justin hollins

True freshman Kayvon Thibodeaux poised to lead Oregon football in sacks

True freshman Kayvon Thibodeaux poised to lead Oregon football in sacks

Oregon coach Mario Cristobal named Kayvon Thibodeaux a “game changer” from the moment he committed to the Ducks. Undoubtedly, ESPN's No. 1 recruit in the 2019 class is competing for a starting job and I predict the defensive end will lead UO in sacks this season.

Thibodeaux enters into an Oregon pass rushing unit that lost two leaders in Justin Hollins and Jalen Jelks to graduation. Hollins led UO last season with 6.5 sacks. Thibodeaux is poised for seven or more sack this season; he enrolled early, quickly adjusted to college pace and displayed an array of pass-rushing moves that indicate he will be a high-impact player right away.

By the way, the true freshman is doing a push-up challenge on his Instagram account called “see 50, do 50” where he does 50 pushups every hour and encourages his followers to join in. He also joined Oregon's 500-pound squat club during offseason workouts

At 6-foot-5, 240 pounds, he’s an elite pass rusher with explosiveness, scary speed and agility that creates major issues for offensive lines.

Thibodeaux’s production will be critically important for the Duck defense. Gus Cumberlander is Oregon’s top returning pass rusher who recorded four sacks in 2018. Whether he’s a first-stringer or a rotational player, Thibodeaux has the opportunity to make a huge impact that could lead to All-Pac-12 honors by the end of the season.

During the UO spring game, Thibodeaux generated consistent pressure and recorded a sack. He would have had at least one more if the scrimmage was completely game-like without the quarterbacks in red no-contact jerseys.

Thibodeaux’s talent plus football IQ equals a star in the making. There are just 46 days until Oregon football kicks off the 2019 season against Auburn on August 31, 2019. In order for the Ducks to contend in the Pac-12 north, Thibodeaux will need to live up to expectations and shoulder the weight as a UO’s leading pass-rusher.

MORE PREDICTIONS

Underdog Ducks will beat Auburn

Troy Dye, projected first round 2020 NFL draft pick, will smash Oregon record

Justin "Record Breaker" Herbert; will set new record for career pass completions

Cam McCormick back with a vengeance

"Dangerous" running back Sean Dollars to have a money freshman season

NFL Draft Galore: Four Oregon Ducks find great fits in NFL

NFL Draft Galore: Four Oregon Ducks find great fits in NFL

The 2019 NFL Draft is over and four Ducks became ProDucks. As expected, all four Oregon players were drafted in the mid-to-late rounds. This is the most Ducks drafted since 2015, when NFL teams selected five Ducks, with second overall pick Marcus Mariota leading the way. Before the draft, there were 19 active Ducks on NFL rosters.

Ugo Amadi was the first Duck off the board by the Seattle Seahawks and drafted in the fourth round at No.132 overall.

READ: Here is why the Lombardi Trophy winner is a perfect fit for the *new* Legion of Boom.

READ: Also, it appears Amadi became a father today.

Next, the Denver Broncos selected Justin Hollins in the fifth round, No. 156 overall.

READ: Hollins will compete to be Denver's third pass rusher beside future Hall of Fame linebacker Von Miller and former first round pick Bradley Chubb.

The third Duck off the board was wide receiver Dillon Mitchell, who is ready to make the NFL world 'eat their words'.

READ: The Vikings drafted Mitchell in 7th round with a need for a No. 3 receiver

With picks dwindling, the Dallas Cowboys, starving for pass-rushers, drafted Jalen Jelks with the 241st pick. 

READ: Jelks, a relentless edge rusher eager to improve, is the newest Cowboy

Jelks and Mitchell went later in the draft than expected. Some teams struggled with where Jelks fits from a position standpoint because he is a bit of a “tweener”, plus a lackluster NFL Combine performance added to late selection. In the case of Mitchell, the UO single season receiving yards record holder, had to compete against a 2019 receivers group full of incredible, large athletes who excel in contested catches.

Because of Mitchell's slide, many poised the question, would it have been smarter for the reciever to return to Oregon for his senior season? It'd be hard to replicate his break out junior season and another year of stats would not have improved his NFL projections much. Striking while the iron was hot and not risking injury still seems like the smarter play for a receiver who didn't have much to gain as an NFL prospect by returning. 

