Oregon

Please stop trying to tell me college athletes play for free!

Please stop trying to tell me college athletes play for free!

I listen to more sportstalk radio than I used to, because I know – and like -- a lot of the people behind the mic at all the stations.

But if there’s one thing I could tell them that frustrates me the most when it comes out of their mouths is the assertion that college athletes “play for free.” Or they “don’t get paid.”

I’m wondering how many of these hosts have sent their children to college these days. And more to the point, I also believe that when people say those kinds of things, they seriously underestimate the value of a college education.

Guys, do you have any idea what it costs these days to attend college, especially as an out-of-state student? Do you know what it’s like to graduate with a $100,000 worth of loans to pay off?

At the University of Oregon, for example, if you aren’t an in-state resident – and most of our state’s scholarship athletes aren’t – you would be paying $35,367 a year for the right to sit in a classroom in Eugene. And oh yes, scholarship athletes now receive “cost of attendance” stipends, too. At UO, that amounts to almost $15,000 a year.

So we’re talking about getting about 50 grand a year for playing a sport!

In my world, that’s a lot of money. Now you can say that those people on scholarship are attending college only to play their sport and don’t care about the diploma, but I would counter that those are the ones who will probably benefit the most from college. Whether they take advantage of the opportunity is up to them. And if you want to take that position, please stop calling those people SCHOLAR-ATHLETES.

But they aren’t playing for nothing (and I’m not even talking about all the perks of pre-registration, training table, luxurious study and workout facilities and whatever they can grab from a rich alum).

They are playing for something that has as much value as they put into it.

Oregon Ducks fall five spots in Top 25 after loss to Auburn

Oregon Ducks fall five spots in Top 25 after loss to Auburn

The Oregon Ducks (0-1) fell from No. 11 to No. 16 in the latest Associated Press Top 25 poll, after losing to then-No. 16 Auburn at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX. The Tigers moved up to No. 10.

Oregon also dropped five spots in the Amway Coaches Poll to No. 18. The time is now for Oregon to bounce back from the 27-21 season opening defeat. 

The Ducks are starting the season 0-1 for the first time since 2011. No, a week one loss does not mean the sky is falling on the 2019 Oregon football season, however, the defeat initiates an uphill fight as no team has ever rebounded from a week one loss to make the final field of four. Of course, the Pac-12 conference title is still wide open.

The Ducks will play three more teams ranked in the poll; road games against No. 14 Washington and No. 23 Stanford while hosting No. 22 Washington State.

Ranked in the Pac-12: 

Washington rolled to 47-14 win over Eastern Washington behind Jacob Eason’s four touchdowns. 

K.J. Costello threw a 2-yard touchdown pass before getting knocked out of the season opener on a late hit; Stanford went on to beat Northwestern, 17-7. 

Washington State dominated New Mexico State, 58-7. 

No. 13 Utah beat BYU, 30-12.

MORE DUCKS:

Mario Cristobal's ear-catching comments about Jevon Holland

5 changes to Oregon's week two depth chart, following the loss to Auburn

Ducks started and ended their playoff run on the same night

 

The time is now for Oregon football to rebound

The time is now for Oregon football to rebound

ARLINGTON, TEXAS - Oregon had the chance to beat the No. 16 Auburn Tigers on Saturday night at AT&T Stadium in front of 60,662 screaming fans and the nation watching.

A win would send the No. 11 Ducks and the Pac-12 Conference into national relevancy. For 59 minutes and 51 seconds, Oregon’s College Football Playoff dreams were intact. Auburn led for nine seconds of the game but it was the only nine seconds that mattered. The Tigers beat the Ducks, 27-21, on a last minute drive commanded by freshman quarterback Bo Nix in his first career start.

Following the defeat-sealing touchdown, senior linebackers Troy Dye and La’Mar Winston Jr. walked off the field, shed their helmets, huddled together and shared a few private words before walking through the tunnel to the Cowboys locker room. The somber locker room waited to hear from the veteran leaders.

