Oregon Ducks

Is Oregon becoming a basketball school?

Is Oregon becoming a basketball school?

The mesmerizing site of Oregon junior guard Sabrina Ionescu dropping threes at will Sunday afternoon against Mississippi State in the Elite Eight was only surpassed by the euphoric celebration that followed the Ducks' hard-fought 88-84 win that sent the program to its first Final Four. 

A few days prior to the women's historical victory, the Oregon men's team narrowly lost 53-49 to No. 1 seed Virginia in the Sweet 16. That came nearly a week after UO clobbered the field in the Pac-12 Conference Tournament in Las Vegas, Nev., two years after the program reached the Final Four and three years after a run to the Elite Eight.

All of this recent success on the hardwood, which includes the women's run to the Elite Eight the last two seasons, begs the question: Is Oregon becoming a basketball school?

During the same four-season time frame that includes Oregon's greatest combined achievements in both men's and women's basketball, the football program fell on hard times. The Ducks are on their third coach since 2016, have not sniffed a conference title and have just one bowl victory, which came in a very forgettable 7-6 win over Michigan State last December in the Redbox Bowl.

Since reaching the college football national title game following the 2014 season, Oregon fired a legacy football staff in 2016 after going 4-8, ended up with their seventh choice as head coach in Willie Taggart, who ultimately left UO after one season for Florida State and now UO has relatively unproven Mario Cristobal at the helm. Over on the basketball side: men's coach Dana Altman and women's coach Kelly Graves are proven commodities with long track records of success. Cristobal has a career record of 36-53. Compare that to Graves (496-211 at UO, Gonzaga and Saint Mary's) and Altman (645-339 at UO, Creighton, Kansas State and Marshall).

The two most prominent athletes between basketball and football over the past three years are Dillon Brooks, the best player on the men's Final Four team, and current women's superstar, Ionescu, who will lead the Ducks (33-4) against Baylor (35-1) at 4 p.m., Friday in Tampa, Fla. 

Don't bring up quarterback Justin Herbert. Yes, he will be a first-round pick in the NFL next year. Yes, football is a bigger deal than basketball in this country. But Herbert has yet to achieve the level of greatness both Brooks and Ionescu enjoyed at Oregon. And Sabrina isn't done. 

Yes, I'm abandoning style protocol and referring to her by her first name. Sabrina's performance on Sunday - 31 points, eight assists and seven rebounds - further enhanced her legendary status to the point where she is worthy of the single-name mention. Sabrina. That's it. Nothing else is needed. Just like with Marcus, LaMichael and Joey in the Oregon football world. 

Those three men led the Ducks to their greatest seasons ever. Quarterback Joey Harrington led UO to the 2002 Fiesta Bowl win and finished fourth in the Heisman Trophy balloting. Running back LaMichael James led the Ducks to the 2011 BCS National Championship Game and placed third in the Heisman balloting. Quarterback Marcus Mariota guided UO to the 2015 national championship game and received Oregon's first Heisman Trophy. Those three belong on the Mt. Rushmore of Oregon football  with the fourth representative open for debate.  

But that 2014 season with Marcus leading the way seems like eons ago. The landscape of the Pac-12 and college football have so dramatically changed that the once fabled "blur offense" became just another fast-paced scheme and the run of dizzying success UO enjoyed from 2007 through 2014 came to a screeching halt. 

Cristobal is attempting to resuscitate that success and got off to a solid start last season by going 9-4, albeit with a very weak schedule. A highly-rated recruiting class bodes well for the Ducks' future on the gridiron but there are certainly no guarantees that the Ducks will once again taste national-level success in the near future. 

Cristobal can't ultimately be judged until after his fourth season when he has had three years to assemble talent recruited under his guidance. 

Meanwhile, the men's and women's basketball programs already appear to be set up for long-term success. Altman has proven that he can reshape and develop rosters on the fly as good as almost anyone in the country. Graves has tapped into the international recruiting scene to create a strong pipeline of elite talent flowing into Eugene. 

It wasn't long ago that the basketball programs were mere diversions to pass the time until the summer recreation months that led to what mattered most - football. Not anymore. 

The women's basketball team will be strong again next season. Altman has another great recruiting class heading in to join a strong group of returners.

