Oregon Ducks

Oregon football projected to have nation's 2nd-best defense in 2020

Oregon football projected to have nation's 2nd-best defense in 2020

It's never too early to start looking forward to next season.

Especially when the reigning Pac-12 Champion and Rose Bowl Champion Oregon Ducks are returning so much talent, particularly on the defensive side of the ball.

ESPN's Bill Connely published his preliminary SP+ rankings for the 2020 college football season that had the Ducks ranked 13th overall, but their defense was projected to be second in the country. Oregon's offense ranked 51st due to replacing four-out-of-five lineman and quarterback Justin Herbert.

SP+ ratings take into account returning production, recent recruiting, and recent history of performance on the field. The Ducks excel in all three categories. 

Oregon will return eight defensive starters next season after four juniors (Jordon Scott, Thomas Graham Jr., Austin Faoliu, and Deommodore Lenoir) forwent the NFL Draft to return to school.

Troy Dye, Lamar Winston Jr, and Bryson Young all graduated and will not return. However, Mario Cristobal netted two five-star linebackers, Justin Flowe and Noah Sewell, in the 2020 recruiting class to fill into those spots. Sophomore Mase Funa will look to make a second-year leap as well.

The secondary will excel next season with starters Graham Jr, Lenoir, Breeze, and the best slot cornerback in the country according to Pro Football Focus, Jevon Holland, all returning. Sophomores Mykael Wright and Veronne Mckinley III will provide much-needed depth as well. Last season they were second in the nation in interceptions with 20. New cornerbacks coach Rob Chance will have some weapons in the secondary. 

The Ducks defense last season led the conference in both interceptions and forced turnovers. 

Look for Andy Avalos' unit to repeat that performance, or improve upon it, next season.

Here's what Connely wrote about Oregon.

The narrative early this offseason is that the Pac-12 race is Oregon vs. the field. Mario Cristobal's recruiting is strong, and the Ducks are the defending conference champions. SP+ never got fully on board with the 2019 Ducks, however. They finished just 15th thanks to inconsistency on both sides of the ball, and now they have to replace not only star quarterback Justin Herbert, but also five of their top six offensive linemen. The defense is deep and experienced and is projected to leap into the top five in defensive SP+. The offense, however, is projected 51st.

He went on to say that Oregon may have upgraded at offensive coordinator by hiring former Mississippi State head coach Joe Moorhead as Marcus Arroyo's replacement. 

The first time you can see the 2020 Ducks in action will be during the Spring game on Saturday, April 18 in Autzen Stadium.

REPORT: Pac-12 league presidents will vote Tuesday on 2020 college football season

REPORT: Pac-12 league presidents will vote Tuesday on 2020 college football season

In less than 24 hours, Pac-12 college football fans, players and coaching staff across the conference will finally have the answer they have been looking for.

According to Bruce Feldman of FOX Sports, Pac-12 Athletic Directors met with Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott on Monday night to discuss more on the season ahead.

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So far, here’s what we know:

- The players have spoke their minds through several movements on social media: #WeAreUnited and #WeWantToPlay.

- Each Power 5 conference has a different opinion on playing college football in fall.

- The NCAA has left these decisions in the hands of the conference leaders, but has given the players the choice to opt out without penalty of scholarship, eligibility, medical expenses and a hotline to report infractions. 

- Nebraska head coach Scott Frost stated on Monday that the Cornhuskers want to play and are open to “other options” such as playing outside the already designed conference-only schedule.

- The Mountain West canceled all 2020 sports on Monday and are looking to reschedule to spring 2021 as an option.

- UConn became the first FBS team to cancel football in 2020.

- The coronavirus pandemic is continuously spreading.

According to the report from Feldman, the vote is whether to postpone, delay or proceed with the 2020 football season, which could mean a bunch of different scenarios and still no clear path. But at least there will be an answer, right?

[Listen to the latest Talkin' Ducks Podcast with host Jordan Kent and special guest Oregon women's basketball head coach Kelly Graves].

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Report: Nine Oregon Ducks student-athletes test positive for COVID-19

Report: Nine Oregon Ducks student-athletes test positive for COVID-19

James Crepea of The Oregonian reports that Oregon had nine athletes test positive for the coronavirus back in June according to university documents acquired by the paper. 