Two more Ducks signed as free agents; Kano Dillon with the Washington Redskins and Tony Brooks-James with the Atlanta Hawks.

The majority of Oregon’s top NFL prospects came back for their senior season: quarterback Justin Herbert, offensive linemen Calvin Throckmorton, Jake Hansen, Shane Lemieux and linebacker Travis Dye. By the way, Herbert already is the talk of the town. The league is licking its lips at Herbert, the 6-foot-6, 235-pound passer with the powerful right arm and sneaky fast wheels.

A total of 30 Pac-12 players were drafted to the NFL this year

Denver drafts "freak of nature" Justin Hollins in fifth round, No. 156 overall

Denver drafts "freak of nature" Justin Hollins in fifth round, No. 156 overall

Denver selected Justin Hollins in Round 5, No. 156 overall in the 2019 NFL Draft. Hollins' four-year contract is projected to be worth $2,826,892 with a $306,892 signing bonus, according to OverTheCap.com. Here is what the Broncos are getting with the ProDuck and how Hollins fits the team’s needs.

TEAM NEEDS  Denver needs reinforcements on their defense and looked to the draft to fill in depth at the linebacker position. Hollins will compete to be the third pass rusher beside future Hall of Fame linebacker Von Miller and former first round pick Bradley Chubb. The Broncos may have just found their next aggressive edge rusher in Hollins; his height, speed and long arms could create plenty of havoc in the NFL. Over the last four months, a lot of anticipation and excitement has surrounded the intriguing, 6-foot-5, 250-pound ultra athletic prospect who has been pegged to have untapped potential. 

YOU MIGHT NOT KNOW THAT After a strong showing during the practices leading up to the East-West Shrine Game, he delivered an eye catching performance as a linebacker that earned him Defensive MVP honors. Hollins demonstrated he could play outside linebacker in either the 4-3 or the 3-4 at the next level by totaling 10 tackles, two sacks and three for loss against the elite competition.

AT OREGON his teammates referred to him as a “freak of nature”. Hollins started his career at Oregon as a defensive lineman before moving to linebacker as a junior, where he tore it up. He totaled eight forced fumbles in 2017 and 2018, good for the most in the nation over that span. An Associated Press Pac-12 All-Conference first team choice, he finished his senior year leading the Pac-12 conference with five forced fumbles and stuffing the stat sheet with 64 tackles, a team-high 14.5 for loss, 6.5 sacks, one interception and seven pass breakups.

STRENGTHS Hollins’ speed and ability to read plays set him apart from the rest. At the NFL Combine, Hollins had one of the best workouts among edge rushers; running the 40-yard dash in 4.50 seconds, 2nd highest of the 19 edge players to run. Hollins has a knack for strip sacks and has a sudden inside move in the pass rush that has proven to be dangerous.

NEEDS TO WORK ON Can Hollins perform well in coverage in the NFL? It’s a legit question and something that he plans on working to improve on. Another concern is play with more of aggressive demeanor and not to disappear during stretches of a game.

QUOTE "Sometimes I get caught playing high," Hollins told NBC Sports NW. "Like when I'm tired I tend to stand up a little bit more instead of bending at my hips and my knees to keep my leverage. That's my main weakness. But I'm working on it everyday.

FUN FACT Hollins has been working out at Mamba Sports in Thousand Oaks, Calif., and Athletic Gaines in Los Angeles, Calif., where had a chance to meet Mamba's co-owner, former Los Angeles Laker Kobe Bryant.

BEST SOCIAL POST “Forever Friday mood” is definitely a fitting caption for this video of Hollins and teammates dancing on the sidelines.

 

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Forever the Friday Mood 😂

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MEASUREABLES 6' 5", 248 LBS, 33 3/8” ARMS, 10 3/8” HANDS

HOMETOWN Arlington, TX

NFL COMPARISON Obum Gwacham

Oregon Ducks and the NFL draft: The waiting game continues

Oregon Ducks and the NFL draft: The waiting game continues

Rounds one through three of the 2019 NFL Draft have wrapped up and Oregon did not have any players drafted. This is as expected, although a few projections had EDGE Jalen Jelks going as high as the second round. There are four Ducks that are widely expected to be drafted and a couple more that will hope to sign free agent contracts.