Football? Well, Herbert is back for his senior season. So there is hope there for great success. We shall see. 

So maybe the question isn't if Oregon is becoming a basketball school, but rather has it already done so?

Oregon's new uniforms feature new "Nightmare Green" color

Oregon's new uniforms feature new "Nightmare Green" color

The Oregon Ducks unveiled their 2019 "Nike Vapor Fusion" uniform. 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). 

The new uniform style is celebrating Oregon's 20th anniversary of their partnership with Nike. Fan reaction on social media has been overwhelmingly positive. Here is a look at the five different sets. What do you think?

Trying to keep up with the Ducks? Bad news from Saturday: Wide reeceiver Mycah Pittman injured in Oregon Ducks scrimmage

Freshman WR Mycah Pittman injured in Saturday’s Oregon Ducks scrimmage

Freshman WR Mycah Pittman injured in Saturday’s Oregon Ducks scrimmage

Another big blow to the Oregon Ducks wide receiver corps. Already down one with the loss of senior Brenden Schooler (out 4-6 weeks with a foot injury), now freshman Mycah Pittman is out with a shoulder injury following Saturday’s scrimmage. 

“Mycah Pittman did lay out for a ball and landed on his shoulder. He’s getting evaluated and landed on it pretty good,” head coach Mario Cristobal said after the scrimmage. 

On another note, Pittman caught the ball, but that’s not surprising since the freshman arrives to the Hatfield-Dowlin complex at 5:45 AM on fall camp days, stays until approximately 11 PM, absolutely hates dropping balls, and has made those acrobatic catches before. His hands are on another level and so is his effort. 

The depth chart at receiver is something interesting to watch these next two weeks leading into Oregon’s opener against Auburn. The first team seems pretty clear: senior Johnny Johnson III, grad transfer Juwan Johnson and junior Jaylon Redd lead the way. But it’s the players behind them that are definitely talented and rather young. Pittman, the four-star recruit from California, was one of those players pushing the “one’s”. Other freshmen Josh Delgado and JR Waters have also made a big push. 

However, Waters will also miss several weeks (approximately 4-6) now too after a procedure on his lower leg.

Still waiting to hear on a timetable for Pittman’s return, but with his high ceiling and talent, the sooner he’s back on the field, the better for Oregon.

Payton Pritchard's "extremely impressive" weekend at the Nike Basketball Academy

Payton Pritchard's "extremely impressive" weekend at the Nike Basketball Academy

An in-state prodigy. A West Linn High School alumnus. A soon-to-be four year Oregon basketball starter. 

Senior Payton Pritchard is back and his stock is rising higher and faster than ever. 

Remember this breakaway dunk vs. the Washington Huskies in the Pac-12 tournament championship game last season?

Pritchard has been on a different level since then. Stifling defense paired with good decision-making. The 6-foot-2 guard is the glue that head coach Dana Altman has relied heavily upon in the past three seasons with major roster turnover. From a leadership standpoint, Pritchard has helped the younger players get acclimated to the playbook and collegiate basketball, plus he is the guard that sets the pace both on and off the court.

The 2019 Nike Basketball Academy took place last weekend which featured 60 future NBA prospects, Pritchard included. 

According to Jonathan Givony, an ESPN Draft Analyst and Reporter, Pritchard “had an extremely impressive weekend” and was named one of the more interesting collegiate prospect performances among others.


You can read the article here.

The moment the 2015 Gatorade Oregon Player of the Year stepped onto UO’s campus, he's made an impact. Pritchard earned the starting spot during his freshman season from then junior guard Casey Benson. That season, the Ducks made it to the Final Four but lost to North Carolina 77-76. 

Last season, Pritchard averaged 12.9 points per game, 68 total steals and shot 83.6 percent from the free throw line. 

Some notables on Pritchard:

- Ranks 2nd in UO career steals with 164. Trails only UO career leader Kenya Wilkins (213/1993-97).

- Ranks 4th in UO career assists with 487. Next up is Luke Ridnour (500/2000-03).

- Became the 37th 1,000-point scorer in UO history at Arizona on Jan. 17.

