Monday, August 9, 2010

Are You Ready for Some Football?

For a fanatical Duck fan there are many milestones and tidbits in the football year that bridge the gap to Game Day. National Letter of Intent Day, and the reports that trickle in during January of rumors and verbals and visits. The start of spring practice. The Spring Game, with players who take leaps forward and show bursts of promise, though many of those turn out to be busts (the breakout performers in 2009 included Jamere Holland and Aaron Pflugrad, both long gone.) The reports from summer workouts and early recruiting commits. This has been an especially fertile year for summer recruiting. Tacoi Sumler runs a 4.25. Jerrard Randall has blazing quick feet and a rocket arm. Oregon has recruited four offensive linemen who can move the pile. They're excited to be Ducks, and we're excited to have them.

Then comes the preseason magazines, the preseason polls, and the PAC-10 media tour. And finally, fall camp. Fall camp starts today, and we'll pore over the early reports. Who took the first snap? Who got loose deep, or made a big catch? Is everybody healthy? What about the defensive tackle touring camp? Will he commit? Is he ready to go, ready to contribute? Reports from say he has a 3.2 core gpa and a 16 ACT score. Rob Moseley says Elliot Porter is 6-4, 280, a three-star recruit that committed to LSU in the fall, but opted out when they asked him to gray shirt and move to offensive guard. Depth in the defensive line is a huge concern, and a bonus pickup at that position would be a huge get. The Ducks haven't had the best luck at defensive tackle in the last few years. Ngata and Olshansky, their two best ever, left school early for the NFL, then several in succession turned out to be classroom failures or lazy or unmotivated. It's hard to find the big uglies to plug the middle, and truly outstanding defensive tackles are rare. A dominating presence at the nose, a guy who can disrupt and bullrush and stuff the run, is perhaps the rarest, most valuable commodity in defensive football. The Ducks have fast backs by the pickup load and agile cornerbacks by the half dozen, but good defensive tackles are hard to find. There is some optimism that senior Brandon Bair is ready to emerge at that position, step up his game and stop making annoying face mask penalties. He showed flashes of playmaking brilliance in 2009, and is mature and dedicated and poised. Maybe the optimism is warranted.

There are just twenty six days till opening kickoff and the start of the 2010 season. The Ducks are loaded at running back, offensive line and linebacker. They have 18 returning starters, they are the defending PAC-10 champions, and they're ranked 11th or higher in most polls.

In 36 practices Chip Kelly's team has the opportunity to jell and go from potentially good to great. This team has outstanding senior leadership, speed and talent, and an outstanding coaching staff. The tradition continues. This could be a tremendous year.

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