 

Here are some interesting notes from day two.

Quarterback Justin Herbert already is the talk of the town

The 2019 NFL Draft is still underway but everyone is already talking about Herbert again. The league is licking its lips at Herbert, the 6-foot-6, 235-pound passer with the powerful right arm and sneaky fast wheels.

Analysts are already looking towards 2020 and Oregon's quarterback is one of the top prospects on the board. It’s WAY too early but the hype for Herbert as possibly the top overall pick next year is already building.

Returning for Herbert’s senior season gives the Eugene-native the opportunity to further develop his decision-making, accuracy and improve as an NFL prospect. 

Over his three seasons at Oregon, Herbert has thrown for 7,070 passing yards, 63 passing touchdowns, 17 interceptions, plus 510 rushing yards and nine rushing touchdowns.

Pac-12 Pros

The Pac-12 Conference had eight players selected in the second and third rounds, 11 total after three Pac-12 players were drafted in the first round. Washington led the way with four Huskies picked.

Since the conference expanded to 12 teams, the lowest amount of Pac-12 picks in the first three rounds of the NFL draft was 10 players drafted in 2016.

The highest was 25 Pac-12 players selected in the first three rounds of the 2015 NFL draft (with Marcus Mariota leading the way).

News, rumors and analysis: Ducks and the NFL draft

News, rumors and analysis: Ducks and the NFL draft

The 2019 NFL Draft starts today! Oregon is not expected to have a player selected in Thursday’s first round for the third year in a row. However, crazier things have happened! Which Duck do you think will be selected first? Which Duck are you going to miss the most next season? If you want to be the UO fan in the know, I got you covered for the NFL Draft.

Here is what NFL teams are getting with each Duck.

 

DILLON MITCHELL

Dillon Mitchell’s ability as a ball carrier, excellent route running, efficient footwork and yards after catch potential make him an enticing weapon for NFL offenses. He's projected to be a mid to late round selection.

[EXCLUSIVE] Dillon Mitchell gets real: His decision to go pro, which NFL teams he met with at the Combine and chemistry with Justin Herbert

READ: Mitchell is meeting with NFL teams and ready to make the world 'eat their words'

WATCH: Which team is going to fall in love with Dillon Mitchell?

 

JALEN JELKS

How high in the draft will Jalen Jelks go? The NFL is always starving for pass rushers and Jelks could be quite attractive to some teams. Jelks has the length and pass rush ability many GMs dream about, however he weighs under 250 pounds. He's projected to be a mid round selection, but could be the first Duck off the board. 

READ: Here are some round predictions for the future Pro Duck

WATCH: Jalen Jelks needs 'right team with right system'

 

JUSTIN HOLLINS

Is Justin Hollins majorly underrated? Hollins excelled in the NFL combine and impressed in the East-West Shrine Bowl, earning defensive MVP honors. He's projected to be a mid round selection, but could also be the first Duck off the board. 

READ: An NFL scout and a draft expert evaluate Oregon Ducks LB Justin Hollins

WATCH: Justin Hollins living up to the hype following NFL Combine

 

UGO AMADI

Any team that has a need for young, dependable and versatile safeties, will like Ugo Amadi. Amadi makes up for his less than ideal size with his speed, ability to affect the game and make plays on the ball. He's projected as a late round pick. 

READ: Underrated Ugo Amadi is stealing NFL teams’ attention

WATCH: Ugo Amadi's versatility could set him apart in draft class

 

TONY BROOKS-JAMES

Tony Brooks James got his chance to impress NFL scouts at Oregon's Pro Day after not receiving an invite to the NFL Combine. The Oregon runnng back recorded a 4.17, 20-yard shuttle, third among running backs, and a 7.2 second three-cone performance, placing him 10th out of 16 running backs who participated in the Combine. Brooks-James had 57 carries for 306 yards and 21 kickoff returns for 548 yards at UO before sitting out of the Redbox Bowl with a left knee injury. 