- Led the nation in total minutes played (1,349), starting all 38 games on 2018-19

Oregon running back Travis Dye’s spin move isn’t his only weapon

Oregon running back Travis Dye’s spin move isn’t his only weapon

As a freshman, Oregon running back Travis Dye quite literally flew onto the scene with his ferocious jump cuts and spin moves. His breakaway speed and agility amounted to 739 rushing yards and four touchdowns on 140 carries.

The 5-foot-10, 192-pound sophomore may be the hardest worker on the team based on the stories his teammates disclose about him.

Wide receiver Jaylon Redd smiled wide when talking about determined Dye. Redd detailed that on multiple occasions, when the defense gets an interception in practice, Dye will be the Duck to sprint all the way down the sideline to keep them from the end zone.

“His effort is there, his heart is there,” Redd said.

Fellow running back Cyrus Habibi-Likio complimented Dye’s integrity. Habibi-Likio was impressed with Dye after he missed a block and linebacker La’Mar Winston Jr. got around him. Later that day in film session, coaches missed the play and instead of dodging the error, Dye brought it back up so that the position room could go over it, correct it and learn from it.

His character earned A+ remarks from his team… And so did his on-field development and refined skills.

“He is a lot more physical this year,” Habibi-Likio said. “He’s able to run in between the tackles a lot more… He’s not afraid to put his head down and if there is someone in the way, he’s going to try to get through them instead of get around them.”
Over the past year, the game has slowed down for Dye, he knows the playbook like the back of his hand, his blocking has improved and he’s playing more physically. He’s ready to one-up himself, specifically when it comes to breaking runs of 10-plus yards and 20-plus yards.

“When I get the ball I’m always trying to shoot for touchdowns, not first downs,” Dye said.

The competition with the defense has been no laughing matter during fall camp. As it’s extremely difficult for any defensive Ducks to compliment their offensive teammates, including Travis’ brother, star linebacker Troy Dye.

“Iron sharpens iron, as everyone says,” Troy Dye said of his brother, Travis. “It’s always fun to compete against anybody and it’s a little more fun when it’s Travis.”

The shifty Dye is also an enticing option for the Ducks at punt and kick returner. He’s been one of a few contenders who have been taking reps and getting a shot during fall camp.

Special teams need aside, the Ducks desperately need Dye to help UO’s transition to Cristobal’s hard-pounding vision. The Ducks struggled with the physical, between the tackles rushing attack in 2018, finishing the season with the 191 rushing yards per game, the least amount for this program since 2006.

The good news? The Ducks return the entire starting offensive line and both leading rushers in CJ Verdell and Dye. Better news? Dye is trending upwards, improving rapidly towards the latter half of the season. Dye had 507 rushing yards after mid point of the season. To close out Pac-12 play, he rushed for 100-plus yards in back-to-back games, including his record setting Civil War performance.

This season, Dye is adding physicality to his determination and naturally agility… Which is just what the Ducks need for a reliable run game and success in 2019.

Oregon Duck Mascot named best mascot in the Pac-12 Conference

Oregon Duck Mascot named best mascot in the Pac-12 Conference

The Oregon Duck earned the “Greatest Mascot in College Football History” in the Pac-12 Conference but was No. 2 in the nation behind University of Georgia's bulldog, according to Sports Illustrated.

Two other Pac-12 mascots made the Sports Illustrated list. In honor of the 150th anniversary of college football, No. 6 University of Colorado: Ralphie the Buffalo and No. 5 Stanford University: The Tree.

The Duck mascot is one-of-a-kind. In case you missed his most recent antics for the Bottle Cam Challenge fad…

A college football icon, the Duck rides a motorcycle, does push-ups, takes selfies and will certainly make you laugh.
From Sports Illustrated:

From the 1920s to ‘40s, a live duck named “Puddles” (and subsequently his offspring) found its way to Oregon football and basketball games, becoming a de facto mascot for the school. Repeated complaints from the Humane Society brought the live mascot era to an end, though, and through a handshake agreement with Walt Disney in 1947, the school was able to fashion a mascot costume in Donald Duck’s likeness. Now, the Duck shoots donuts into gameday crowds, rides a motorcycle, and heckles opposing fans, deviating just slightly from his Disney namesake.

