Oregon Ducks

Oregon 2017 Outlook - RBs: Royce Freeman's return means Ducks remain loaded

Oregon 2017 Outlook - RBs: Royce Freeman's return means Ducks remain loaded

Oregon's worst season (4-8) since 1991 (3-8) led to a coaching change. Yet, the Ducks' cupboard is hardly bare for new coach Willie Taggart. We will take a position-by-position look at what the new coaching staff will have to work with while trying to turn things around in 2017.

Other entries: Quarterbacks; Tight ends, Wide receivers, Offensive line, Defensive line, Linebackers, Defensive backs

Today: Running backs.

Key loss: None. 

Projected 2017 starter: Royce Freeman, Sr., (5-11, 230). 

Key backups: Tony Brooks-James, RJr., (5-9, 185), Kani Benoit, RSr., (6-0, 210), Taj Griffin, Jr., (5-10, 180).

What we know: Freeman's return was not required for Oregon to remain potent at this position but having him back certainly gives new running backs coach Donte Pimpleton less to worry about in 2017.

Freeman, should he remain healthy, will likely break LaMichael James' career rushing mark of 5,082 yards. Freeman, who has 4,148 for his career, needs 934 yards to tie James.

What might be more intriguing than watching Freeman chase history is seeing how Brooks-James evolves as a player. He showed flashes of elite ability last season while filling in for an injured Freeman to the point where he became the primary ball carrier in several games, even starting at USC. Had Freeman entered the NFL Draft, next season would have been Brooks-James' time to shine as the starter, but he should still receive enough carries to surpass the 771 yards he racked up last season on 7.6 per carry. Brooks-James will likely be the featured back in 2018 should he stick around for his senior season. 

Benoit, like Brooks-James, has shown abilities worthy of a starter but he won't get that chance with Freeman's return. Nevertheless, Benoit (300 yards last season) gives Oregon a starting-caliber running back off the bench. 

What we don't know: Griffin was lost for the season with a knee injury in early November. He should be able to recover by the start of next season, but where he fits in as a specialty back in Taggart's offense remains to be seen. Chances are Griffin settles back into his role of receiving spot carries in the hopes he breaks a long one, as he did with a 50-yard touchdown run at Nebraska last season. 

UO has two running backs committed to the 2017 class. Both should plan on redshirting behind this group. 

Final word: This position carries with it the least amount of mystery on the team. Pimpleton should have the easiest transition out of all of Oregon's new assistant coaches.  

Position grade: A. Oregon should lead the conference in rushing once again.  

Next up: Tight ends.

Oregon Ducks WR Juwan Johnson raising money to fight rare disease

Oregon Ducks WR Juwan Johnson raising money to fight rare disease

When Juwan Johnson walks into the NFL Combine later this month, he'll be playing for more than just himself.

The former Oregon Ducks wide receiver has begun a campaign asking for pledges for each successful bench press rep he completes at the upcoming NFL Combine on February 27.

"As I take a step toward my NFL dream, I’d like to use this opportunity to give back. I have committed my performance at the NFL Combine to support Uplifting Athletes and its mission to inspire the Rare Disease Community with hope through the power of sport."

Uplifting Athletes is a nonprofit organization whose mission statement aspires to "inspire the Rare Disease Community with hope through the power of sport." Their national network of chapters is run by current student-athletes playing football and has made an impact on Jonhson throughout his college career.

I will never forget participating in the Penn State Lift for Life and the way it brought the community together in support of this great cause.  During my time as a student-athlete at Penn State and Oregon I realized the platform athletes have to make a difference.  It’s very important to me to make the most of that opportunity and turn it into something positive. That is why I hope you will help me make a positive impact on the 30 million Americans affected by rare diseases by supporting my campaign!

Johnson states on the donation page his goal is 14 reps of 225 pounds. The historical average for the bench press for receivers is 15.2 reps of 225 pound, according to SB Nation. 

You can donate to his campaign here!

