Oregon Ducks

Oregon's RB situation has reached boy band status

Oregon's RB situation has reached boy band status

Oregon appears to be going with the boy band approach to the running back position. Oregon's depth chart lists redshirt senior Tony Brooks-James as the starter followed by the word, "situational" for the backup position. 

That's because the Ducks, who open the season Saturday at home against Bowling Green, have yet to identify a clear backup. The plan for now is to shuffle up to five other running backs in and out of the game: Redshirt freshman C.J. Verdell, sophomore Darrian Felix, senior Taj Griffin, redshirt freshman Cyris Habibi-Likio and freshman Travis Dye.  

"They all deserve to play," Oregon coach Mario Cristobal said. 

Adding to the madness is the fact that Brooks-James doesn't appear to have established himself as the clear No. 1 back, but instead he is the best among the group. Consequently, we could see as many as four to six running backs in a given game. 

This isn't good news for Oregon. The most successful boy bands of all time had a clear front man, such as Michael Jackson (Jackson 5) and Justin Timberlake (NSYNC). The same can be said about the most successful Oregon teams. One, maybe two running backs got the job done. Not five or six. You only roll with that many when you don't have a clear leader and maybe a sidekick.  

This is an unusual approach for the Ducks, or any other team for that matter.

For the first time since 2013, Oregon does not have a clear No. 1 running back. Oregon's front man the past four years, Royce Freeman, is now with Denver in the NFL, leaving the Ducks to use a running back by committee until someone emerges. Brooks-James is the starter, but Cristobal didn't make it sound like he is the clear top dog. 

"We've all seen through the years that he has flashed some greatness...," Cristobal said. "When we come off the sideline he deserves to be the first running back out there." 

That's not exactly a ringing endorsement for your lead running back. It smacks of being loaded with reservations that Brooks-James is the go-to, 20-carry-per-game guy.

Oregon faced similar questions in 2013. That season, sophomore Byron Marshall rose to the occasion to rush for 1,038 yards and 14 touchdowns. The following season, UO moved Marshall to wide receiver because the Ducks had Freeman, Thomas Tyner and Taj Griffin at running back.

Oregon has been set at the position ever since. Prior to 2013, the Ducks featured Kenjon Barner, LaMichael James, LeGarrette Blount, Jeremiah Johnson and Jonathan Stewart, dating back to 2006. 

Oregon would be quite pleased if Brooks-James performed this year as Marshall did in 2013. But it appears that that doesn't prove to be the case, Oregon is prepared to give a ton of players a chance to contribute. 

Having a glut of good running backs is not a bad thing when all is going well. It truly doesn't matter who is carrying the ball when the holes are huge and the offense is rolling. We saw that in 2016 when Royce Freeman went down at Nebraska but the trio of Kani Benoit, Brooks-James and Taj Griffin ran wild for a combined 205 yards.

But when Oregon needed a steady running back to grind out games against tougher opponents in Freeman's absence (or when he returned but was hindered by a bruised sternum), that guy was not to be found and it hurt Oregon.

The easiest part of being a running back is jolting through a huge hole. The toughest part is finding a couple of yards when they don't appear to be available. That's what made Johnson, Stewart, James, Barner and Freeman so great.  

Brooks-James failed to rise to the occasion in 2016 but did show flashes of being a great back. Now, two years older, he could be ready to answer the call. 

"I've never had (a back) that fast before, in my career," new UO running backs coach Jim Mastro said. "That's a strength. Obviously, when you can take the ball and any minute go 100 yards, 90 yards, that's unique. He's being a great leader. He's took on the role of trying to be the guy. He's done some really good thing."

Again, not exactly a clear declaration that Brooks-James is the man. 

Cristobal said he hopes that each running back's unique skills can help the team. Verdell is a good downhill runner. Dye can juke anyone with his jump cuts. Felix is an elite athlete. Habibi-Likio offers size. Griffin is a prove home run hitter. 

