College football is back! The Ducks begin fall camp on Monday so we're breaking down each position to determine if the Ducks, picked to finish fifth in the Pac-12, and their fans will be smelling roses as Pac-12 champs during a trip to the Rose Bowl, or placing bets at a roulette table prior to watching a sixth-place UO team in the Las Vegas Bowl. Each position is graded using the poker hand scale.
Smelling like roses: Oregon must hit on all three new starters in order to have a chance at contending in the Pac-12. Mattingly has the most overall game experience within the group, followed by Ragin. That's bad news considering Mattingly had 25 tackles last season and Ragin had 20 while Swain contributed a modest 15. This doesn't mean that trio couldn't combine for 225 tackles this season. It just means that they remain a mystery. Mattingly so much so that he could be challenged heavily by Hotchkins, a junior college transfer, who looks like the perfect middle linebacker. According to some reports he could have the inside track at starting over Mattingly. We shall see.
Place your bets: This position group could be the defense's weak link after losing Rodney Hardrick, Joe Walker and Tyson Coleman. UO could find itself rotating guys in and out of the lineup trying to find some consistency. Oregon, after shifting defensive philosophies to the 4-3, is going to have to adjust how it recruits this position moving forward. Chances are we see 3-4 elements in the 4-3 scheme this season as the defense adjusts.
Odds are: Not good. This is not a championship-caliber group, on paper. Maybe they will surprise.
Poker hand: Pair of 10s. While the secondary returns starters and the defensive line is loaded with bodies, the linebacking corps doesn't have much to hang its hat on at this point.
Next up: Defensive backs.