Oregon go to a more option-oriented attack with a quarterback who is more of a running threat than pure passer. It would seem to fit with Cristobal's perceived vision of a physical offensive line being able to control games with ball control to benefit a stingy defense.

And with Herbert gone, the way is cleared now to recruit toward that style of play -- or any other style he wishes. I think, too, he will have the resources to hire a big name and/or a proven commodity.

That’s why the time is right for a change. A change in coaches, in philosophy and perhaps even personnel.