Splice them all together in a lab (the one we all know exists in the bowels of the Hattfield-Dowlin Complex) and Oregon would have the perfect running back. Right now, Oregon simply has a glut of talented backs backing up a senior yet to show that he can carry a team's rushing attack. 

Cristobal said that UO's up-tempo offense would provide plenty of opportunities (80-90 plays per game) for all of the backs to display their talents. The first three opponents, which includes Portland State and San Jose State, should provide easy victories and plenty of opportunities for Oregon to give all of its running backs a fair look. 

"They are all going to get their touches," Cristobal said. 

But once Pac-12 play starts, Oregon would be better off if the field behind Brooks-James has shrunk and he has established himself as the MJ or JT of the 2018 Oregon running game. 

Did Payton Pritchard just lock up the Pac-12 Player of the Year award?

Did Payton Pritchard just lock up the Pac-12 Player of the Year award?

Payton Pritchard is on another level this season.

The Portland-native from West Linn High School is averaging 20.1 points 5.5 assists and 4.4 rebounds in his senior season for the Ducks.

On Saturday against the Arizona Wildcats, Pritchard carried the Ducks in regulation dropping a new career-high 38 points in Tucson. He shot 12-for-27 from the field, 6-for-14 from 3-PT range, a perfect 8-for-8 from the FT line as well as dishing out six assists and grabbing four rebounds.

It was a miraculous performance.

But it begged the question: did this performance lock Pritchard in for the Pac-12 Player of the Year award?

Many on social media think so...

Another name in Pac-12 POY contention is Arizona State's Remy Martin, who is averaging 17.9 points, 4.1 assists and 3.6 rebounds this season for the first place Sun Devils. 

The conference awards are released before the Pac-12 Tournament. 

Instant Analysis: Payton Pritchard drops new career-high in OT win vs. Arizona

Instant Analysis: Payton Pritchard drops new career-high in OT win vs. Arizona

It is a tight race at the top of the Pac-12 standings with four teams tied for first and the Oregon Ducks just half a game out of first. Coming off a loss at Arizona State on Thursday night, the Ducks were going to need every bit of offense and a valiant effort on defense against the Arizona Wildcats in Tucson on Saturday.

Well, the offense was there, but only from Payton Pritchard, who dropped a new career-high 38 points. 

Arizona’s Josh Green missed two free throws with five seconds left and this game was headed for overtime (the second time this season these two teams needed overtime to determine a winner).

In overtime, all nine points came from Shakur Juiston. That took immense pressure off of Pritchard on the offensive end. An offensive rebound from Will Richardson and drive to his left drew two Arizona players leaving Juiston open under the basket for a layup that put Oregon up by one with 1.4 seconds left. Game over.

No. 14 Oregon (21-7, 10-5 Pac-12) survives in OT over No. 24 Arizona (19-8, 9-5 Pac-12) and moves into a tie for second in the Pac-12 conference standings with UCLA and No. 18 Colorado.

FINAL SCORE (OT): Oregon 73, Arizona 72 

Here are three quick takeaways from the game:

1. BIG TIME PRITCHARD

Payton Pritchard opened up the game with a three-pointer, and then scored the next four points for Oregon. He scored 10 of Oregon’s first 13 points.

“It’s like having Steph Curry on your team,” said Bill Walton on the call.

Well, maybe not exactly but Pritchard was feeling it tonight. He pored in a new career high 38 points hitting 12-of-27 from the field and 6-of-14 from 3-PT range.

He scored just under half of Oregon’s total points.

Pritchard is averaging 19.4 points, 5.6 assists and 4.3 rebounds per game in his senior season.

2. ANTHONY MATHIS

Head coach Dana Altman has a big weapon in Anthony Mathis coming off the bench. Mathis has the ability to hit the outside shot and when he does, feed him the ball. Against Arizona, he and Pritchard kept Oregon in the game early hitting 3-of-5 from 3-PT range in the first half and finished with 11 points.

Mathis Pritchard were the only two Ducks to finish in double figures in regulation time. 