The list went heavy on live animals. The first place pure white English bulldog, Uga X, is the tenth in the line of dog mascots that dates back to 1956.

Here are some of the best recent Duck mascot moments. Let me know your favorites on Twitter or Instagram.

The Oregon Duck does a sorority recruitment parody video.

Remember Gangnam Style? The Duck nailed it.

The Duck has been to the Heisman House with Marcus Mariota.

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🤙 #tbt

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The Duck can plank.

As seen in Autzen Stadium at the Garth brooks concert:

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my friends and I ain’t in low places.

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The Duck’s dance moves are incredible.

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How did he not take the top spot?

Oregon Duck x-factor Isaac Slade-Matautia is emulating Marcus Mariota

Oregon Duck x-factor Isaac Slade-Matautia is emulating Marcus Mariota

A lot has happened in a year for Oregon inside linebacker Isaac Slade-Matautia. He experienced his first live college football game, broke his collarbone to halt his strong freshman season, rehabbed and added almost 20 pounds.

Now, the healthy and respected MIKE linebacker is majorly contributing and the front-runner to start alongside senior Troy Dye. Slade-Matautia could be Oregon’s x-factor, yet he’s flying relatively under the radar… And he likes it that way.

A former four-star prospect and a top two player from the state of Hawaii, Slade-Matautia attended St. Louis High School, the same school quarterback Marcus Mariota attended. The two have clear similarities in their soft-spoken nature and intense work ethic; Slade-Matautia emulates the Heisman Trophy winner and aims to follow in Mariota’s footsteps.

“I talk to his brother (Matt Mariota) a lot,” Slade-Matautia said. “I ask his brother, ‘What did Marcus Mariota do when he was in college? Did he go out? Did he have social media?’ The answers are no… I want to do what he did and hopefully get the same result.”

[READ: Mykael Wright: "Silent assassin" true freshman pushing Oregon's secondary]

No Instagram, Twitter, Facebook or burner accounts for 6-foot-1 235-pound linebacker, just like Mariota. The sophomore stays in, studies film, arrives early to practice, leads by example and demands the most from his teammates in a positive way. He’s earned the respect from his teammates by his calm command of the defense. Oregon senior offensive lineman Shane Lemiuex picked Slade-Matautia as ‘Best in Fall Camp’.

“He’s quiet but has become a very vocal guy on the defense and a great pass rusher,” Lemieux said. “He’s not afraid to come down the A-gap and smack someone.”

With Kaulana Apelu’s departure, the starting role is Slade-Matautia’s to take. Lack of size was a slight on Slade-Matautia last season. Not only does he feel more comfortable at 235 pounds, it’ll help with the adjustment for more reps and he has been able to maintain his speed.

His accountability helps the Ducks trust him to make the calls on the field, set the front and get the coverage correct.

“I think he runs the defense really well, he has good control, guys trust him,” Dye said. “We all buy into backing him and believing in him… I know he’s going to have a breakout year this year.”

In Oregon’s latest scrimmage, Slade-Matautia made an impressive interception that displayed his knack for running to the ball and showcasing his strong hands.

“It was a man-to-man coverage. The ball came my way and I was there to jump the route,” Slade-Matautia said. “Knowing everything I was able to overcome, being injured and all that, getting that pick helped other players be confident in my plays.”

Slot wide receiver Jaylon Redd said he’s always aware of the physical presence of Slade-Matautia has in practice.

“You always gotta keep your eye on him,” Redd said. “He might catch you slipping a little bit. He’s focused, a quiet guy. He knows what he is doing.”

Last season, Slade-Matautia saw action in seven games before missing the last six games due to injury. He made 20 tackles, including 13 solo and two for loss.

Fair warning for Pac-12 offenses, it is Slade-Matautia's season and he’s looking to take advantage of slip-ups.

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.

REPORT: Oregon men’s basketball signs 5-star center N’Faly Dante

REPORT: Oregon men’s basketball signs 5-star center N’Faly Dante

Dana Altman does it again. His mighty recruiting powers have struck with the signing of five-star recruit N’Faly Dante. The 6-foot-11, 230-pound center from Sunrise Christian Academy (Kansas) chose Altman and Oregon over Kentucky, LSU, Kansas and Oklahoma State, among others. 