The identities of which players tested positive are unclear, as are what sports the players play. 

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The University of Oregon has refused to release any information regarding the coronavirus and its student-athletes since the beginning of the pandemic while schools such as Oregon State and Clemson were reporting results to the public.

Instead, the University would send out releases stating how many students tested positive weekly.  The school has reported 43 total cases on the Eugene campus since June 12. In June, the university stated that 12 total students had tested positive over that month. 

Just two weeks ago, Oregon head football coach Mario Cristobal went on Fox's Big Noon Kickoff and hinted that the Ducks haven't had a positive test yet for the coronavirus.

"We've been here now a total of seven and a half, coming up on eight weeks and our processes have been flawless. We don't publicly put our results out there but I think the best way to say [it] is that we have been flawless in our processes and our results."

As for those processes in place to keep the student-athletes of Oregon safe, Cristobal said he "can't imagine anyone having anything better out there but we're always researching. We're always digging. We're always looking for information good and bad out there. Anything that can affect us in a positive way. Anything that can help us enhance our processes."

Despite the "flawless" protocol, Cristobal said he and his staff are always trying to better it because the safety of his players is the top priority.

"It's as simple as that. Is it safe or is it not? If it is, then okay, let's try this. And if it's it not, then there's no point," said Cristobal.

When hundreds of Pac-12 football players publicly spoke out against the conference asking for better COVID-19 mandates among other demands, many Oregon football players made sure to say that their demands have nothing to do with the way that Cristobal and the Oregon program has handled the virus.

[RELATED]: Oregon Ducks players praise Mario Cristobal amid #WeAreUnited movement

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Report: Big-10, Pac-12 to cancel CFB season, players ignite #WeWantToPlay movement

Report: Big-10, Pac-12 to cancel CFB season, players ignite #WeWantToPlay movement

With what seems like the 2020 Division I collegiate football season hanging by the tiniest thread, the players are making one last ditch effort to save the season and play football in 2020.

Late Sunday evening, several players flooded your social media timeline with a photo of all Power 5 conference logos and the statement:

We all want to play football this season. Establish universal mandated health & safety procedures and protocols to protect college-athletes against COVID-19 among all conferences throughout the NCAA. Give players the opportunity to opt-out and respect their decision. Guarantee eligibility whether a player chooses to play the season or not. Use our voices to establish open communication & trust between players and officials; ultimately create a college football players association. Representative of the players of all power 5 conference.

Of those players sharing this image on social media are likely No. 1 and. No. 2 2021 NFL Draft picks Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence and Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields. These two not opting out of the season and taking a stand to conference commissioners is a big deal:

Also retweeting this statement are current Oregon and Oregon State players such as Jaydon Grant, Thomas Graham Jr. and Bennett Williams.

This movement comes hours after rumors of the season getting pulled at any moment.

[RELATED]: Report: Power 5 Conferences leaning towards cancelling 2020 CFB season

Per ESPN, Power 5 commissioners held an emergency meeting on Sunday due to growing concern that football and other fall sports will not be played due to the COVID-19 virus. 

“It’s gotten to a critical stage," one told SI according to Pat Forde. "I think all of us will be meeting with our boards in the coming days. We have work to do that is no fun.”

Multiple sources told ESPN that a postponement or cancellation seems "inevitable," with speculation that the Big Ten or Pac-12 may be the first to announce.

On Monday morning, Dan Patrick reported via a source that the Big-10 and Pac-12 will cancel their football seasons on Tuesday.

Will the players taking a stand and wanting their voices to be heard make a difference if the conference chairs have already made a decision?

We will know likely sooner rather than later.

Report: Power 5 Conferences leaning towards cancelling 2020 CFB season

Report: Power 5 Conferences leaning towards cancelling 2020 CFB season

The road to the 2020 college football season has been murky ever since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic in March and it appears that road may not lead anywhere, at least this year.

Sports Illustrated's Ross Dellenger reported that sources tell him that the Big Ten is moving toward not playing out the 2020 college football season while in talks with over Power 5 conferences on a "uniform decision."