It was a stark difference to the swagger of the Ducks' defense in the first half. In defensive coordinator Andy Avalos’ debut, the Ducks showed multiple defensive looks, controlling the battle in the trenches and demonstrated stout red zone defense.

In the first half, the Tigers’ three red-zone trips only netted three points. Nix looked constantly hurried and threw two interceptions with one snatched by junior cornerback Thomas Graham and one to sophomore safety Jevon Holland.

Neither turnover was converted into points for the Ducks. One of many “what ifs” which enter the mind when contemplating how Oregon blew a 21-6 lead.

“We played our asses off and played balls to the wall,” Dye said. “We have to play harder next time and turn those turnovers into touchdowns.”

BLUNDERS

What if Oregon’s largest and most experienced receiver had played? Before the game, to the surprise of many, wide receiver Juwan Johnson walked onto the field in sweats instead of Oregon’s Nike “nightmare green” and white uniform.

Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert would be without the 6-foot-6 graduate transfer, who has become a go-to big-bodied target. Another loss to the Ducks receiving corps that is already without senior Brenden Schooler and freshman Mycah Pittman.

Those “what ifs?” are compounded by mistakes.

A dropped touchdown pass by Bryan Addison on what would've given Oregon a 14-0 lead. Then, a subsequent missed 20-yard field goal attempt.

An 81-yard punt return by Holland was wasted when Herbert and running back CJ Verdell muffed an exchange and Auburn returned the fumble to the 3-yard line.

A chaotic scene of time outs when Herbert had to be helped off the field after banging knees with an Auburn defender, which resulted in the burning of UO’s final two timeouts before Verdell was stopped short of the first down.

BUT THERE'S HOPE
It wasn’t all mistakes. Actually, the highlights were quite splendid and encouraging.

Holland averaged 44 yards on three punt returns.
In his 34th consecutive start, Dye recorded a career-high 15 tackles.

Oregon passed the “next man up” test at receiver. Jaylon Redd showed tremendous footwork and finished with a career-high nine catches. Johnny Johnson III looked poised and set career-highs in both receiving yards and receptions.

Herbert completed 28 passes and extended his streak of consecutive games with a passing touchdown to 29 straight games. Seven Ducks caught a pass from Herbert.

CAN THEY REBOUND?

The Ducks are starting the season 0-1 for the first time since 2011. No, a week one loss does not mean the sky is falling on the 2019 Oregon football season, however, the defeat initiates an uphill fight as no team has ever rebounded from a week one loss to make the final field of four. Of course, the Pac-12 title is still wide open.

In Oregon coach Mario Cristobal’s words, the Ducks are built on a foundation that can stand the test of a blow this big.

“We have a really good group of leaders and our program is built from the inside out,” Cristobal said. “So when situations like this hit, you're prepared to bounce back and move forward.”

So, how did Dye and Winston Jr. approach the Ducks after giving up a 21-6 advantage?
“That’s confidential,” said Holland.

For now, Oregon’s resolve will stay private… But in six days at Autzen Stadium, the Ducks will be on full display once again.

Wide receiver Juwan Johnson appears out for Oregon vs. Auburn

Wide receiver Juwan Johnson appears out for Oregon vs. Auburn

Oregon wide graduate transfer receiver Juwan Johnson will not play against No. 16 Auburn, it appears. Juwan Johnson is not suited up or warming up prior to the game. 

The receiver was held out of practice last Wednesday after leaving last Tuesday’s practice early with a noticeable limp. 

When asked for an update on the 6-foot-4, 230-pound senior, wide receiver coach Jevon Bouknight said it was “precautionary” from cramps. Johnson was expected to play week one against Auburn according to Oregon coach Mario Cristobal.

“Juwan has been cleared, he’s been full-go. We are excited about his return," Cristobal said on Monday.

The Ducks receiving corps is already coping with the loss of Brenden Schooler, who will be out another five to seven weeks after suffering a right foot injury that required surgery.

The depth took another hit when true freshman receiver Mycah Pittman, who was expected to contribute or possibly start this season, hurt his shoulder while making a diving catch and will be sidelined for at least 6-8 weeks.