Dante was ranked the No. 12 overall player in the 2020 class and No. 3 center. He will reclassify and join Oregon for the 2019-2020 season, meaning he's available to play this season. 

In a letter to The Players’ Tribune, Dante explains writes a letter to him mom who is home in Mali.

Read the letter and you can feel just how close he and his mom are and when it came to his decision on where he would attend college, Dante made it very clear to her how much of an impact she was in his thought process.

“Throughout this process it’s been important to me to choose a place that I know you’d be proud of. A place where I will get a strong education and that has a family atmosphere. I’ve put a lot of thought into it, and I’m excited to tell you that next year I’m going to be attending college and playing basketball at the University of Oregon.

Oregon has a program that reflects a lot of the values you taught me when I was growing up. And I hope that someday I get to show you around Eugene. It’s beautiful there!”

Dante explains more in this letter to his mom that someday he will take her to this great restaurant called Chipotle. And he says that if you pay a little more, you can get this stuff called guacamole. 

Dante joins five-star SF CJ Walker, four-star SF Chandler Lawson, three-star C Isaac Johnson, three-star SG Chris Duarte (JUCO), and three-star PFr Lok Wur for the 2019 incoming class.

The Ducks now land at No. 8 in the preseason Top-25 rankings with the Dante signing.

Oregon returns Payton Pritchard, Will Richardson, Francis Okoro, Luke Osborn and Will Johnson next season. 

Last season, Oregon’s Pac-12 tournament victory gave them an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament and a Sweet 16 run that ended in a close loss to the eventual National Champions Virginia Cavaliers. 

Can Oregon repeat this upcoming season with so many new faces? The talent is there, yes, and now Altman can do what Altman does best: put them altogether in a way that very few can see coming. 

Five electrifying options for Oregon's return roles

Five electrifying options for Oregon's return roles

Oregon’s special team battles are waging through fall camp. Starting role decisions have not been made for kicker, punter and both return duties. The return game is wide open and the group of contenders is impressive and potentially electrifying.

Who on the roster is best fitted to replace Ugochukwu Amadi and Tony Brooks-James? Is this the season that Oregon’s special teams thrill once again like the days of Cliff Harris and De’Anthony Thomas?

“It’s up for grabs right now,” said Oregon safety Jevon Holland. The sophomore named running back Travis Dye, wide receivers Jaylon Redd and Mycah Pittman as top return competitors. Then, he couldn’t help but throw his name in the hat.

“You can throw me in the mix too,” Holland said. “I had 10 returns in high school, I’m just putting that out there.”

Return duties have become such a coveted job that leading rusher CJ Verdell also made a case for himself to be considered.
After all the running the receivers, running backs and defensive backs do, you’d think the last thing they’d want is to add an extra duty. However, the Ducks see it as a bonus- as an extra opportunity to touch the ball and effect the game.

Injury is always a concern. Oregon has history with injuries to returners: Thomas Tyner suffered a season-ending shoulder injury versus Washington in 2014 and Devon Allen suffered two season-ending knee injuries as a specialist.

Wide receiver Brenden Schooler is already out, at least for four to six weeks, after suffering a foot injury during practice. Currently, it appears the shifty Dye is leading return man, as he’s been taking the first reps. The sophomore’s breakaway speed and agility make him a solid selection. Four other realistic options for the depth chart are: Redd, Pittman, Holland and cornerback Deommodoire Lenoir.

Redd is dynamic and flashed his deadly speed while true freshman Pittman may be the most hyped new UO receiver and his sure hands make him an interesting option. Defensive playmakers, Holland lead the team last season with five picks and Lenoir totaled three.

“Jevon (Holland) looks really good at catching punts,” said Oregon wide receiver Juwan Johnson. “Jaylon Redd is also a guy who’s very critical in our special teams.”

Last season, the Ducks topped the Pac-12 Conference in punt returns and ranked sixth in kickoff returns. Oregon’s 2018 averages in kick and punt coverage and returns slipped a bit from 2017.

Oregon hopes to better sort the depth chart after scrimmaging this week. With five potentially electrifying options, it appears the Ducks have a good problem on their hands.