3. OVERTIME JUISTON

Redshirt senior Shakur Juiston just needed an overtime period to get it going on the offensive end. Before overtime, he recorded just five points, but score all of Oregon’s points in overtime (9) and finished with 14.

Arizona went 10-for-21 from the free throw line, including missing two late in regulation and missing two with one second left in overtime.

UP NEXT: It’s Civil War part two against rival Oregon State (15-12, 5-10 Pac-12) on Thursday, Feb. 27 at 8 p.m. (PT) at Matthew Knight Arena.

Oregon football, men’s basketball, women’s basketball a perfect home record for full calendar year

Oregon football, men’s basketball, women’s basketball a perfect home record for full calendar year

Eugene, Oregon. A place that is quiet, surrounded by lush trees and roaring rivers, where you can find weird donuts and plenty of lumber.

It's also a place where opposing teams come to lose.

Autzen Stadium, home of Oregon football, is one of the loudest if not THE loudest stadium in the Pac-12 featuring sold out after sold out crowds. The stadium seats 54,000 which doesn’t include staying room tickets sold.

The last time Oregon football lost at home was vs. Stanford on September 22, 2018 (38-31 in OT).

Across the river is Matthew Knight Arena, home to Oregon men’s and women’s basketball. The arena seats 12,364. 

The last time Oregon men’s basketball lost at home was vs. Washington in Pac-12 conference play on January 24, 2019 (61-56).

The last time Oregon women’s basketball lost at home was exactly one year ago to UCLA on February 22 (74-69).

These three programs are a combined 39-0 in the past calendar year.

Home court/field advantage is for real and especially in Eugene.

Oregon fans love their Ducks!

Stephen Curry praises Sabrina Ionescu's passion: "It’s in her eyes"

Stephen Curry praises Sabrina Ionescu's passion: "It’s in her eyes"

The No. 4 Oregon Ducks picked up a dominant win over Cal in the Bay Area Friday night.

Among those in attendance to see the Ducks 93-61 win and to witness Sabrina Ionescu's 25th triple-double was Golden State Warriors point guard Stephen Curry. 

With him were his daughters Riley and Ryan. 

After the game, Ionescu and the Curry's greeted each other. 

In an interview with the Pac-12 Network, Curry says he's known about the Walnut Creek native since her junior year in high school. 

The two have connected before, with Ionescu showing up to the Moda Center during the Trail Blazers playoff run in a Curry jersey. 

"Shoutout to the walking triple dub," Curry wrote on social media. 

They are fans of each other and their respective games. 

"Every night, she just appreciates being out on the floor and bringing it," Curry told the Pac-12 Network. "It’s how she makes her teammates better. It’s the little things like that. Triple doubles are nice, too, but she just has it all." 

When you see her on the floor, stats may mean a lot but when you watch somebody and the passion that she brings. It’s in her eyes and the competitive nature that she had, you can’t teach that. -- Stephen Curry

Sabrina could accomplish a feat no other college basketball player has accomplished: 2K points, 1K rebounds and 1K assists by this weekend.

She's just nine rebounds away. 

Curry made sure to take time with the whole team afterwards, too, posing for photos. 

Curry's daughters have gotten a lot of exposure to basketball in their lives, so far. But, will they be nudged to play?

"I don’t know if they will play basketball or not," Curry said. 

"But if they do, I’ll put on some Sabrina Ionescu clips and be like, ‘this is how you play the game’."

Sabrina Ionescu records 25th triple-double in front of Steph Curry and daughters Riley, Ryan

Sabrina Ionescu records 25th triple-double in front of Steph Curry and daughters Riley, Ryan

It seems that wherever Sabrina Ionescu goes, she has fans.

If you notice when the Oregon women's basketball team travels on away games, there is always a decent crowd supporting the Ducks. You can easily spot that candy apple green #20 jersey in the crowd.

There was a standing ovation as Ionescu checked out of the game midway through the fourth quarter vs. the Cal Golden Bears, having just notched her 25th career triple-double. It was a bit of a homecoming game for the Walnut Creek native.