READ: It's do-or-die: Ducks leave it all on the field at Oregon Pro Day

 

MORE

 

Former Oregon Ducks LB Justin Hollins' stock could be ready to soar

Former Oregon Ducks LB Justin Hollins' stock could be ready to soar

Stop! Listen. Hear that buzz? That's the sound of anticipation and excitement surrounding Justin Hollins.

The former Oregon linebacker entered the NFL Draft process as an intriguing, 6-foot-5, 248-pound ultra athletic prospect with many questions surrounding his pro potential including, what is he? An undersized defensive end or an out-of-place linebacker?

After a strong showing during the practices leading up to the East-West Shrine Game last month, and then delivering an MVP-caliber performance as a linebacker, Hollins' name is on the rise. He could give it another jolt on Sunday when he works out at the NFL Scouting Combine. 

"He's an exceptional, exceptional athlete," Hollins' agent Frank Bauer said. "He's very smart. And he has everything they want. The height. The weight. The long arms. The long body. And the key ingredient is he is able to run like a deer."

Hollins will have a chance to prove his athletic prowess in Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Ind., when linebackers and defensive linemen, including former teammate Jalen Jelks, take the field on Sunday for a series of drills, including the all-important 40-yard dash.

For Hollins, who arrived at Oregon in 2014, being one of four Oregon players selected to participate at the combine is both exciting and "a blessing."

Now, he said, it's time to "do my thing."

Back to that in a bit.

One can't fully appreciate where Hollins is now in his career without knowing where he's been. 

Hollins arrived at Oregon in 2014 as a 3-star recruit listed at 6-foot-6, 205 pounds. He played mostly special teams for the 2014 team that reached the national title game where the Ducks lost to Ohio State. 

Hollins got injured the following spring and ended up redshirting in 2015. He returned to action in 2016 only to see Oregon change defensive coordinators from Don Pellum to Brady Hoke and also change schemes, shifting from the 3-4 to the 4-3. That led to Hollins moving to defensive end where he ended up starting. He led all Ducks' linemen with 51 tackles, but at 240 pounds was woefully undersized to excel at that position. 

"I knew after my first year in college that if I ever wanted to go to the NFL I'd be an outside linebacker," Hollins said. "So the whole position change got underneath my skin a little bit. But it didn't really affect my train of thought. I just kind of did what I had to do."

Oregon went 4-8 that season in large part because of one of the worst run defenses in the nation. That fact certainly wasn't all on Hollins, but teams certainly did take advantage of running the ball at him given his lack of bulk for the defensive end position.

The poor season led to the firing of coach Mark Helfrich and the entire staff. New coach Willie Taggart took over and hired Jim Leavitt to run the defense and he implemented the 3-4 scheme.

Nobody on the team was more pleased with that development than Hollins, who as a redshirt junior was ready to thrive. 

He put up 59 tackles with 11 1/2 for loss in 2017 and followed up with 14 1/2 tackles for loss in 2018 to go along with 64 tackles and five forced fumbles.

Clearly, Hollins became an NFL prospect along the way. But he also remained somewhat of a mystery, a tweener, not big enough to play defensive end in the NFL (or college, for that matter) and maybe not agile enough to play linebacker  and cover professional running backs and tight ends. 

The predraft process provided Hollins with a chance to establish who and what he is all about. 

Hollins - who has been working out at Mamba Sports in Thousand Oaks, Calif., and Athletic Gaines in Los Angeles, Calif., and had a chance to meet Mamba's co-owner, former Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant - took advantage of his first big predraft opportunity leading up to the East-West Shrine game.

There, Hollins demonstrated against elite competition that he could indeed play outside linebacker in either the 4-3 or the 3-4 at the next level and he backed up a strong week of work by earning defensive player of the game with 10 tackles, two sacks and three for loss.

"I was able to make plays and showed my strengths," Hollins said.

People took notice.   

"He went to that East-West Shrine Game and was asked to play more of a traditional, stand up linebacker role, and his athletic ability really caught the attention of some of the people therem," said Rob Rang, draft analyst for NFLDraftScout.com

That showing set the table for the combine where Hollins could further elevate his stock by running a strong time in the 40-yard dash and delivering good numbers in other drills, as well.