Also, freshman wide receiver JR Waters had a lower leg procedure and won’t return for four to six weeks. Freshmen Lance Wilhoit has also been limited with lingering injures.

Behind Juwan Johnson on the depth chart is redshirt freshman Bryan Addison. Jaylon Redd and Johnny Johnson III will also start for the Ducks. 

Keys to an Oregon Duck win, Auburn Tigers to keep an eye on

Keys to an Oregon Duck win, Auburn Tigers to keep an eye on

It’s been almost 250 days since Oregon has played a football game. The anticipation is palpable for the season opener between the No. 11 Ducks and No. 16 Auburn Tigers.

BY THE NUMBERS, STATS AND GAMBLING SPREAD

A win would be Oregon’s first over a ranked team in a season opener since Wisconsin in 2001.


Numbers to know: Oregon brings back 17 positional starters from last year’s nine-win team, which is the fourth most in the nation. On offense the Ducks return 10 starters, including all five offensive linemen. The offensive line has a combined 153 career starts, which is the most in the nation.

Fun fact: A win would give Oregon its first four-game win streak (extending from 2018) since the 2015 season.


Fun fact 2: It’s not Oregon coach Mario Cristobal’s first meeting with Auburn. Cristobal’s record is 3-1 against Gus Malzhan's Tigers during his time as an Alabama assistant.

Betting line: Auburn is favored by 3.5 points.

SCOUTING REPORT

After beating then-No. 6 Washington, Auburn went 8-5 in 2018. Auburn has one of the toughest 2019 schedules in the nation and Coach Gus Malzahn enters his seventh year as head coach appearing on just about every ‘hot seat’ list in the country. The Tigers offense features true freshman five-star prospect Bo Nix starting at quarterback, three returning rushers, an unproven wide receiving corps and a veteran offensive line.

The daunting Auburn defense and possibly the best defensive line in the country is highlighted by Derrick Brown, Marlon Davidson, and Nick Coe. The battle won’t stop there. The Tigers’ defensive backs play extremely physical at the line of scrimmage, creating a challenge for Oregon’s largely unproven receiving corps.

The Tigers have ranked inside the top 15 nationally in scoring defense each of the past three seasons, allowing an average of 18.3 points per game over the three seasons.
National Stage: Hello, nation! ESPN’s College GameDay will open the football season on Aug. 31 at Sundance Square in Fort Worth, Texas to preview Oregon vs. Auburn. It marks the 25th time (14-10) in program history that the Ducks have been featured on College GameDay.

KEYS TO AN OREGON WIN

Protect quarterback Justin Herbert: It’s no secret that Auburn’s number one priority is getting consistent pressure on Herbert, who has the rare talent to take over the game. Both teams would like to lay claim to having the best offensive and defensive lines in the country. The Ducks return all five offensive lineman for a combined 153 career starts, which is the most in the nation. UO will need all that experience and for UO’s running backs to show their pass blocking improvements vs. Auburn.
"I think that is going to be a huge key,” Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said. “He can make all the throws and he's got really good receivers to throw to, so you've got to make him uncomfortable… we need to win the line of scrimmage.”

Capitalize on freshman mistakes: Nix, a former five-star prospect and top-rated dual-threat quarterback in the 2019 class, is not your average freshman. In his first ever game under the college football lights (in an NFL stadium), if he does make any errors, the Ducks must make the Tigers pay. A Duck pick-six could be the difference in this expected low-scoring game. Winning the turnover battle is key; The Tigers are 19-5 when they play turnover-free football under Malzahn.

Strike early: Coming off a less-than-exciting offensive performance in Oregon’s 7-6 Redbox Bowl vs. Michigan State, early execution to get in the end zone would greatly benefit the Ducks. Question marks have revolved around UO’s receivers for almost nine months after the departure of leading receiver Dillon Mitchell to the NFL. A big catch from starting wide receivers Juwan Johnson, Johnny Johnson III, or Jaylon Redd would calm the team and put Auburn on its heels. Running backs CJ Verdell and Travis Dye can’t give up against the Tigers that allowed only 3.7 yards per carry last season.