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“It’s gotten to a critical stage," one told SI according to Pat Forde. "I think all of us will be meeting with our boards in the coming days. We have work to do that is no fun.”

Per ESPN, Power 5 commissioners held an emergency meeting on Sunday due to growing concern that football and other fall sports will not be played due to the COVID-19 virus.  

The network reports that the Big Ten, who was the first conference to move to an all-conference football schedule, is ready to pull the plug on the 2020 season and move it to the spring. However, they are talking with the other Power 5 commissioners before announcing their decision unlike when they announced the all-conference schedule which was seen as a rushed decision by conferences such as the SEC. 

The Big Ten presidents didn't vote at Saturday's meeting but will meet again Sunday night.

"It doesn't look good," one Power 5 athletic director told ESPN.

Multiple sources told ESPN that a postponement or cancellation seems "inevitable," with speculation that the Big Ten or Pac-12 may be the first to announce.

"Nobody wanted to be the first to do it," a Power 5 coach told ESPN, "and now nobody will want to be the last."

"It feels like no one wants to, but it's reaching the point where someone is going to have to," another Power 5 administrator added. 

A few weeks after the Pac-12 followed the Big Ten in announcing an all-conference schedule, the conference unveiled a new, ten-game, conference only schedule for each team that will begin on September 26. 

[RELATED]: Oregon Ducks 2020 conference-only college football schedule revealed

However, shortly after, hundreds of players including Oregon safety Jevon Holland and Oregon State cornerback Jaydon Grant released an open letter to their conference via the Player's Tribune titled "#WeAreUnited." 

Inside, they made demands including the ability to receive payments, safety during the coronavirus pandemic, and greater racial justice policies. If the conference decides to not comply, then they threatened to sit out the 2020 college football season.

Twelve of the players later had a call with Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott and other conference officials that at first was reported as "productive" before several players went on the record saying that Scott was "condescending and dismissive of them."

Expect an official announcement to happen sooner than later.

[Listen to the latest Talkin’ Ducks Podcast with host Jordan Kent]

Former Oregon Ducks RB Kenjon Barner to sign with Baltimore Ravens

Former Oregon Ducks RB Kenjon Barner to sign with Baltimore Ravens

After former Oregon Duck De'Anthony Thomas opted out of the 2020 NFL season, the Baltimore Ravens have found his replacement and coincidentally, it's one of DAT's former college teammates.

Running back Kenjon Barner is expected to sign with the Ravens barring a physical, per Ian Rapaport of NFL Network. 

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De'Anthony Thomas was the primary returner for Baltimore last season, returning 13 punts for 93 yards and 10 kickoffs for 166 yards. He signed a one-year, $935,000 deal with the Ravens on March 16, but was considered a bubble player heading into camp. 

Now with his opt-out, Barner will have a chance to replicate his production in the return game. In 14 games as an Atlanta Falcon last season, Barner returned 17 kicks for 406 yards with a long of 47 yards. He also returned 35 punts for 267 yards, including a 78-yard touchdown against Carolina. 

Barner played for Oregon from 2008-2012 running for 3,623 yards and 41 touchdowns and the Ducks were in the national championship conversation his final three seasons in Eugene, Oregon. Those years, Oregon outscored their opponents by 24.9 (2010), 19.3 (2011), and 26.2 (2012) points per game.

He was selected in the sixth round of the 2013 NFL Draft by the Carolina Panthers at 182nd overall. 

Now, Barner will get a chance to make an impact on the professional level for a franchise with aspirations of winning the Super Bowl. 

[Listen to the latest Talkin’ Ducks Podcast with host Jordan Kent]

How Oregon WBB coach Kelly Graves prepares his players for the WNBA

How Oregon WBB coach Kelly Graves prepares his players for the WNBA

Last season, the Oregon Ducks women's basketball team was one of, if not the most talented team in the country with three players drafted in the first round of the 2020 WNBA Draft.

Then, as for next season, head coach Kelly Graves said that he thinks it's his most talented group yet with five incoming five-star freshmen and some notable transfers joining the program.

[RELATED]: Kelly Graves on next year’s team: “Talent-wise, this is the best group we’ve ever had”

So, it comes as no surprise players that go through the Oregon women's basketball program feel prepared for the next level.