Hollins ran track and field in high school in Arlington, Texas, where he posted a time of 10.6 seconds in the 100 meters, but that was when he weighed well below the 248 pounds he is now. Still, both Rang and Bauer expect Hollins to run very well on Sunday. If he does, with his size, the hype train should begin to accelerate.

"I learned a long time ago from [former Oakland Raiders owner] Al Davis, speed kills," Bauer, of Sun West Sports in Stockton, Calif., said. "If he runs well, he's only going to move up."

Someone that tall, and that fast, with long arms could create plenty of havoc in the NFL. Rang said that Hollins' five forced fumbles are huge in the eyes of NFL scouts.

"That was number two in the country," Rang said. "NFL teams are just enamored with pass rushers that can create turnovers."

Hollins said he believes his strengths are his speed and ability to read plays. He is also self aware enough to recognize his flaws. Hollins said he must work on his ability to bend and remain low.

"Sometimes I get caught playing high," he said. "Like when I'm tired I tend to stand up a little bit more instead of bending at my hips and my knees to keep my leverage. That's my main weakness. But I'm working on it everyday."

A concern for him as a linebacker would be if Hollins could perform well in coverage in the NFL.

"I definitely have to work on that but it's not like if I step out there I'll feel uncomfortable covering anybody," he said. "But I know that I have a lot to improve on when it comes to that aspect of the game."

Hollins had been projected to be a middle-round pick until the East-West Shrine Game buzz began. Now, Rang said he could see Hollins going as high as the second or third round. However, one NFL Scout said what Hollins does at the combine will be a greater measuring stick. NFL teams, the scout said, will want to see if he has the ability to develop into a strong pass rusher at the next level. 

"He needs to develop more rush savvy with moves and counters," the scout said. "He doesn't show a lot of that."

At this point, Hollins said he doesn't care what scheme he ends up playing in and isn't too caught up in what round he ends up being selected.  

"I want to go as high as I possibly can," he said. "But getting picked up will just be a blessing for me and I'll just be happy about that, honestly."

Hollins said he's sought combine advice from a few former Oregon Ducks, such as former UO offensive lineman Tyrell Crosby and defensive lineman Tony Washington.  

"They said it's going to be a grind but it's going to be a fun one," he said. 

Bauer, of course, believes his clients stock is on the rise. 

"People are all talking about him being one of the guys that's on the move," Bauer said.

Rang has certainly become enamored with the Ducks' prospect. 

"People are going to be so intrigued by what he brings," Rang said. "There's a perception that he still has untapped potential. Of the Oregon Ducks, he is the one that's going to have an up-arrow next to his name when the process if over, I believe."

Now, Hollins has to deliver on the biggest scouting stage in the world. 

Jalen Jelks: Splash or slip at the NFL Combine

Jalen Jelks: Splash or slip at the NFL Combine

Jalen Jelks is flying into the NFL Scouting Combine relatively under the radar. A versatile chess piece that lined up all over Oregon’s defensive front, Jelks’ NFL draft projection was higher after his junior season when he recorded 15.5 sacks. As an EDGE prospect unlike the rest of his draft class, Jelks is a prime candidate to watch his draft stock rise with a good performance.

[READ: Oregon expected to hire Andy Avalos as defensive coordinator]

His chance to make a splash at the NFL Draft combine begins on February 28. Here is a peek into what the week looks like for the EDGE defender and what the NFL’s top executives are saying about him.

Jelks is one of four Oregon Ducks (Dillon Mitchell, Justin Hollins, Ugo Amadi) and 38 Pac-12 Conference football athletes that join more than 300 of the best college football players in the NFL Scouting Combine held in Indianapolis, Indiana inside Lucas Oil Stadium from February 26 to March 4, 2019.

Jalen Jelks: Group 7, 8 or 9

Feb 28- March 2: Hospital pre-exam, x-rays, interviews, measurements, medical examinations, psychological testing, media, bench press

March 3: On-field workout (timing, stations and skill drills)

Projected Draft status: Jelks’ draft projection ranges from second round to fifth round

An average Senior Bowl performance caused Jelks’ draft projection to slip to the fourth or fifth round. The Pac-12 All-Conference first team selection impressed with a few highlights at Senior Bowl practices, and he finished the game with one tackle and two quarterback hits. Despite his exciting blend of power and quickness, Jelks’ general senior bowl evaluation tabbed him as a “raw prospect."

