Oregon Ducks

Why Oregon's highest-rated recruiting class is impressing and concerning

Why Oregon's highest-rated recruiting class is impressing and concerning

Oregon’s highest-ever rated recruiting class didn’t just make history, it filled position needs with top talent with lofty expectations of making an immediate impact.  Some of those expectations are being exceeded and some are not.

Whether it be sacks, interceptions, catches, kicks, sharing reps, asking the right questions or pushing veterans, the young Ducks have already began their impact on the 2019 Oregon football team. 

 “I’m very impressed by how smart this freshmen class is as a whole in the game of football,” said junior cornerback Thomas Graham Jr. “Their football IQ is very, very high.”

Oregon Coach Mario Cristobal literally brought out a paper list after the first fall camp practice of freshmen capable of making an impact in their first season. Cristobal’s list included Kayvon Thibodeaux, Mase Funa, Josh Delgado, Mykael Wright, DJ James, Jamal Hill, Sean Dollars, Trikweze Bridges, Isaac Townsend, Brandon Dorlus, Kristian Williams, Patrick Herbert and Mycah Pittman.

In the first four games, which of those true freshmen have transitioned smoothly and lived up to the high expectations?


The highest ranked linebacker recruit in school history, Funa is already making an impact and providing highlights for Oregon. The Mater Dei High School alum is the only freshman to have two sacks in a game this season in the FBS, leading the Ducks and nation’s freshmen in sacks (three) and tackles for loss (five).

He’s comfortable in Andy Avalos’ STUD position because it is a similar position to what he played in high school. Although, Funa played at 245 pounds in high school and is currently at 268 pounds after missing his senior season with an injury. His goal is to get closer to 255 pounds, which the 6-foot-2 freshman feels most natural at.

"He's got a lot pent up now," Cristobal said. "He missed his entire senior season due to injury. This is his first action in over a year. It's impressive to see what he's done so far, but again, his best football is ahead of him."

Already totaling nine tackles, I believe Funa will continue to have success this season in the hybrid linebacker/defensive end position backing up senior Bryson Young.

Wright, 2019’s top-ranked cornerback in the nation by ESPN, has earned the nickname “silent assassin” on the Oregon football team. The 5-foot-11, 185-pound cornerback doesn’t talk much but humble confidence has turned heads and earned the respect from his teammates.

“Mykael Wright, he’s been pushing me for reps,” said junior cornerback Thomas Graham Jr. “And I want him to do that, I want him to get reps because at the end of the day I want him to get in games. I feel he will be a freshman All-American.”

Backing up Graham Jr., Wright’s limited reps have been impressive. His potential shined against Montana when he picked off his first career pass, made three tackles and two pass break ups.

Delgado has been apart of Oregon's regular wide receiver rotation this season with the mounting injuries at the position. The former four-star recruit is the only true freshman who earned a start in the season opener vs. Auburn and has proven to be reliable. He’s caught a pass in every game so far this season, totaling seven receptions for 86 yards.


Realistically, while a few freshmen have emerged ready from the start, others will take a little more time to adjust to the college pace.

Cristobal named Thibodeaux a “game changer” from the moment he committed to the Ducks. ESPN's No. 1 recruit in the 2019 class set a goal of 10 sacks every season. After completing non-conference play without a sack, he notched his first (assisted) sack on Saturday against Stanford.

Thibodeaux has appeared in all four games and is seeing his role increase each week. At 6-foot-5, 240 pounds, he’s an elite pass rusher with explosiveness, scary speed and agility that creates major chaos… it feels like his breakout game is coming.

Pittman, who was expected to contribute or possibly start this season, has been sidelined with a shoulder injury for the beginning of the season. Before the injury, he was turning heads and splitting first team reps at slot receiver. Pittman has strong hands, a running back body and excels at getting separation

The initial 6-8 weeks projection would mark Pittman healthy as early as Oregon’s game against Cal on Saturday, Oct. 5.