Johnson transferred to the University of Oregon as a graduate transfer for his final season of college eligibility. After a toe injury kept him on the sidelines for weeks to begin the season, he made an impact once he stepped on the field, finishing with 30 receptions, 467 yards and four touchdowns. Three of those touchdowns came in a 56-24 victory over USC in LA Coliseum. 

Why Marcus Mariota and Justin Herbert could be teammates soon

Why Marcus Mariota and Justin Herbert could be teammates soon

Many Duck fans are eagerly anticipating where former Oregon quarterbacks Marcus Mariota and Justin Herbert will be playing next season.

What are the odds they play for the same team? It could be more likely than you'd think.

The Los Angeles Chargers have moved on from their quarterback of 16 seasons, Philip Rivers, and will be looking for a new starter.

Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn spoke with AM 570 LA Sports, per ESPN’s Eric D. Williams, about the quarterback battle and if he'd be comfortable starting Tyrod Taylor, their lone quarterback on roster at the moment.

Tyrod Taylor is a heck of a quarterback. We couldn’t have a better backup right now, and now he has an opportunity to maybe step up into a starting role. I’ve had Tyrod before [in Buffalo], and I know what this young man brings to the table, in the passing game and the running game.

However, I don't think it's likely that the Chargers will be starting Tyrod Taylor next season, at least not without an open competition in training camp. 

Los Angeles owns the sixth-overall pick in the upcoming draft, which many mock drafts predict will be used to select Justin Herbert.

[RELATED: The L.A. Chargers are moving on from Phillip Rivers.....is it Justin Herbert time?]

Meanwhile, Michael Moraitis of Titansized thinks the Chargers and Marcus Mariota should mutually target each other. 

Why not both?

With skilled receiving options such as Keenan Allen, Mike Williams and Hunter Henry (free agent), the Chargers are built to compete right now.  Much of their 5-11 record can be attributed to bad luck because they had a positive point differential for most of the season before ending with a differential of -8, good for 16th in the NFL. 

Los Angeles may draft Herbert thinking he's the quarterback of the future, but why not pick up another capable quarterback like Mariota for cheap to come to compete on a prove-it deal. It could be the opposite of when the Seahawks gave Matt Flynn a large contract and drafted Russell Wilson in the third round as a flier. Wilson ended up winning the job in training camp and Pete Carroll didn't give into sunk cost fallacy by moving on from Flynn when Wilson was the better player. 

The Chargers can invest significant draft capital in Herbert, but let Mariota and Taylor compete for the starting role. If Herbert wins the job, then great, the Chargers probably have their quarterback of the future. If he isn't quite ready, then they have two experienced options to fill in until Herbert is ready and he can learn behind Mariota for a season.

Also if Mariota begins the season as the starter before being benched for Herbert, he will be a great teammate backing up Herbert as evidenced by his handling of the Titans benching him in favor of Ryan Tannehill this past season.

[RELATED: Marcus Mariota was a consummate professional until the end with Titans]

As the Tannehill-Mariota situation showed, there is no downside to bringing in a low-cost quarterback to compete for the starting job, and the Chargers should take that approach. The Titans were starting Tannehill in the AFC Championship while only paying him $2 million. 

Mariota spoke after the conclusion of the Titans' season has "no doubts at all" about being a starter next season.

I have no doubts at all, no doubts at all. I'm just hopeful and ready for whatever that next opportunity is.

Mariota has shown flashes of brillilance throughout his professional career. Before a broken leg ended his impressive sophomore campaign, Mariota threw 26 touchdowns and just nine interceptions with a career-best 7.9 yards-per-attempt. His junior season saw massive regression as he threw 13 touchdowns to 15 interceptions while playing through a hamstring injury. That regression would continue into his fourth season under first-year head coach Mike Vrabel. 

Before being benched, Mariota has a 29-32 record in 61 games as a starter with 13,207 passing yards, 76 touchdowns, and 44 interceptions. It's not entirely Mariota's fault, however; few young quarterbacks would succeed with four offensive coordinators and five different play-callers during their rookie contract. When he hits the open market in March, he can seek out a better opportunity to turn his career around, perhaps in Los Angeles? 