The 6-foot-6, 245-pound former Duck reportedly met with the Seattle Seahawks and the New England Patriots during the Senior Bowl.

The Seahawks and Patriots weren’t the only teams who showed interest in Jelks. The same report says he also met with the Chicago Bears, Arizona Cardinals, Miami Dolphins, New York Giants, Oakland/Las Vegas Raiders, Baltimore Ravens, Houston Texas, and the Tennessee Titans.

The Draft Network called Jelks “wicked quick.” The profile added that Jelks “uses length well in both run and pass game and has the upper body power to stiff-arm and bench offensive linemen.”

Where he must shine: Speed/agility drills and measurements

Jelks has the length and pass rush ability many GMs dream about, however he weighs under 250 pounds- too small to play inside and undersized for an outside linebacker. Some teams will struggle with where he fits from a position standpoint. Good speed and agility times will show off his quickness and athleticism, which he uses to his advantage exploding out of his stance to beat offensive linemen along the interior. 

If Jelks weighs in at more than 250 pounds, it’ll show that he can add strength and mass. His abnormally long limbs are also a gift in pursuit of quarterback and disrupting the run.

The senior Duck was a nightmare for Pac-12 offenses, leading all Pac-12 defensive linemen in 2018 with 57 tackles. The Phoenix, Ariz. native finished his career with 29.5 tackles for loss and 15 sacks.

Through his five seasons with Oregon, he experienced a Rose Bowl victory, a National Championship run, a 4-8 losing season, three different head coaches and three different defensive coordinators.

Jelks’ experience, speed, athleticism and length make him an intriguing 3-4 outside linebacker prospect for the passing-driven NFL. A strong Combine performance would swing major positive momentum towards his draft stock.

 

MORE DUCKS

Dillon Mitchell, a sleeper in a loaded receiver group: 2019 NFL Draft

Ugo Amadi, a possible steal in the 2019 NFL Draft

Oregon Ducks counting on old man Justin Hollins

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US Presswire

Oregon Ducks counting on old man Justin Hollins

Outside linebacker Justin Hollins is quietly leading the Ducks and crushing opposing quarterbacks, all while climbing NFL draft boards at an alarming rate.

The fifth-year senior is a big reason why No. 12 Oregon’s front seven is among the most productive in the Pac-12 conference.

“He’s a freak of nature,” said fellow linebacker junior Troy Dye. “He is super athletic, big, strong, physical, fast. He’s everything you want in an outside linebacker and then some.”

Dye jokingly added that Hollins is “the old man” on the Oregon defense.

At 23-years old, Hollins is anything but an old man. However, through his five seasons as a Duck, he’s experienced a Rose Bowl victory, a National Championship run, a 4-8 losing season, three different head coaches and three different defensive coordinators… That’s enough to give anyone some grey hair.

His final year as a Duck is proving to be his best yet. He’s racked up 20 quarterback pressures and leads the team with four sacks, nine tackles for loss and three of Oregon’s five forced fumbles. Hollins is also streaking, recording a tackle for loss in 10 straight games. To round out his stellar stat line, Hollins is tied with senior safety Ugochukwu Amadi for a team lead of 21 solo tackles.

At 6-foot-five and 245-pounds, Hollins is a long and lean edge defender. NFL scouts like his physical gifts, combined with his versatile ability to rush the quarterback and excel when dropping back into coverage. Because he is an outside linebacker in Oregon defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt’s 3-4 scheme, Hollins won’t face any transition pains, as most scouts see his NFL future at outside linebacker. Hollins is rising in 2019 NFL mock drafts because of his strong hands, hesitation moves and fluid ability to dart into the B-gap.

But it’s Hollins’ mentality and preparation that sets him above the rest, according to Oregon co-defensive coordinator and defensive line coach Joe Salava’e.

“He’s literally a student of the game, such a conscientious kid,” said Salava’e.

Each week, Hollins questions Salava’e…in a good way. Hollins wants to understand exactly why the Ducks are doing what they are doing. So he asks Salava’e specific questions about why they are running different coverages or which technique should be used at the line of scrimmage.