Dollars and Patrick Herbert were both named by Cristobal as Ducks who broke loose in practice and in the mix to get in the rotations at running back and tight end, respectively.

Dollars is the highest rated running back on Oregon's 2019 roster and the nation's No.1 all-purpose back, per 247sports. While the Ducks have a plethora of options at the position, UO has struggled to successfully run the ball, leaving Dollars with little contributions and opportunity so far. Dollars has only played in two games, against Nevada and Montana and totaled 81 rushing yards on seven carries with two receptions. Will he get more reps or will he burn his redshirt?

Patrick Herbert has only appeared in the Nevada game and has not caught a pass from brother, senior quarterback Justin Herbert. Will the two connect as Ducks before Justin Herbert moves on to the NFL? To be determined…


The Ducks have yet to score a field goal in their first four games. Former five-star prospect Lewis is 0-for-2 on both attempts that were less than 30-yards out: missing against Auburn and Stanford. The second missed kick was caused from a bad snap.

Oregon is utilizing Lewis for kickoffs, point-after attempts, and field goals. He’s nailed all his extra points but it’s less than ideal that Lewis hasn’t seen the ball go through the uprights for a field goal through the first four games. Lewis is the only remaining scholarship placekicker for the Ducks after Adam Stack elected to transfer. 


By the way, eight true freshmen have played in all four games and would burn their redshirt if they appear in the Ducks’ upcoming game against No. 15 California at 5 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 5 in Autzen Stadium. After a peek into Oregon’s not-so-far-off future, are you impressed with the 2019 class?

Podcast: You can’t reward a one-loss, no conference championship team with a CFP spot, right?

Podcast: You can’t reward a one-loss, no conference championship team with a CFP spot, right?

Minnesota and Baylor just may skip over Oregon to secure a College Football Playoff spot.

Let's run a scenario:

“If Oregon wins out, and there is still a lot of football to be played, the only way a one-loss Oregon team that is the Pac-12 Champion is on the outside looking in, is if you do get a Minnesota running the table or even Baylor running the table,” says Talkin’ Ducks host Jordan Kent on the latest Talkin' Ducks Podcast.

If you look at just the value of wins alone and strength of conference, the Big Ten is home to six of the top-25 teams in the country; the Big 12 has five; the Pac-12 has just two (No. 6 Oregon, No. 7 Utah).

Minnesota upset Penn State (then No. 17 beating then No. 4) which jumped the Golden Gophers up to No. 8 in this week’s CFP rankings.

The Golden Gophers still have two top-20 teams remaining on their schedule: No. 20 Iowa and No. 14 Wisconsin.

The other team that may give Oregon some trouble is Baylor. The No. 13 Bears (9-0) don’t have any promising wins to show for yet this season, but still has to face two teams in the top-20 remaining on their schedule: vs. No. 10 Oklahoma on Saturday and vs. No. 19 Texas on November 23. Both games however will be played at home in Waco, Texas.

It’s a plus and a minus feeling. If both Minnesota and Baylor win out and are they are their respected conference champions, strength of schedule and strength of conference just may be the determining factor to putting either of these teams ahead of Oregon.

On the other hand, Baylor and Minnesota have tough matchups coming up and a loss for either team will put a one-loss Oregon ahead. 

Then there is Alabama. Oh yes, with the history and dominance in college football, can you even imagine a College Football Playoff without Alabama in it? Would the committee put a one-loss, no SEC champ Alabama ahead of (hypothetically) a Pac-12 Conference Champion in Oregon?

“I don’t think you can reward a one-loss team that doesn’t play in their conference championship game and award them a playoff spot ahead of a team with a similar record as far as who goes into the College Football Playoff,” says Kent.

“They shouldn’t, but I think they will,” added co-host Anthony Newman.