Meanwhile, Herbert just finished a four-year career at Oregon as the full-time starter, concluding in a Pac-12 and Rose Bowl Championships. The Eugene native ended his college playing career passing for  10,541 yards, 95 touchdowns, and 23 interceptions while going 29-13 as the starter. 

To get his draft process started, Herbert was named the MVP of both the Senior Bowl practices and the Senior Bowl itself after passing for 83 yards on 9-of-13 passing and a touchdown.

Instant Analysis: No. 14 Oregon falls in the desert to Arizona State

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USATI

Instant Analysis: No. 14 Oregon falls in the desert to Arizona State

A slow start in the desert left the No. 14 Oregon Ducks fighting and clawing back throughout this contest. Arizona State’s largest lead of 12 points slowing dwindled down at the hand of Payton Pritchard in the second half. Pritchard finished with 18 points, 16 in the second half, but unfortunately fouled out with 2:15 to go in the game and the Ducks down five.

Oregon (20-7, 9-5 Pac-12) dropped a game and a spot in the Pac-12 conference standings with a loss in Tempe to the Arizona State Sun Devils (18-8, 9-4). 

The Ducks fall behind No. 18 Colorado (10-4), No. 24 Arizona (9-4) and Arizona State (9-4) in the conference standings.

FINAL SCORE: Oregon 72, Arizona State 77

Here are three quick takeaways from the game:

1. MORE TURNOVERS THAN BASKETS

At the end of the first half, the Ducks had more turnovers (11) than baskets (10). Not an ideal start at all especially on the road in a hostile environment such as Tempe, Arizona. 

2. SECOND HALF PRITCHARD

Payton Pritchard had two points in the first half, 1-for 4 from the field and 0-for-2 from three-point range. He picked up two fouls in the first half and never really found his groove. But like he’s been doing all season, you knew that cold streak wasn’t going to last. 

The senior guard hit back-to-back three-pointers midway through the second half. After his third, he hit the Oregon bench with a little shimmy. Pritchard hit four three-pointers since the 8-minute mark left in the game.

Unfortunately, the hot-handed Pritchard fouled out with 2:15 left in the game and the Ducks down 66-61.

3. FULL COURT PRESSURE

The Oregon full court press can cause many problems for the opposing team, and it did so tonight against Arizona State. During an important 11-0 Ducks run midway through the second half, Oregon forced ASU into a 10-second backcourt violation. It was momentum swinging and the Arizona State lead was gone.

But the comeback would fall just short.

UP NEXT: Oregon remains on the road to face the Arizona Wildcats (19-7, 9-4 Pac-12) on Saturday, Feb. 22 at 6 p.m. (PT) in Tucson, Arizona.

Sabrina Ionescu will attend Kobe Bryant's memorial service before playing No. 4 Stanford

Sabrina Ionescu will attend Kobe Bryant's memorial service before playing No. 4 Stanford

Sabrina Ionescu will prepare for an emotional weekend as the No. 3 Oregon Ducks travel for the annual Bay Area road trip to play California and No. 4 Stanford. 

The Walnut Creek, California native will play in the area she grew up for the final time as an Oregon Duck. Given the Golden Bears' last-place ranking in the conference, the game should not have the fantastic finish it did Ionescu's freshman season.

Then, the game against Stanford will be emotional for additional reasons. Earlier that day before the crucial game to all-but-wrap-up the Pac-12 regular-season title, Ionescu will attend a memorial service for Kobe Bryant in Los Angeles. 

Ionescu had developed a close relationship with Bryant and his daughter Gianna over the past year, including practicing with Gianna's AAU team. The duo attended multiple Ducks games to see Ionescu play. Kobe even told the Ducks after their game against USC that it was his daughter's dream to play for Oregon. 

The senior guard learned of the tragic passing of the Bryants just hours before playing Oregon State in Corvallis.  She dedicated the rest of the season to Kobe after the game.

I mean, everything I do, I do it for him obviously. Really close friend and this season’s for him.