His deep understanding and confidence in Oregon’s game plan gives him an obvious edge on Saturdays. The senior is one of just two players in the NCAA this season with four sacks, three forced fumbles and an interception.

Hollins’ performance on Saturday is “critical” for Oregon to beat No. 25 Washington State," says Oregon coach Mario Cristobal.

“If you are trying to overplay the pass, (WSU) will gut you in the run game,” said Cristobal. “Guys like Justin have to affect the line of scrimmage and in more ways than just stopping the run. They have to affect the passer and redirect and chase down screens.”

A Cougar to keep an eye on is running back James Williams, who leads all running backs nationally with 32 receptions and is tied for the lead with three receiving touchdowns.

Winning the line of scrimmage against Washington State won’t be an easy task either. The Cougar offensive line has allowed just five sacks in six games, which is tied for 8th nationally and the fewest sacks allowed in the Pac-12.

Can Hollins keep the pace on his best season yet? The Duck defense thrives when he intimidates around the edge. With Pac-12 title hopes on the line in a rowdy Top 25 matchup and the nation watching, the Ducks will be counting on their old man.

 

 

Best and Worst from Oregon’s win vs. Washington

Best and Worst from Oregon’s win vs. Washington

The good certainly outweighed the bad in Oregon’s 30-27 upset overtime victory against then No. 7 Washington. The No. 12 Ducks kept their Pac-12 title and Rose Bowl hopes alive, but that’s not all… Check out the best and the worst from Saturday.

[READ: Victory proves it pays dividends to buy Cristobal's "Oregon Football 2.0"]

BEST

Herbert becoming a Duck Legend: Quarterback Justin Herbert passed Dan Fouts (5,871) for ninth all-time in career total offense at Oregon.
 He has the most career passing yards (5,532) through 23 career games, besting Marcus Mariota (5,496).
 Herbert also proved he shines in big games. In six career games against ranked teams, he is completing 68.5 percent of his passes for 1,509 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Mitchell is streaking: Wide receiver Dillon Mitchell is the only Pac-12 player with three consecutive 100-yard receiving games this season. Over the last three games, Herbert’s go-to receiver has 29 receptions for 463 yards and two touchdowns.

Here comes Verdell: Redshirt freshman running back CJ Verdell has been named the Pac-12 Conference Offensive Player of the Week and is officially listed as Oregon’s starting running back after scoring the winning touchdown in overtime. Verdell finished with 29 carries for 111 yards and two touchdowns, becoming the first Duck to run over 100 yards in the first three Pac-12 game since Byron Marshall in 2013. Last week, I wrote about why former Duck LaMichael James thinks Verdell will be the next great Oregon running back.

Third down, no problem: Oregon leads the Pac-12 and ranks eighth in the nation in third down conversion percentage (51.7). The Ducks also converted on all three of their fourth down attempts against the Huskies.

Justin “TFL” Hollins: Outside linebacker Justin Hollins has 13.5 tackles for loss in his last 10 games. He has at least a share of a tackle for loss in 10 straight games.

Big men up front: Jalen Jelks leads Pac-12 defensive linemen with 31 tackles. Jordon Scott tallied three tackles and one tackle for loss in the win. Austin Faoliu finished with four tackles and 0.5 against Washington.

Linebackers come up big: Saturday was Troy Dye’s second straight game with double-digit tackles (10). Dye leads the team with 45 tackles. Redshirt freshman Isaac Slade-Matautia made a career-high six tackles. Kaulana Apelu has at least five tackles in all six games this season, and his 7 tackles and 0.5 sacks against Washington moved him to second on team in tackles (37) and tackles for loss (5.0).

Rising in the polls: Oregon moved up five spots to No. 12 in the latest Associated Press Top 25 Poll. The Ducks landed at No. 11 in the Amway Coaches Poll, up six spots from a week ago.

Autzen Advantage: With the victory over Washington, Oregon has won 11 of its last 15 games against Top 10 opponents in Autzen Stadium. The Ducks have won 24 of its last 27 games at home when nationally ranked.