Listen to the full podcast below:


Oregon swagged out in nightmare green and yellow for Pac-12 After Dark

Legacy of a Leader: Troy Dye's intensity guiding Oregon to a season worth coming back for

Talkin' Ducks Podcast: Jordan Kent sits down with Mario Cristobal

Oregon swagged out in nightmare green and yellow for Pac-12 After Dark

Oregon swagged out in nightmare green and yellow for Pac-12 After Dark

Looking to punch their tickets to the Pac-12 Championship game, the No. 6 Oregon Ducks will be swagged out in yellow and nightmare green ­­­­on Saturday at 7:30 p.m in Autzen Stadium. Ducks fans are encouraged to wear green to the crucial matchup.

Oregon's "Nike Vapor Fusion" uniform is celebrating its 20th anniversary of their partnership with Nike. 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). 

Coming off a bye, a Duck win this Saturday vs. Arizona (4-5, 2-4 Pac-12) would clinch their third North Division title and a spot in the Pac-12 championship. A victory keeps the Ducks in the running as a College Football Playoff contender.

Numbers to know: In the last 12 games between Oregon and Arizona, the Ducks are 7-0 when scoring more than 40 points per game and 0-5 when scoring less than 40.


Legacy of a Leader: Troy Dye's intensity guiding Oregon to a season worth coming back for

No. 6 Oregon in excellent position in CFB Playoff Poll: Patience is required

How Oregon can beat Arizona to become kings of the North

The magic number for Oregon vs. Arizona

Mario Cristobal’s ear catching comments on expanding Mykael Wright’s role

Legacy of a Leader: Troy Dye's intensity guiding Oregon to a season worth coming back for

Legacy of a Leader: Troy Dye's intensity guiding Oregon to a season worth coming back for

Flashback to a beautifully crisp winter day and Oregon’s win over Michigan State in the Redbox Bowl at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California. Junior Troy Dye hoisted his defensive MVP trophy in the air as fans congratulated Oregon’s leading tackler for three-straight seasons on possibly his last victory in a Ducks uniform.

It wasn’t. Despite gaining traction as a “freak athlete” in NFL circles with an opportunity to make major money in the 2019 NFL draft, Dye chose to stay at Oregon for his senior season. 

317 days later, Dye is still leading No. 6 Oregon in tackles, has jumped up to a projected first round 2020 NFL draft selection and has the opportunity to be hoisting a more prestigious trophy in the air in his actual final season.

Through eight games, Dye’s senior tour has featured 42 tackles with 6.5 for a loss including a sack, three pass breakups and an interception on one of Oregon’s strongest defenses in program history.

His highlights are stunning:

  • In his final home opener, the smiling linebacker danced alone to the familiar tune of “Shout” letting loose and pumping up the rowdy crowd in a moment that will go down in history.
  • Dye recorded a career-high 15 tackles and the most in a season opener in Oregon history vs. Auburn.
  • Dye performed a snow angel in the middle of the W at Husky Stadium after overcoming the largest second-half deficit since 2008.
  • Back in his home of southern California, Dye jumped into the stands after handing USC its worst home loss since 2009.

The Ducks are undefeated in Pac-12 Conference play, one win from claiming the North Division and contenders for a spot in the College Football Playoff.

On a scale from 1-10, how much fun is Dye having?

“I’m at a 12. I’m having a blast. I wake up every morning with a smile on my face, I come here (to practice) with a smile on my face and I’m going to leave with a smile on my face.”

The most telling moment of his season may have come from suffering a broken thumb and gutting it out at Washington. The injury kept him on the sideline against Washington State, snapping his consecutive start streak at 40 games and bringing a reality that it takes only one snap for a football season, or career, to be over. In a cast the size of a club, Dye returned one game later to beat up on the Trojans and show the truth of his character.

“That’s a significant injury that a lot of people would have probably waited to be fully healed and then go and play,” Oregon Coach Mario Cristobal said. “But what he chose to do is different. When guys like Troy speak, those are strong, powerful and impactful words. This (season) means a lot to him and it shows in the way he approaches practice and everything he does. I can’t say enough great things about him, I think he’s as good as it gets in the country.”

