Oregon Ducks

Ten Ducks that must rise in 2017: No. 10 - Taggart will need several incoming freshman to contribute

Ten Ducks that must rise in 2017: No. 10 - Taggart will need several incoming freshman to contribute

Oregon's quest to improve greatly over last season's 4-8 record will depend on the rapid development of several young and/or previously little-used players. Here is a look at ten most likely to rise to the occasion in 2017.

No. 10: Several freshman must deliver.  

We've already listed several freshman in this list. Quarterback Braxton Burmeister will likely be the backup now that Travis Jonsen and Terry Wilson Jr. have transferred. Cornerback Thomas Graham could start, he was that good during spring. Nose tackle Jordon Scott will be needed in the middle, especially now that junior Rex Manu is out for the season following an injury suffered in a car accident. Slot receiver Darrian McNeal must provide depth at a thin position made thinner by the dismissal of senior Darren Carrington Jr. from the team. Safety Billy Gibson could be in the mix at a very uncertain position. 

All of the freshmen above were around for spring drills as early enrollees. But what of the incoming freshmen who have just arrived on campus? Well, several of them might be needed to perform this season, as well.  

Here is as look at a handful:

Austin Faoliu, defensive line: Oregon is excited about the three-star recruit with five-star potential. At 6-foot4, 295-pounds, he fits the mold of being a big defensive lineman with attitude that could provide instant impact. This is the first defensive line recruit corralled by famed defensive line coach and recruiter, Joe Salave'a. Four-star recruit Rutger Reitmaier's decision to transfer following spring ball makes Faoliu's development more imperative. 

Deommodore Lenoir, defensive back: The No. 1-rated athlete in the nation - as named by Rivals.com - should find his way onto the field in some capacity. He could see time at cornerback or safety, positions that have bodies but little in the way of consistency. 

Sampson Niu, linebacker: The four-star recruit could find his way into the linebacker rotation right away. Ultra athletic and tenacious, if Niu can pick up the Ducks' schemes he might have the same impact Troy Dye had last season as a freshman. But at 217 pounds, Niu must bulk up in a hurry. 

Bruce Judson, wide receiver: The four-star recruit is a shifty playmaker that could push for time in the slot and might also be in the running to make it on the team's depth chart at quarterback. 

Cyrus Habibi-Likio, linebacker/safety/running back: A tremendous athlete, Habibi-Likio could play all over the field. Chances are he won't be in the running back mix this season - Oregon is loaded there - but he could find some action on defense. 

 

The Finished List

No. 1: Cornerback Thomas Graham Jr. 

No. 2: Wide receiver Dillon Mitchell.

No. 3: Nose tackle Jordon Scott

No. 4: Freshman quarterback Braxton Burmeister

No. 5: Sophomore tight end Jacob Breeland

No. 6: Sophomore linebacker La'Mar Winston.

No. 7: Redshirt sophomore nose tackle Gary Baker. 

No. 8: Wide receivers Alex Ofodile, Malik Lovette and Darrian McNeal.

No. 9: Safeties Brady Breeze and Billy Gibson

No. 10: Several freshman must deliver

Oregon Ducks perplexed by Mike Leach's "Middle Earth" comments about Autzen stadium

Oregon Ducks perplexed by Mike Leach's "Middle Earth" comments about Autzen stadium

Another week, another Mike “Leach-ism”. The Washington State coach described Autzen Stadium as “Middle Earth” he continued to say he likes the unique atmosphere and considers it one of the loudest in the nation.

Middle-earth is the fictional setting of British writer J. R. R. Tolkien's books The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.

[RELATED: Preparing for Autzen's crowd noise is just another Thursday for Mike Leach]

Not sure what to make of that comparison? The Ducks are with you. I asked junior wide receivers Jaylon Redd and Johnny Johnson III, who were perplexed but agreed that there is nothing like Autzen Stadium. 
Enjoy his response in the video above. 

MORE DUCKS:

Numbers to know: Oregon vs. Washington State

How Brenden Schooler's transfer does/doesn’t affect the Ducks

Why a healthy Deommodore Lenoir is crucial for Oregon vs. Washington State

Numbers to know: Oregon vs. Washington State

Numbers to know: Oregon vs. Washington State

Oregon hosts Washington State in a Pac-12 After Dark special at 7:30 p.m., Saturday in Autzen Stadium. 

The No. 11 Ducks (6-1, 4-0 Pac-12) look to stay atop the Pac-12 North Division, while the Cougars (4-3, 1-3 Pac-12) are coming off their first conference win, defeating Colorado 41-10 in a strong offensive showing. 