The applause was not just from Oregon fans but also from one NBA player in attendance: Steph Curry, and his two daughters Riley and Ryan.

Curry and Ionescu are long-time friends. He has raved about her before and the two make it a point to exchange jerseys or see one another when the opportunity presents itself. Ionescu was at Moda Center last season with the Golden State Warriors in town to face the Portland Trail Blazers.

And on an off night for the Warriors, Curry made it a point to attend and take his daughters (potential future WNBA stars who look up to Ionescu) with the Ducks in town to face the Bears.

The G.O.A.T. recorded 17 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists in the big win over Cal, but up next is a date with the No. 4 Stanford Cardinal on Monday night where Oregon will once again need the best from Ionescu.

Instant Analysis: Oregon Ducks dominant, achieve milestones in win

Instant Analysis: Oregon Ducks dominant, achieve milestones in win

The Oregon women's basketball program is on a mission and no one is going to get in their way. The Ducks latest victim came by way of a 93-61 win over Cal Friday Night in Berkeley.

The Cal Golden Bears started off in a 1-3-1 defensive zone. Oregon worked the ball around the perimeter eventually finding Sabrina Ionescu and she drilled the three-point shot. The first five field goals were from five different players and Oregon went on a 9-0 run in less than a minute.

Not a bad start and it didn’t end there. 

This set the tone for the rest of the way for the No. 3 Oregon Ducks (25-2, 14-1 Pac-12) taking care of business on the road at Cal (10-16, 2-13 Pac-12) led by another triple-double from the queen, Sabrina Ionescu.

FINAL SCORE: Oregon 93, Cal 61

Here are three quick takeaways from the game:

1. HAVE MERCY ERIN BOLEY

You know the Ducks are going to score. The offensive weapons are just too good. You know you’re really in trouble when Erin Boley finds her rhythm from behind the arc.

Boley hit six three-pointers in the first half alone and finished 8-for-9 on the night.

The 6-foot-2 junior is shooting .406 from 3-PT land this season.

2. BEST QUARTER IN OREGON WBB HISTORY?

At the end of the first quarter, the Ducks were ahead but not by much, 23-19. By the end of the second quarter, the score was 46-28.

Oregon went on an 18-0 run in second quarter led by the hot hand of Erin Boley hitting 6-for-7 from three-point range in the first half.  Cal’s first basket came at the 3:19 mark. Oregon outscored Cal 24-9 in the quarter.

3. ANOTHER TRIPLE-DOUBLE FOR THE QUEEN

Sabrina Ionescu was on triple-double watch at halftime. 

She recorded her 25th career triple-double finishing with 17 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists.

Ionescu is nine rebounds shy of becoming the first player in NCAA history to record 2,000+ points, 1,000+ rebounds and 1,000+ assists in her collegiate career.

With her eight point on the night, Ruthy Hebard moved into second on Oregon's all-time scoring list. Hebard finished with 20 points and 15 rebounds vs. Cal.

UP NEXT: A top-5 matchup between No. 3 Oregon at No. 4 Stanford on Monday night in Palo Alto, Calif.

Ruthy Hebard moves to second on Oregon's All-Time scoring list behind Sabrina Ionescu

Ruthy Hebard moves to second on Oregon's All-Time scoring list behind Sabrina Ionescu

Your eyes are not deceiving you when you are searching Oregon women's basketball record books. Right now, the majority of the records belong to two women. 

Sabrina Ionescu being one, but Ruthy Hebard is surging right behind her.

With her eighth point on Friday night, Hebard has passed Alison Lang (2,252, 1980-84) on Oregon's All-Time scoring list.

Number one on that list? Sabrina Ionescu.

It has been another dominant season for this dynamic duo.

Hebard is coming off a 52-point weekend against UCLA and USC where she averaged a double-double: 26.0 points and 13.5 rebounds.

The 6-foot-4 forward is averaging 17.2 points and 9.6 rebounds in her senior season.

The No. 3 Oregon Ducks (24-2, 13-1) are currently playing on the road against the Cal Golden Bears in Berkeley, Calif.

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.