[READ: Oregon running back Travis Dye’s spin move isn’t his only weapon]

TIGERS TO KEEP AN EYE ON

DT Derrick Brown, DE Marlon Davidson and DL Nick Coe

Auburn’s defensive front returns all three starters that combined for 14 sacks last season. The Tigers trio is projected 2020 first round draft selections and has set a goal to allow only 3.3 yards per carry this season.

“They’re as physical and as impressive as you can see,” said Cristobal.

Oregon preseason All-American Shane Lemieux couldn’t compare Auburn’s to any he’s seen in his career. Lemieux said Washington, Utah, and Stanford feature physical defensive fronts, they’re not “even close” to what the Ducks are going to see against Brown, Davidson and Coe.

RB JaTarvious "Boobie" Whitlow

Malzahn listed six running backs on his week one depth chart and although he feels “confident that they could all possibly play.” Whitlow will be the first Tigers on the field. Auburn operates a run heavy attack and in his freshman campaign last season, Whitlow led the Tigers with 150 carries for 787 yards and six touchdowns.

HOW AND WHERE TO WATCH

Time: Saturday, Aug. 31, 4:44 p.m PT

Where: AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas

TV: ABC

Tune in: Oregon IMG Sports Network

More Ducks:

Enough is enough; It’s wide receiver “acrobat” Johnny Johnson’s time

10 Numbers to know: Oregon vs. Auburn

Ducks happy to meet Auburn quarterback Bo Nix in season opener

Justin Herbert and Bo Nix could be a Disney movie Pt. 1: History

Justin Herbert and Bo Nix could be a Disney movie Pt. 2: Coach’s kids

Justin Herbert and Bo Nix could be a Disney movie Pt. 3: Legacy

One-on-one with QB1: Justin Herbert's expectations far different than reality

One-on-one with QB1: Justin Herbert's expectations far different than reality

Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert sits down for an exclusive interview with Talkin’ Ducks host Jordan Kent in the UO theater room at the Hatfield-Dowlin Complex in Eugene, OR.

This six part series will dive into how Herbert became the 6-foot-6, 235-pound passer with the powerful right arm and sneaky fast wheels.

[PART ONE:  Justin Herbert was destined to be a Duck]

Have you ever seen the "expectation vs. reality" memes on social media?

When quarterback Justin Herbert became an Oregon Duck, his expectations couldn't have been more different than his current reality. 

"I didn't expect to play my four years at Oregon," Herbert said in the interview with a smile. "I was so excited to be here and I thought, 'Do your job, learn the offense, be there and maybe there's a time when you can step in and do some work.'"

Herbert became the first Oregon true freshman to start at quarterback since 1983 after replacing Dakota Prukop mid-way through the 2016 season. He started the remaining seven games and finished with 1,935 passing yards, 19 touchdowns and only four interceptions. 

[READ: Justin Herbert and Bo Nix could be a Disney movie]

The Eugene-native was born and destined to be a Duck, but still clearly remembers when he got the call from then-Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich with an offer from the program in his backyard. He didn’t hesitate. In fact, Herbert “didn’t think it was real” until he answered the call in the back of the Sheldon High School parking lot.

“I jumped on the bandwagon as soon as I could,” Herbert said. The three-star prospect had taken visits to Northern Arizona and Portland State.

Was Herbert caught off guard to play as a freshman? Check out the video above for more.

Freshman wide receiver Mycah Pittman out six to eight weeks with shoulder injury

Freshman wide receiver Mycah Pittman out six to eight weeks with shoulder injury

True freshman receiver Mycah Pittman, who was expected to contribute or possibly start this season, will be sidelined for at least the first part of the Oregon Ducks football season.

Oregon coach Mario Cristobal issued a statement saying a shoulder injury will cause Pittman to miss six to eight weeks.

“Mycah suffered a shoulder injury while making a diving catch during Saturday’s scrimmage that will result in him missing the start of the 2019 season," Cristobal said in a statement. "He is a relentless competitor who will come back stronger and ready to compete this season.”In six weeks, the Ducks will be preparing for to host Cal. In eight weeks the Ducks play at rival Washington in Seattle. 