Flash back to 2014: Some comparisons could be made to 2014 when Oregon made it to the first ever College Football Playoff. The Ducks are off to their first 5-1 start and 2-1 Pac-12 start since 2014.
 Also, the Ducks knocked off ranked teams in back-to-back games for the first time since 2014 when they beat Arizona in the Pac-12 Championship Game and Florida State in the Rose Bowl.

WORST

Special teams blunders: Adam Stack missed a 42-yard field goal in the fourth quarter and Tony Brooks-James fumbled a kickoff return that turned into a Washington touchdown.

Injuries: Offensive linemen Dallas Warmack(stinger) and Penei Sewell(ankle) both sustained injuries against Washington. According to Cristobal on Monday, Warmack has been cleared and they're still unsure about Sewell. Cristobal also said backup quarterback Braxton Burmeister (knee) is ready to play this week, but running back Darrian Felix (foot) might be another week or two away.

Oregon Ducks fly into conference play on the back of their defense

Oregon Ducks fly into conference play on the back of their defense

No. 20 Oregon remains undefeated heading into Pac-12 conference play with a 35-22 victory over San Jose State (0-3), but the 3-0 Ducks aren't satisfied. 

The closer-than-expected win was marked with inconsistent offensive play and an uncharacteristic performance from quarterback Justin Herbert.

Herbert was intercepted twice by the nation’s second-worst pass defense in San Jose State. He seemed uncomfortable in the pocket while forcing too-tight throws and underthrowing receivers, like Dillon Mitchell on the first play of the game.

"Today we played some inconsistent football," coach Mario Cristobal said.

When asked about Herbert’s performance Crisotbal said, “I’m not disappointed with his play at all. I know he is very critical of himself, and that’s okay. We want our players to have high standards for themselves.”

He finished the game 16-of-34 for 309 passing yards and three touchdowns. 300 passing yards might seem like a good statistic but consider this: In SJSU’s first two games, UC Davis quarterback Jake Meier and Washington State quarterback Gardner Minshew each finished with over 425 passing yards.

The tight score kept Herbert in the game until the final minutes, when freshman Tyler Shough took his place. Backup quarterback Braxton Burmeister was on the sideline with crutches after undergoing a minor procedure on his knee. Cristobal expects him to return in two weeks.

[READ: Oregon football most valuable program in Pac-12 conference]

It wasn’t all bad for Herbert and the Oregon offense. The Ducks splashed in some explosive plays that sent the 50,049 fans in Autzen into a frenzy.

A wide-open Jacob Breeland took a pass a career high 66-yards to the end zone for his first touchdown of the season.

Herbert also completed a 23-yard touchdown pass to CJ Verdell, who led Oregon today in rushing (42) and receiving yards (85), totaling 127 all-purpose yards.

Tony Brooks-James took a kickoff return 95 yards to the house, but it was negated by a costly holding penalty. The Ducks committed six penalties for 59 yards, which is still less than last season’s average of nine penalties a game.

But the real bright spot was the Duck run defense. Oregon held the Spartans to 29 rushing yards on 28 carries. So far this season, the Ducks have held opponents to 2.2 yards per carry.

Oregon also had 11 pass breakups and two interceptions, including freshman Jevon Holland’s first career pick.

Senior Ugo Amadi was seemingly everywhere, finishing with a team-high eight tackles and two pass break-ups. He also provided a spark on special teams, returning three punts for 100 yards, including one 57-yard return that was just short of a touchdown.

“(Amadi) was making more plays in the backfield than I was, “ said outside linebacker Justin Hollins. “To have a defensive back like that is tremendous.”

Hollins could have been the MVP of the game. Hollins had a team-high eight tackles, one sack, two tackles for loss, one forced fumble and one interception. He has a tackle for loss in seven straight games and a sack in all three games this season.

“Justin Hollins is always wreaking havoc off the edge, always in the quarterback’s face and applying pressure,” said linebacker Troy Dye. “He finally got a pick, he kind of bobbled it, if he would have dropped it I would have got on him.”

Oregon’s run defense is peaking at the right time, with No. 9 Stanford and running back Bryce Love headed to Eugene to open conference play next Saturday. All eyes will be on the Ducks, as ESPN’s college game day visiting for the prime time 5 p.m. game.

Is Oregon ready for Stanford?

"I think it’s time to go find out," said Cristobal.