Our players are actually used to playing a pro-style. That's not going to be a big deal, a big jump. -- Kelly Graves on the Talkin' Ducks Podcast

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Graves did explain there will be some growing pain for his players defensively as there always is when you make a jump, whether it's high school to college or college to professional.

Every player in that league can play. They can all take you off the dribble. They can all make plays, so that's where they may struggle a little bit early. -- Kelly Graves on playing in the WNBA

He also brought on another mindset for players making the jump to the pros: a new level of competitiveness.

"The level of competitiveness. You can't have an off night," said Graves. "People are working for their jobs. They're trying to get your job. It's not like that college team rah-rah. You have a lot of professionals out there for their own reasons." 

So far so good for the Oregon Ducks.

Before Sabrina Ionescu's potentially season-ending ankle injury, she was showing why she was taken first overall and was bar none the best player in the nation last season.

Additionally, Satou Sabally, the second overall pick, has been showing the pros why she's called the unicorn. As a 6'4" wing, she's averaging 12.0 points and 6.2 rebounds per game for the Dallas Wings.

Then, Ruthy Hebard comes off the bench for the Chicago Sky and has averaged 2.7 points per game in six games played. 

Graves runs his team like a business and the work is paying off. The Ducks were eyeing a national championship and the likely favorites before the season shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic. As the page turns on a new era in Eugene, Oregon, the expectations don't.

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Documents show Larry Scott & Pac-12 players clash, CFB hangs by a thread

Documents show Larry Scott & Pac-12 players clash, CFB hangs by a thread

The chances of college football being played this year becomes more bleak with each passing day. 

The season has already been disrupted from Division I teams electing for conference-only schedules to Division II and III schools cancelling fall sports championships. The Big Sky Conference is rumored to cancel fall football and the MAC became the first conference to cancel the 2020 football season. 

Every decision to this point has been a domino effect. And the collective decisions appear to be what will become the eventual demise of college football this year. 

Power 5 conferences electing to go conference-only played a huge factor in the MAC’s decision, according to Brett McMurphy.

COVID-19 continues to spread widely throughout the United States, creating both health and financial complexities surrounding college sports. 

Recently, student-athletes of Power 5 conferences have united with a list of demands out of health and safety concerns. In addition, the Pac-12 #WeAreUnited unity group have listed out revenue sharing demands to the tune of 50%, creating what appears to be an insurmountable impasse that may just streamline the college football season.

According to ESPN, emails between leaders from the Pac-12 #WeAreUnited unity group and conference commissioner Larry Scott “show a stark divide regarding how the parties felt Thursday's initial meeting went in regard to the student group's concerns about the conference's return-to-play policies related to the coronavirus pandemic.”

"We were all left disappointed and deeply concerned that you are not taking this matter seriously," read a letter to Scott signed by 18 student-athletes.

"We love the communities we compete for,” Oregon safety Jevon Holland said in the players’ letter. “But, we are afraid of the potential ramifications of athletes playing sports before it is adequately safe enough to do so. Our deepest fear is the Pac-12's negligent return to play may result in a member of our Pac-12 family dying due to COVID-19.'"

Another major point of contention surrounds regular conference-wide testing, which Larry Scott reportedly said was not possible. 

In Scott's letter to the player group, he said questions about testing protocols would be addressed with the conference's medical advisory committee and he would provide answers "in the very near future." 

A second meeting has not been scheduled and may never happen. 

Presidents of the Big 10 Conference are reportedly meeting Saturday to discuss the future of fall sports. 

The domino effect from COVID-19 health concerns that led to players’ demands that includes revenue sharing may be the biggest and unassailable hurdle of them all. 

Pac-12 'will not engage' in players' demand of 50% revenue split

Pac-12 'will not engage' in players' demand of 50% revenue split

A group of conference players and Pac-12 leaders had a "productive" call about the players potentially boycotting the 2020 season, but the Pac-12 made it clear that "they will not engage" in negotiating the players' demand of a 50% share of revenue, per Ross Dellenger of Sports Illustrated. 