[RELATED: Sabrina Ionescu paying tribute to Kobe Bryant: “This season is for him”]

The Ducks will play the California Golden Bears on Friday at 6:00 p.m. before traveling to Palo Alto to play the No. 4 Stanford Cardinal at 6:00 p.m.

What it means for Oregon in 2020-21 with Satou Sabally declaring for the WNBA Draft

What it means for Oregon in 2020-21 with Satou Sabally declaring for the WNBA Draft

“Duck Family,

After long consideration, I have decided to follow my childhood dream to play professional basketball next season.”

These were the words announced on Thursday from Oregon women's basketball junior Satou Sabally as she will forgo her senior season and declare for the 2020 WNBA Draft.

It was April of last year when Duck fans received the ultimate gift of Sabrina Ionescu announcing that she would forgo the 2019 WNBA Draft and return to Oregon for her senior season. I’m sure a lot of fans were hoping Sabally would do the same. The biggest pull for her to return to Oregon for one more season was the opportunity to play at the collegiate level with her younger sister Nyara, a redshirt freshman this season who has been injured these past two years. 

But, according to the letter, this decision was carefully made with help of her family, who is very important to her.

It has been an amazing three years (with still some left to play) with Sabally in an Oregon uniform. She is a match-up nightmare for anyone on the court. A 6-foot-4 frame, slender with speed combined with strength and power, and good handles… how do you guard that?

Sabally was a crucial piece in what the Oregon women’s program has grown into these past few years. 

The 2020 WNBA Draft is on April 17, 12 days after the national championship. According to the latest ESPN mock draft, Sabally is projected to be selected third overall by the Indiana Fever.

Earlier this month, Sabally was one of three Ducks in the top five of espnW’s midseason rankings of the nation’s top-25 players at No. 4, along with Sabrina Ionescu (No. 1) and Ruthy Hebard (No. 5). 

All this to say, it's not really a surprise that Sabally would declare. This is an opportunity that she has always dreamt of and now it is time to strike while the iron is hot.

So what does this mean for the Ducks next season?

OUTLOOK ON THE 2020-2021 SEASON

The Ducks now lose four of their five starters heading into next season: Sabally, Sabrina Ionescu, Minyon Moore and Ruthy Hebard. That leaves Erin Boley as the consistent starter for the 2020-21 season.

Having only one returning starter is a tough feat, however, the talent coming off the bench speaks for itself: Taylor Chavez, Jaz Shelley, Holly Winterburn, Lucy Cochrane, Lydia Giomi and Morgan Yaeger along with Nyara Sabally (coming off injury) and Sedona Prince (forced to sit out this season by the NCAA).

Not to mention the incoming talent in Oregon’s 2020 recruiting class, the TOP recruiting class in 2020.

Five five-stars will be sporting green and yellow in Eugene next year. 

Angela Dugalic, 6-foot-4 forward from Maine West High School in Des Plaines, Illinois.

- First-Team Illinois All-State selection in 2019

- Led Maine West High School to a 35-0 record and the 2019 Illinois 4A State Championship

Te-Hina Paopao, 5-foot-9 guard from La Jolla Country Day School in Oceanside, California.

- First-Team All-San Diego selection 2018-19

- 2019 Coastal League Player of the Year

Sydney Parrish, 6-foot-2 guard from Hamilton Southeastern High School from Fishers, Indiana.

- 2019 Indiana Gatorade State Player of the Year

- Led Hamilton Southeastern High School to the 2019 Indiana 4A State Championship

Maddie Scherr, 5-foot-11 guard from Ryle High School in Florence, Kentucky.

- 2019 Gatorade State Player of the Year

- Led Ryle High School to its first ever Kentucky State Championship (all classifications) in 2019

Kylee Watson, 6-foot-4 forward from Mainland High School in Linwood, New Jersey

- Two-time USA Today First-Team All-New Jersey (2018, 2019)

- Led Mainland HS to the 2019 New Jersey State Championship

The loss of Sabally is tough. Not only did she bring skill and talent on both ends of the court, but also leadership in the locker room. One could argue that both Taylor Chavez and Jaz Shelley could be in a starting role on another D-1 level team, they are that good. And then you have Sedona Prince, the 6-foot-7 phenom who has to sit out this year per the NCAA, who Duck fans are chomping at the bit to see her play with her size and skill.