His words impacted Oregon's home opener, in which the Ducks trailed Cal 7-0 at halftime. Dye’s halftime speech eloquently made it clear the Ducks needed to play to their standard. The sentiment was echoed and the Ducks overcame their slow start to beat the Bears 17-7.

His actions speak louder than his words. Since returning and still in a cast for his thumb, the linebacker has hit a new level with three conference games left to play.

“He’s done a tremendous job over the course of the season but you really see it now, down the stretch,” Oregon Defensive Coordinator Andy Avalos said. “In my opinion, I think he’s turned it up in practice, since the injury. It made him want it even more.”

Troy Dye agrees that he has hit a new intensity.

“I realized that it can be taken from you. Within a snap, it can be gone,” Dye said. “I’m super fortunate to be able to come back and play with my brothers and end the season how I want to end it. I’m happy, I’m having fun with it and enjoying my time here.”

His teammates couldn’t be happier for him, either. True freshman Mase Funa beams when he details all the tips he’s learned from Dye. Junior Thomas Graham loves to see Dye prosper after witnessing him help change the program from a 4-8 team (2016) to a team on an eight-game winning streak with the biggest goals, a conference title and playoff berth, still possible.

What’s it like for Cristobal to witness Dye live his best life this season?

“I’m jealous. I want to go back to college and do it like he’s doing it,” Cristobal said.

In his final season, the future opportunities are ever-present for Dye. Every Oregon game, more and more NFL scouts grace the media press box. Dye accepted a Senior Bowl invite, where he can show off his elite agility and lateral quickness.

But before all of that, the Ducks need their leader to finish a potentially history-making season, which is exactly the kind of season a junior hopes to return for.

Talkin' Ducks Podcast: Jordan Kent sits down with Mario Cristobal

Talkin' Ducks Podcast: Jordan Kent sits down with Mario Cristobal

Jordan Kent and Anthony Newman talk about the Ducks coming out of the bye week, the changes around the college football landscape and the college football playoff chances for a one-loss Oregon team.

Plus, a special sit down with Oregon Head Football Coach Mario Cristobal!


Oregon WBB starts off signing week with No. 1 recruiting class in 2020

Oregon WBB starts off signing week with No. 1 recruiting class in 2020

The 2020 college basketball season is a year away but for the No. 1 Oregon women’s basketball team and high school seniors across the country, the future started on Wednesday.

The Ducks are probably used to the “No. 1” wording: the No. 1 ranking in the nation; the No. 1 player in the nation in Sabrina Ionescu; and now the No. 1 recruiting class for the 2020 season.

Yesterday, five of the top 33 players in high school hoops signed their National Letters of Intent to join Coach Kelly Graves and the Oregon program.

These players include: Sydney Parrish (a 6-foot, five-star shooting guard from Indiana); Kylee Watson (a 6-foot-3 five-star forward from New Jersey); Maddie Scherr (a 5-foot-11 five-star guard from Kentucky); Angela Dugalic (a 6-foot-4 five-star forward from Illinois); and Te-Hina Paopao (a 5-foot-9 five-star guard from California).

Not to be overlooked, Graves’ elite recruiting has an impact all over the country. Only Paopao is from the west coast. 

222 days ago when Ionescu wrote a letter to Ducks Nation in the Players’ Tribune, she stated that Oregon was building something special. Although Ducks fans are witnessing greatness from Ionescu and for just this final season, the program is sustaining itself for the post-Ionescu (and Ruthy Hebard) era. It just goes to show that she was right; that Oregon is a prestigious basketball program that isn’t run by just one individual. The Ducks have gone from under 1,000 fans attending their games in 2014 to now season tickets being limited ahead of the 2019 season.

The Oregon Ducks aren't going anywhere anytime soon.


How Oregon can beat Arizona to become kings of the North

Dana Altman will unleash the freshmen soon

The magic number for Oregon vs. Arizona

How Oregon can beat Arizona to become kings of the North

How Oregon can beat Arizona to become kings of the North

No. 6 Oregon (8-1, 6-0 Pac-12) is on track to the Pac-12 Conference Title game and in the running as a College Football Playoff contender. Coming off a bye, a Duck win this Saturday vs. Arizona (4-5, 2-4 Pac-12) would clinch their third North Division title and a spot in the Pac-12 championship.