Pac-12 leaders pushed back against the players’ demand for each sports’ participants to receive a cut of the conference revenue. Conference officials told #WeAreUnited members that such a move would lead to athletes becoming employees and would impact those athletes who do not participate in revenue-generating sports. 

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On Sunday, hundreds of Pac-12 college football players, including Oregon safety Jevon Holland and Oregon State cornerback Jaydon Grant, released an open letter titled "#WeAreUnited" in the Players' Tribune making many demands including the ability to receive payments, preserving safety during the coronavirus pandemic, and greater racial justice policies. 

[RELATED]: What Jevon Holland, Pac-12 CFB players are demanding or else they'll sit

On Wednesday, an email was sent out to the #WeAreUnited group where commissioner Larry Scott proposed a Zoom call at 8 p.m. PT Thursday to discuss the athletes’ list of demands.

The call included Scott, ASU athletic director Ray Anderson, Utah athletic director Mark Harlan and Pac-12 assistant commissioner Chris Merino, and 12 student-athletes. 

Sports Illustrated reports that the call was primarily focused on the concerns about COVID-19 from the players with the talk being considered "constructive." There was little talk of the boycott, little talk of the revenue sharing, and no talk of Scott and other conference officials taking a pay cut.

Scott, who took home $5.3 million in 2018 which was good for second among NCAA conference commissioners, agreed to take a 20% salary reduction in April for 2020.  

Another key topic discussed was the protocol if a player decides to opt-out of the season. The NCAA has a deadline of next Friday, August 14, but the players want more clarity; will their roster spot/scholarship be saved for a year? Will it count as a redshirt season even if that player has already redshirted? What if only part of the season gets played? 

No follow-up meeting has been scheduled but the two sides are expected to follow up next week. 

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UCLA coach Chip Kelly tested positive for coronavirus early in pandemic

UCLA coach Chip Kelly tested positive for coronavirus early in pandemic

In the uncertain world of collegiate football this upcoming season, one thing is clear: UCLA head coach Chip Kelly’s time in Los Angeles has been a rollercoaster. 

The former Oregon Duck head coach is in his third season leading the Bruins as head coach. In his first two seasons, the Bruins posted a 3-9 and 4-8 Pac-12 conference record and have failed to reach a bowl game in either season.

And then the coronavirus pandemic hit.

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[RELATED]: Chip Kelly has lost the trust of 30 UCLA football players-- here's why

On June 19, 2020, J. Brady McCullough of the Los Angeles Times reported that 30 players on the team have submitted a document asking for a “third-party health official” to oversee compliance when voluntary workouts start on Monday.

“These demands reflect our call for an environment in which we do not feel pressured to return to competition and if we choose not to return, that our decision will be respected,” the document reads. “If our demands are not met, we will refrain from booster events, recruiting events and all football-related promotional activities. The decision to return to training amidst a global pandemic has put us, the student-athletes, on the frontlines of a battle that we as a nation have not yet been able to win. We feel that as some of the first members of the community to attempt a return to normalcy, we must have assurances that allow us to make informed decisions and be protected regardless of our decision.”

Players felt that if they chose not to participate in football-related activities amidst this coronavirus pandemic, their decision to do so would not have been respected. Basically, putting the game of football ahead of human life. 

On Thursday, Ben Bolch of the Los Angeles Times reported that the UCLA football coach tested positive for CIVD-19 in late March after campus was shut down, according to multiple people close to the football team who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss a private health issue.

Irony, to say the least.

According to the article, both Kelly and his wife Jill tested positive and recovered at home. Eight UCLA players tested positive upon their return to campus beginning in late June, but none have tested positive since resuming workouts, according to one person close to the team.

However, since Kelly and eight players have contracted the virus, things have changed. Quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson had this to say on his head coach:

“He has done a phenomenal job working with everybody as well as the health department, the players and the staff of really putting together a plan, and guys are doing a really good job of following that plan and so I’m really happy that we’re all mature enough now to really social distance and follow the guidelines that are set for us.”

Read the full article in the L.A. Times here.

Let’s hope this continues to be under control with the Pac-12 announcing the football season will start in late September.

[Listen to the latest Talkin’ Ducks Podcast with host Jordan Kent and special guest Oregon women’s basketball head coach Kelly Graves].