Here are 10 stats and numbers you need to know to be the fan dropping knowledge at the tailgate:

HOME DOMINANCE

In Autzen Stadium, Oregon has outscored its four opponents 174-19. The Ducks have allowed only one touchdown in 53 drives by its opponents.

LEACHISM

After WSU’s victory against Colorado, Coach Mike Leach looked ahead to the “tough” Ducks and referred to Autzen Stadium as a “great looking stadium that looks like Middle Earth”on the WSU postgame radio show.

Middle-earth is the fictional setting of British writer J. R. R. Tolkien's books The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.

COUGS ARE STREAKING

The Cougars have won the last four meetings with Oregon including a 34-20 victory in Pullman last season. WSU has left Autzen victorious the past two seasons: 45-38 (OT) in 2015 and 33-10 in 2017. Oregon has never lost to WSU five-straight times.

IT’S JOHNNY JOHNSON III’S TIME

Junior wide receiver Johnny Johnson led the Ducks vs. Washington with 90 receiving yards and five receptions, all which resulted in a first down. His 30 catches this season is already more than his sophomore season total (17) and freshman season total (21).

CAREER HIGHS GALORE

Sophomore running back Cyrus Habibi-Likio has scored six rushing touchdowns in the last three games. He has set a new career high in each of the past three games. Against Washington, all 81 of his rushing yards came in the second half.

FROM PULLMAN TO EUGENE

Four members of the Oregon coaching staff have ties to the Washington State football program: Associate Head Coach/Defensive Line Joe Salave'a coached the WSU defensive line (2012-16), Linebackers coach Ken Wilson coached the WSU linebackers (2013-18), running backs coach Jim Mastro coached the WSU running backs (2012-17) and offensive analyst David Gilbertson was a WSU quarterback (2009-12).

AERIAL ATTACK

WSU leads the country in passing (440.7 yards per game), is 4th in total offense (532.7 yards per game) and 8th in scoring (42.7 points per game). Quarterback Anthony Gordon has 2,981 passing yards with 29 touchdowns and seven interceptions.

INSANE RATIO

Oregon senior offensive tackle Calvin Throckmorton has allowed just one sack over last 38 games (2,766 snaps). In his 45th consecutive start, Throckmorton earned Pac-12 Conference offensive lineman of week for his performance against Washington on Saturday.

THERE IS NO PLACE LIKE AUTZEN

A win on Saturday night would mark Oregon's eighth-straight win at Autzen Stadium, good for the longest streak since a 10-game run from 2013 into 2014. A victory would improve Oregon to 11-1 at Autzen Stadium under coach Mario Cristobal.

A WIN WOULD…

Give Oregon its first seven-game Pac-12 win streak since 2014. It’d also be Oregon’s first 5-0 start to Pac-12 play since 2013.


Preparing for Autzen's crowd noise is just another Thursday for Mike Leach

Preparing for Autzen's crowd noise is just another Thursday for Mike Leach

The Oregon Ducks are in mid-week preparation for their Saturday night game vs. the WSU Cougars and head coach Mike Leach. 

He's already called Autzen "middle earth" this week and one can only sit in anticipation with what topic and quote will come from Leach tomorrow. 

Yesterday, Leach was speaking with the Pac-12 after practice and was asked about piping in crowd noise to practice to preparing for places likes Autzen. 

An un-phased Coach Leach responded simply:

We do it every Thursday. Yep, every Thursday. 

And with that, the interview turned to other topics. 

It is fair to say that Mike Leach isn't losing any sleep about the crowd noise Duck fans are planning to bring to Autzen on Saturday. You can watch Coach Leach's availability from yesterday below: 

How Brenden Schooler's transfer does/doesn’t affect the Ducks

How Brenden Schooler's transfer does/doesn’t affect the Ducks

Senior wide receiver Brenden Schooler has entered his name into the transfer portal, sources have confirmed to NBC Sports Northwest.

Schooler, a two-time first-team All-Pac 12 special teams selection, made his debut against Cal after missing Oregon’s first four games due to a broken foot. He played in three games this season and has not used his redshirt, meaning he has one more year of eligibility as a graduate transfer.

In his three games, Schooler has only had two catches for 44 yards. During his absence, Johnny Johnson III, Jaylon Redd and Bryan Addison took over production as reliable targets for quarterback Justin Herbert.

Redd leads the nation with a touchdown reception in six straight games. Johnson III’s 30 catches this season is already more than his sophomore season total (17) and freshman season total (21).

Schooler returned from injury at the same time as freshman Mycah Pittman, who has found a more regular rotation with the receivers than Schooler has. Pittman has 148 receiving yards on nine receptions and one touchdown.

Schooler’s senior leadership and intangibles on the field would be sorely missed, especially considering senior Jacob Breeland is out for the season with injury. 