Pittman sufffered an injury during Oregon’s most recent scrimmage this past Saturday when he landed on his shoulder while making a catch. He was possibly the most praised incoming freshman from teammates and coaches during spring practice and Oregon's fall camp. 

Pittman took to Twitter to weigh in:

What this means
The Ducks receiving corps is already coping with the loss of senior receiver Brenden Schooler, who will be out another five to seven weeks after suffering a right foot injury that required surgery. The depth took another hit when freshman wide receiver JR Waters had a lower leg procedure and won’t return for four to six weeks. Freshmen Lance Wilhoit and Josh Delgado have also been limited with lingering injures.

With Schooler (the Duck returner with the most experience) out, Oregon needs unproven, inexperienced receivers to step into a contributing, if not starting, role right away.

The series of unfortunate events has lessened the pool of possible contributers.

Pittman 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 impact of a speedy return cannot be understated, as Oregon currently has five healthy scholarship receivers.  

Without Pittman or Schooler, expected starters Jaylon Redd, Juwan Johnson, and Johnny Johnson III, will be backed up by Delgado and redshirt freshman Bryan Addison.

Four-star Delgado has a good grasp on the playbook and gained 15 pounds in offseason workouts while Oregon can also utilize large-bodied, 6-foot-5 Addison.

However, Pittman’s impact on the Duck offense was already visible, connecting with quarterback Justin Herbert during spring and fall practice, moving up the depth chart and pushing veterans. 

“Pittman has been surprising me,” tight end Cam McCormick said. “Always goes beyond, he always does extra.”

Oregon is trying to best take advantage of Herbert’s final season. The sooner reliable Pittman is back on the field, the better for Oregon.

Opposing leadership styles working for Oregon Football

Opposing leadership styles working for Oregon Football

You can hear Oregon strength and conditioning coordinator Aaron Feld before you can see him. And that’s momentous, considering his larger than life dance moves and body builder physique bulging from his all-black Oregon-Nike-Air Jordan collaboration outfit.

From 100 yards away I can hear Feld, clear as the sunny mid-August Eugene day, scream, “Turn it upppp!!!!”

The beat drops to Hypnotize by Notorious B.I.G and the Ducks start their 10th fall football practice, buzzing.

“If you had my arms, you’d be the biggest running back in the country,” Feld says to sophomore Cyrus Habibi-Likio, who ran with the first-team offense. Habibi-Likio laughs, turns around and mouths to me with a shrug, “He’s right.”

Just 15 yards away, the leadership style is much different. Senior quarterback Justin Herbert lines up, commanding the quarterback unit with precise stretching, smiles and quiet high-fives. Lingering nearby, a Los Angeles Rams scout dutifully watches him.

The juxtaposition is palpable.

The reality, of course, is not the extreme. Feld is not a screaming psychopath with a crisp mustache and Herbert is not a shy pushover with a good arm.

Actually, the mustache and arm element ring true.

The 2019 Oregon football team looks to these two completely different leaders in preparation; and it’s working for the Ducks.

Let’s start with the loud. Feld has been igniting energy into the program since January of 2018. It’s easy to see the focus in the weight room is paying off; much of the team has exceeded personal records in most lifts. Last year, Oregon had 29 players who could squad 400 or more pounds. That number has almost doubled to 56 players in the “400 club”, according to coach Mario Cristobal. 15 Ducks can squat 500 pounds compared to three a year ago.

Yes, the Oregon Ducks are feeling swole, hanging around the Hatfield-Dowlin Complex with their sleeves filled.

If you haven’t heard of Feld’s “Fill the Sleeves” motto yet, this tweet will explain.

Their more muscular physiques are adding up to increased physicality, durability and upgraded size. While every position group has benefitted, the difference particularly on the offensive and defensive lines is impressive. Which is imperative, considering the Ducks have a date with Auburn in week one and the better team in the trenches will likely be the victor.