Numbers to know: In the last 12 games between Oregon and Arizona, the Ducks are 7-0 when scoring more than 40 points per game and 0-5 when scoring less than 40.

Fun factOregon leads the nation with 17 interceptions, which is the program's most through nine games since 1988. The Ducks' 11.78 points off turnovers per game ranks second in the country and is a major contributing factor in the Ducks’ eight-game winning streak.

Betting line: Oregon opened as 26.5 point favorites over Arizona, which marks the Ducks’ sixth straight home game as a double-digit favorite.

Players to keep an eye on

Running back J.J. Taylor

With 3,108 career rushing yards, J.J. Taylor has the 12th most rushing yards by any active Division I player. He has also moved up to No. 6 on Arizona's career rushing list and is 56 yards away from passing Mike Bell for fifth all-time.  

Oregon had no answer for Taylor in last season’s Arizona win, rushing for 212 yards on 30 carries and two touchdowns against UO. Taylor has 566 yards and five touchdowns this season.

Linebacker Colin Schooler

Schooler has 42 career tackles-for-loss, which is tied for fourth-most by an active Division I player. His 37 career solo tackles for loss are second-most nationally by an active player and the most by a linebacker.

What’s the deal at quarterback?

Oregon is preparing for both true senior Khalil Tate and freshman Grant Gunnell. Tate has started in Arizona’s last four games (all loses) but has split time with Gunnel in all of those starts.

Tate has passed for 6,001 yards in his career, which ranks sixth-most in program history. The senior is erratic at times and sensational at times. Gunnell has completing 66.4 percent of his passes this year, which currently ranks as the best ever by an Arizona freshman quarterback.

3 keys to an Oregon victory

Playing with passion, not emotion

Arizona has beaten Oregon in each of the past three matchups where the Wildcats enter unranked and the Ducks enter ranked. The Wildcats upset No. 19 Oregon last season. With redemption on the horizon, the Ducks must play with focused passion instead of blurred vengeance. Coming off a bye week, it’d be easy for Oregon to lose the positive momentum of its eight-game winning streak. Those uncharacteristic penalties must be eliminated. Staying disciplined and setting the tone early is important for an Oregon victory.

Limit big Wildcat plays

Arizona has had five plays go for 70 or more yards this season. Only Oklahoma State, Alabama, Colorado State and UCF have more. The Wildcats’ total offense (495.8 yards per game) ranks second in the Pac-12 and 12th in the country. The Duck defense must limit Arizona’s receivers and Taylor to short plays to keep this potential season altering upset at bay.

Let Herbert loose

Fresh off a three-touchdown pass performance against USC, Herbert’s elite arm should light up a suspect Arizona defense. Herbert connected on 20 of his final 21 passes after starting the game 1-for-5 and tacked on a rushing touchdown. Now, it’s time to build on that dominance this Saturday. I expect Herbert to continue to find wide receiver Juwan Johnson, continuing to bloom their explosive chemistry.

Fun fact, Oregon is averaging 44.2 points per game in Justin Herbert's 20 career starts (17-3) at Autzen Stadium.

How and where to watch

Time: Saturday, Nov. 16, 7:30 p.m. (PT)

Where: Autzen Stadium, Eugene, Oregon


Radio: KUGN-AM (590), KUJZ-FM (95.3), KZEL-FM (96.1)

Dana Altman will unleash the freshmen soon

Dana Altman will unleash the freshmen soon

The No. 14 Oregon Ducks defeated the No. 13 Memphis Tigers at the inaugural Phil Knight Invitational 82-74 at Moda Center.

After the game, Oregon head coach Dana Altman discussed how he thinks the freshmen are coming along.