“The thing about Brenden is he’s not only a great player, he’s a great leader and I feel terrible for him because he is a tremendous human being… Off the charts,” Cristobal said in August after Schooler’s injury.

Schooler's decision to leave is likely playing time oriented. Simply put, the Ducks were forced find their groove while Schooler was out.

His departure would also be a hit to Oregon’s receiving unit depth. Will graduate transfer Juwan Johnson or Josh Delgado step into a contributing role?

The Dana-Point, California native has a brother, Colin, who plays for the Arizona Wildcats.

Schooler has totaled 43 career catches for 521 yards and four touchdowns in his Duck career. He started at safety as a true freshman finishing with 74 tackles and four interceptions.

Oregon receiver Brenden Schooler enters transfer portal

Oregon receiver Brenden Schooler enters transfer portal

Senior wide receiver Brenden Schooler has entered his name into the NCAA transfer portal, sources have confirmed to NBC Sports Northwest. The news was first reported by Brett McMurphy of Stadium Network. 

Schooler, a two-time first-team All-Pac-12 special teams selection, made his debut against Cal after missing Oregon’s first four games due to a broken foot. He played in three games this season and has not used his redshirt, meaning he has one more year of eligibility as a graduate transfer.

The Dana-Point, California native has a brother, Colin, who plays for the Arizona Wildcats.

Schooler has totaled 43 career catches for 521 yards and four touchdowns in his Duck career. He started at safety as a true freshman finishing with 74 tackles and four interceptions.

Touchdowns and defensive stops: Pro Ducks are everywhere in Week 7

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USA Today Images

Touchdowns and defensive stops: Pro Ducks are everywhere in Week 7

Another NFL week is in the books and many former Oregon football players took center stage.

Running back Royce Freeman notched his first TD of the season and the 49ers just got even scarier, thanks to defensive geniuses Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner. 

Let's recap how all of the Pro Ducks around the NFL did in Week 7: 

Royce Freeman, Denver Broncos:

The Broncos are using a 1-2 punch with Royce Freeman working as the primary back by committee, and it’s working for Denver so far. 

The former Duck crossed the goal line for the first time the season with a 1-yard touchdown in Denver’s opening drive. It was the only touchdown scored by the Broncos in the 30-6 loss.

Arik Armstead/DeForest Buckner, San Francisco 49ers:

San Francisco is 6-0 for the third time in franchise history and former Ducks Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner have been defensive masterminds for the 49ers.

Buckner recorded six tackles (3 solo) on 40 defensive snaps while Armstead had three combined tackles (2 solo) and one sack while playing 37 defensive snaps.

Troy Hill, LA Rams:

After three-straight losses, the Rams had a bounce-back win over the Falcons on Thursday.

Cornerback Troy Hill played a part in the Rams’ defensive effort, compiling four solo tackles while playing 46 defensive snaps.

Kiko Alonso, New Orleans Saints:

Linebacker Kiko Alonso had two tackles while playing 39 defensive snaps in the Saints 36-25 victory over the Bears in Week 8.

More on the Ducks: 

Why a healthy Deommodore Lenoir is crucial for Oregon vs. Washington State

Oregon rises in rankings after rivalry win

WSU Coach Mike Leach calls Autzen Stadium 'Middle Earth'

Remembering Washington State coach Mike Leach's best moments

Remembering Washington State coach Mike Leach's best moments

Earlier this week, Washington State coach Mike Leach went viral by saying that Autzen Stadium reminded him of “Middle-Earth,” the fictional land from the Lord of the Rings franchise.

His comments got us thinking of the best Mike Leach moments, as he seemingly goes viral every week. So we made a compilation of the highlights of his coaching career.

Leach claims his players are “fat, dumb, and happy and entitled”

Just this year, after Washington State gave up 50 points in the second half to UCLA, Leach gave a candid response about his players in the press conference:

We're a very soft team. We get a lot of good press. We like to read it a lot. We like to pat ourselves on the back, and if we get any resistance, we fold...They're fat, dumb and happy and entitled.

Leach ranks the Pac-12 mascots if they were going to fight

Again this season, Mike Leach was asked which Pac-12 mascot would win in a fight against all other Pac-12 mascots. His answer did not disappoint.

Leach plants a fake game script to get early lead against Texas

Leach was the QB coach and offensive coordinator at Oklahoma for the 1999 season. Going into his only Red River Rivalry game, Leach and the Sooners were large underdogs, so he searched for any advantage he could get. 

His final plan was to create a fake game script and have it end up in the hands of the Texas defensive coordinator. Leach had one of this players walk near the Texas locker room door and drop the fake game script. When a Texas grad assistant picked it up, he thought he made the score of a lifetime. He ran it up to the defensive coordinator, who couldn’t wait to make the perfect play call for each situation.