Feld’s most impressive work may be getting UO’s incoming freshmen ready for the college game. Freshman defensive lineman Kayvon Thibodeaux had never squatted before becoming a Duck and he just joined the 500-pound squat club. Brandon Dorlus and Keyon Ware-Hudson are raw talents that may be able to make an impact on the defensive line this season.

Feld can be heard at practice, while Herbert can be seen.

Steady eddy Herbert, standing at 6-foot-6, 240-pounds, on his final season at Oregon, is months away from making millions in the NFL. Entering the second week of fall camp, there hasn’t been much news of the Heisman Trophy hopeful. His junior campaign flashed brilliance that caused NFL scouts to project him as a top pick in the 2019 NFL Draft had he chosen to leave school.

A rare slight on the passer with the powerful right arm and sneaky fast wheels from scouts was his “shy” and/or “immature” personality. That notion has drifted away through Herbert’s evolution. His teammates have noticed exponential growth in his leadership.

"Justin has never been the athlete he is now," Offensive lineman Shane Lemieux said. "Especially off the field, he’s such a better leader… He’s always the one that brings us back in."

Herbert isn’t going to get in your face, unless he needs to. Herbert’s leadership is truly set by his example.

“He’s exactly what you want on your football team,” Cristobal said. “He acts like he’s a freshman that just got here and is trying to prove something.  He lives each day as if he’s the guy who’s trying to prove that he belongs here. When your best players are doing that, you’ve got a chance to be a good football team.”

Quiet, loud…whatever… It’s working. The Oregon football team is motivated and 18 days away from the national spotlight.

Oregon-Auburn College GameDay sign inspiration

Oregon-Auburn College GameDay sign inspiration

There are 32 days until Oregon football kicks off the 2019 season and the anticipation is palpable. In a few days, the Ducks will start their fall camp with a week one polarizing matchup against Auburn looming on August 31. 

The Ducks grasp the chance to upset Auburn in prime time and become the Pac-12’s best chance for a spot in the playoff. A win sends the underdog Ducks and the Pac-12 Conference into national relevancy, and a loss initiates an uphill fight; no team has ever rebounded from a week one loss to make the final field of four.

It’ll be a day-long dose of UO football in the national spotlight. Here is why I think Oregon will emerge from probable top-15 battle as the victors.

It’s also an opportunity for Ducks fans, who will likely be outnumbered, to shine at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. It’s the first meeting between these teams since Auburn’s 22-19 win in the BCS National Championship game in 2011 and Oregon coach Mario Cristobal has emphasized the importance of fan support, especially on the road. 

[Initiate “Michael Dyer was down!!!” screams from every Duck fan reading this]

Whether you are making the trip to Texas or not, here is some College GameDay Oregon/SEC/Auburn-related sign inspiration. 

Underdog Ducks vs. Auburn betting line shifts

Underdog Ducks vs. Auburn betting line shifts

Money began pouring in on the underdog Ducks when the Oregon-Auburn line opened as high as Auburn as 6.5 point favorites at some offshore sportsbooks.

The line moved to Auburn -2.5 before shifting to Auburn -3 in the most recent odds, according to Bovada. The over/under line has been set at 58.5 points.

Despite being three point underdogs, Oregon is ranked higher (No. 12 Oregon, No. 17 Auburn in NCAA Preseason poll) and has shorter national championship odds (Oregon 30-to-1, Auburn 50-1).

The Ducks narrowly edged the reigning conference champion Washington Huskies to win the North Division in the Pac-12 Conference media poll.

Optimism is high for Oregon football’s 2019 season and beating the Tigers will essentially make or break the team’s College Football Playoff hopes. A win sends the Ducks and the Pac-12 Conference into national relevancy, and a loss initiates an uphill fight; no team has ever rebounded from a week one loss to make the final field of four.

The 2019 season opener will be a rematch of the 2011 BCS title game where Auburn beat Oregon, 22-19, on game winning field goal as time expired.

It’ll be all eyes on the polarizing matchup, with ESPN’s College Game Day in attendance plus ABC’s Saturday Night Football broadcast.

The anticipation is palpable and here is why I think Oregon will walk out of Texas victorious.