Having a player like Sabally on the court and in the locker room only makes your team better, but head coach Kelly Graves will have another big pair of shoes to fill next season with her departure for the WNBA.

Social media, Ducks Nation reacts to Satou Sabally's WNBA decision

Social media, Ducks Nation reacts to Satou Sabally's WNBA decision

On Thursday morning, Oregon women's basketball junior Satou Sabally wrote a letter to her Duck Family.

In her own words, 

“Duck Family,

After long consideration, I have decided to follow my childhood dream to play professional basketball next season.”

The junior forward has decided to forgo her senior season and declare for the 2020 WNBA Draft. 

Here is how the basketball world and Ducks community reacted to the news:

While this decision was made in season, the No. 3 Oregon Ducks have four remaining conference games left: a trip to the Bay Area this weekend followed by a home series hosting the Washington schools. UO's Senior Day ceremonies and appreciation will take place following the game vs. Washington on March 1 at Matthew Knight Arena.

 

Oregon WBB’s Satou Sabally declares for the 2020 WNBA Draft

Oregon WBB’s Satou Sabally declares for the 2020 WNBA Draft

One of the big questions regarding the 2020-2021 season of Oregon women’s basketball has been answered. Satou Sabally, the outstanding junior forward, has decided to forgo her senior season at the University of Oregon and has officially declared for the 2020 WNBA Draft.

“Duck Family,

After long consideration, I have decided to follow my childhood dream to play professional basketball next season…”

The 6-foot-4 junior forward from Berlin, Germany has shown consistent growth throughout her three years at Oregon. 

FRESHMAN SEASON (2017-18)

Named the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year after averaging 10.7 points and 3.8 rebounds per game.

From the moment Sabally stepped onto the court at Matthew Knight Arena, you knew should was going to be a special player. If it wasn’t her 6-foot-4 frame at a wing position that surprised you, then perhaps it was the combination of both her speed and quickness and her relentless drives to the hoop that did.

SOPHOMORE SEASON (2018-19)

This is when the game really started to slow down for Sabally. From playing overseas her whole life, to one year playing at Oregon, her second season has been statistically her best.

Sabally started all 38 games for Oregon and averaged 16.6 points and 6.2 rebounds while shooting .441 3-PT percentage. This season ended in a Final Four run for the Ducks and Sabally finished both on the Wade Trophy and Naismith Trophy watch list, a Cheryl Miller Award finalist for the nation’s top small forward, All-Pac-12 honors and a WBCA honorable mention all-American. 

JUNIOR SEASON (2019-present)

In her last season in an Oregon uniform, Sabally has been stellar once again.

She is currently averaging 16.0 points, 7.4 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game and has proven game after game to be a matchup nightmare for opponents. And with good reason! How do you stop or slow down someone with that size and slender and strength and speed on either the outside or the inside?

It’s greatly noticeable this season against this tough Pac-12 conference.

PROFESSIONAL

Sabally is projected to be selected third overall in the upcoming 2020 WNBA Draft by the Indiana Fever.

According to ESPN’s Mechelle Voepel, “Her game is still developing, but she's smooth, powerful and versatile, and could give the Fever another strong scoring threat as a post to complement center Teaira McCowan.”

The 2020 WNBA Draft is on April 17, 2020.

Congratulations Satou, and good luck at the next level!

Oregon Ducks DC Andy Avalos no longer a candidate to be the Colorado head coach?

Oregon Ducks DC Andy Avalos no longer a candidate to be the Colorado head coach?

Following Mel Tucker leaving Colorado for Michigan State, there was buzz that Oregon Ducks defensive coordinator Andy Avalos was a candidate to take over the program in Boulder.

FOX Sports radio host George Wrighster III said "he'd be willing to bet" that Avalos received a call from Colorado gauging his interest, ESPN's Adam Rittenberg named Avalos an "interesting candidate" for Colorado who was focused on defensive coaches and Sportsline opened Avalos as the candidate with the second-best odds at +400. 