However, the fake game script was flipped to what the real game script was. If the fake one had the play going to the left, in the game Oklahoma ran to the right. 

Leach’s plan worked and Oklahoma got out to a 17-0 lead before Texas stopped using the fake game script and instead their own gameplan. Texas would go on to win the game 38-28. 

Leach bellyflops

Ahead of the Cougars’ season opener, the team went for a swim at a local pool. We got this fantastic video out of it. 

 

Leach gives advice on dating

While answering a question from a viewer on a local TV program from his Texas Tech days, we got to see how Mike Leach approaches a first date. His main tip: don't go anywhere with salad. 

Once again, he roasts his players

If you’re a Cougar and your team plays poorly, be prepared for your coach to keep it real. 

WSU Coach Mike Leach calls Autzen Stadium 'Middle Earth'

WSU Coach Mike Leach calls Autzen Stadium 'Middle Earth'

Washington State Coach Mike Leach hardly disappoints when it comes to giving a good quote. That sentiment held true when Leach was asked about the Cougars upcoming matchup against No. 11 Oregon on Saturday, October 26 at 7:30 p.m.

Washington State (4-3, 1-3 Pac-12) is coming off their first conference win on Saturday, defeating Colorado 41-10 in a strong offensive showing. After the victory, Leach looked ahead to the “tough” Ducks and referred to Autzen Stadium as a “great looking stadium that looks like Middle Earth” on the WSU postgame radio show.

Middle-earth is the fictional setting of British writer J. R. R. Tolkien's books The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.

In his Monday press conference, Leach continued his analysis of Autzen Stadium.

“I’ve always like Autzen Stadium. It is one of my favorites in the country. Most people have it as the loudest, I would agree with that,” Leach said.

Then, Leach moved on to preview the Ducks (6-1, 4-0 Pac-12), who have control atop the Pac-12 North Division. The Cougars have beat the Ducks four-consecutive times.

On Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert:

“He’s a talented guy, but, you know, I am very pleased we have ours instead,” Leach said.

How does he plan to stop Herbert?

“The same way we have for the past four years,” Leach said.

 On Oregon’s success:

“The surprising thing to me is that people are surprised,” Leach said.

Leach continued to say the Ducks’ recruiting classes have been one of the best in the country in recent years, why would anyone be surprised that four and five star athletes are playing well?

Why a healthy Deommodore Lenoir is crucial for Oregon vs. Washington State

Why a healthy Deommodore Lenoir is crucial for Oregon vs. Washington State

Oregon starting cornerback Deommodore Lenoir is on this week's depth chart and has been cleared to play against Washington State on Saturday, according to Mario Cristobal.

“(Lenoir) looks good,” Cristobal said. “We feel like he’s ready to go and will be ready to go (against Washington State)."

Lenoir, who has started 20 straight games, suffered an injury in the Ducks’ comeback win at Washington while making a tackle with teammate Nick Pickett. Lenoir left for the locker room, did not return to the game and true freshman DJ James filled in.

Cristobal also added that senior linebacker Troy Dye, who broke his thumb vs. the Huskies, will be monitored, but he already played through the injury on Saturday and is expected to play against the Cougars.

With zero conferences losses, No. 11 Oregon (6-1, 4-0 Pac-12) has control atop the Pac-12 North Division. While the Cougars (4-3, 1-3 Pac-12) are coming off their first conference win on Saturday, defeating Colorado 41-10 in a strong offensive showing.

Coach Mike Leach’s air raid offense is different than anything UO Defensive Coordinator Andy Avalos and the Ducks have competed against thus far this season.

However, Lenoir knows the Cougars all too well and has never beaten them in his Oregon career. WSU has beaten Oregon four-consecutive times. The health of the upperclassman is vital to stopping WSU.

Lenoir, who was recently named a mid-season All-American by Pro Football Focus, is allowing less than half the balls targeted in his direction to be caught, the best coverage grade in the Pac-12 and one of the best percentages in the nation.

That excellent coverage will be needed against WSU who spreads the field with their receivers. WSU quarterback Anthony Gordon threw four touchdown passes against Colorado, his fourth game with four or more touchdowns in a game this season.

“We have not done a good enough job against Washington State for the past four years,” Crisotbal said.
The Duck defense has dominated at home so far this season, giving up just 19 points in four home games this season while forcing 19 three-and-outs in 53 drives. The Ducks have nine different players with an interception, led by sophomore safety Jevon Holland who leads the nation with three picks.

Off to a 4-0 start in Pac-12 play for the first time since 2013, Lenoir and the Ducks look to avoid a letdown game and snap the four-game losing streak against Washington State on Saturday, October 26 at 7:30 p.m.