As the season goes on and they get more comfortable... their talent will come through...so as the season progresses and they get more experience, I’ll be a bit more comfortable [to play them more].

Altman relied mostly on his returning players against the Tigers because they had been there before. He specifically cited sophomores Will Richardson and Francis Okoro as players who learned what it took to win last season and how he hopes that rubs off on this freshman class as the year progresses.

You can watch Altman’s full evaluation of the freshmen in the video above.

Instant Analysis: Ducks hold off Tigers in Phil Knight Invitational opener

Instant Analysis: Ducks hold off Tigers in Phil Knight Invitational opener

The No. 14 Oregon Ducks defeated the No. 13 Memphis Tigers 82-74 at the Moda Center to open the Phil Knight Invitational, led by Shakur Juiston, the Ducks used their experience to outplay the young Tigers. 

Here are some takeaways from the game.

Ducks’ defense as stingy as ever

The Ducks played defense out of their patented 2-3 match-up zone and a three-quarter-court press. They funneled all actions into the teeth of the defense, contested each shot and lived with the results. It's a formula that has done wonders for Altman’s teams. Against a young team like Memphis that starts five freshmen, it sped them up and forced them to rush outside shots or just lose the ball. In the first half alone, Memphis had eight turnovers and air balled multiple three pointers. 

Sloppy play lets Memphis linger around

All eyes going into the game were on James Wiseman. However, the freshman phenom and potential first overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft picked up two quick fouls and sat the remainder of the first half. The Ducks used that time to take a double-digit lead before losing it to trail late in the half. Whenever the teams played in the half court, the Ducks looked vastly superior. But the Ducks turned the ball over 11 times in the first half leading to 20 Memphis points. When teams are struggling, especially missing their best player, the Ducks need to finish the game right there and not let the opponent linger around.

Memphis would go on to open the second half of a 14-7 run to take a one point advantage. The Ducks would respond, but, should never have been in that position to begin with.

The local kids are game changers

The last time Payton Pritchard and Anthony Mathis shared a backcourt while attending West Linn high school, they won back-to-back-to-back state championships. They’re looking to continue that championship streak this season in the form of a Pac-12 title, or something greater.

Their chemistry and compatibility has been evident this season. Pritchard entered the season a preseason favorite to win the Pac-12 player of the year, and Mathis was supposed to supply scorching shooting. They have both delivered on their expectations, so far. Pritchard always looks to be in command of the game, especially against a young team like Memphis. Mathis shot the three well, making four of five three-point attempts en route to 12 points. 

Oregon Ducks, Oregon State Beavers in action at the Phil Knight Invitational, follow along on social


Oregon Ducks, Oregon State Beavers in action at the Phil Knight Invitational, follow along on social

Tonight is the second interation Phil Knight Invitational at the Moda Center. The first, PK80, was held in November 2017. 

The action will tip off at 6:00pm PST with the No. 13 Memphis Tigers playing the No. 14 Oregon Ducks in a matchup of ranked teams. 

The headliner will be Memphis center James Wiseman who may go first overall in the 2020 NBA Draft, and was recently declared ineligible by the NCAA. Memphis believes their decision is wrong and will be playing him anyways while the matter gets settled in court.

The Ducks return Pac-12 Player of the Year candidate Payton Pritchard at point guard and will field other notable transfers. They will be without freshman center N’Faly Dante who’s ineligible for the first nine games of the season since he cannot enroll at the University of Oregon until December 14th. In addition, starting center Francis Okoro got hit by a car last week in Eugene and his status for today’s contest in unknown.

The second matchup will be between the Oklahoma Sooners and Oregon State Beavers and tipoff following Oregon-Memphis concludes (approx. 8pm).

The Sooners were picked to finish eighth in the Big-12 this season in the preseason media poll but can easily outplay expectations. The Beavers return senior Tres Tinkle who also is a Pac-12 player of the year candidate. In Vegas, the Beavers are slight underdogs but have enough talent to win. 

Dylan Mickanen will be on site reporting on both games. Feel free to follow along on social as well.