[RELATED: Oregon Ducks DC Andy Avalos a candidate for the Colorado Buffaloes job?]

Well, it appears that Duck fans can relax as Colorado will name a head coach "within 36 hours" with former Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema and Air Force head coach Troy Calhoun as the leading candidates. according to Scott Roussel of Football Scoop.

Additionally, Brian Howell of BuffZone reported a list of candidates that did not include Avalos, either. While not definite it hasn't happened, there have not been any reports of Avalos interviewing for the job so it'd be unlikely he's being seriously considered by Colorado. 

It may only be a matter of time before Avalos becomes a head coach somewhere. The Athletic's Bruce Feldman named Avalos a "name to know once the coaching carousel begins in earnest" back in October and a potential candidate for the Fresno State head coaching job in December. Here's what he wrote last season.

Looking for a fast riser? Here’s your guy. Avalos is the latest Boise State product who has blossomed into a big-time coaching product. He’s proved a great addition for Mario Cristobal. The Ducks are nasty on defense now; they haven’t allowed more than seven points in a game since the opener against Auburn. As with Arroyo and a few others on here, there are potential MWC openings that might interest Avalos, a Southern California native.

The Ducks have already lost one coordinator this offseason after OC Marcus Arroyo left for the head coaching job at UNLV. Cristobal hired former Mississippi State head coach Joe Moorhead as his replacement.

Defensive backs coach Donte' Williams also left Eugene for USC for the same position and to be their passing game coordinator two weeks ago.

Joe Burrow advised to 'pull an Eli Manning', could Justin Herbert go No. 1?

Joe Burrow advised to 'pull an Eli Manning', could Justin Herbert go No. 1?

For years Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert has been a highly coveted draft prospect, but can he go first overall?

It's not likely but never say never. 

The heavy favorite to be selected first overall by the Cincinnati Bengals, LSU quarterback Joe Burrow, has recently said he has "leverage" over Cincinnati: “They have their process and I have my process. We haven’t even gotten to the (NFL) combine yet. There’s a lot of things that happen leading up to the draft and a lot of information gathered."

Now, he's receiving advice to force his way away from the Bengals.

At the Davey O'Brien Award event Sunday evening, former No. 1 overall pick Steve Bartkowski said he believes Burrow should "pull an Eli Manning" to avoid being drafted by the Bengals, according to Drew Davison of the Fort-Worth Star Telegram

 If it’s the Bengals, I think I’d pull an Eli Manning on that one. I said, you’ve got a chance to do that. That’s happened. [John] Elway kind of set the tone, then the Mannings delved into it after Eli was picked by San Diego.

The Bengals are considered one of the worst run franchises in the NFL having not won a playoff game since 1990, and Bartkowski doesn't want to see Burrow's career ruined like his was after being selected by another poorly ran franchise at the time: the Atlanta Falcons in 1975.

“I know what it’s like to go to a bottom-feeder team. I’d hate to see that happen to him, to be honest. They beat me up. I spent more time at the hospital recuperating from injuries my first three years than I did throwing touchdowns. It was tough.”

If Burrow would listen to Bartkowski and the Bengals didn't draft Burrow anyways, they may decide to go with Herbert instead. 

To jumpstart the draft process, the Eugene native impressed all week at Senior Bowl practice, including Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator Brian Callahan.

He’s very talented physically. He’s got prototypical size and athletic ability. He has a really, really strong arm. On top of that, he’s extremely intelligent and he’s very conscientious. He gathers information, he can process it and he can call it. He went under center for the first time, probably, in his career and he answered that bell with flying colors. Every day I continue to be impressed with the things we ask him to do and he answers really well.

Herbert was named the MVP of both the Senior Bowl practices and the Senior Bowl itself after passing for 83 yards on 9-of-13 passing and a touchdown.

However, Ducks fans may be rooting for Herbert to go later in the draft to a team more ready to compete, like the Los Angeles Chargers at sixth overall. 

[RELATED: The L.A. Chargers are moving on from Phillip Rivers.....is it Justin Herbert time?]