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EWU at Oregon; 5 questions for the Oregonian

Oregonian sports writer Andrew Greif was kind enough to answer five of my biggest questions about the Ducks and this week's game. Here they are ...

  1.       Last year Eastern had its way with an inexperienced Washington secondary. How do you see the Oregon defensive backs holding up against a veteran offense that figures to throw it on almost every down?

This is by far the biggest concern for the Ducks and though they have the talent, on paper, to withstand Eastern’s offense, we really don’t know how cohesively the unit will play. Only one reserve listed on the two-deep has any college experience on defense, a distinction that’s important given that one backup corner is Ty Griffin, who played option quarterback at Georgia Tech before transferring to Oregon and converting to corner just three weeks ago. Oregon’s back line should be solid. Junior safety Reggie Daniels defended the eighth-most plays of any safety in FBS last season, and Tyree Robinson is an uber-athletic strong safety with experience. The corners are the most likely area for breakdowns, owing to their youth. Chris Seisay is just a sophomore but started both games in the College Football Playoff and won’t be awed by Eastern’s system. At the other side, Arrion Springs is earning his first start and is backed up by a true freshman in Ugo Amadi. 

 

 

  1.       What’s your feeling on how Vernon Adams Jr. has been accepted by his new teammates?

This is how head coach Mark Helfrich put it last week, two days before announcing Adams the starter: There is “no divisiveness” in the locker room stemming from his arrival, he said. From what I’ve gathered, he’s come in, as he said he would, and minimized his ego while not backing down from his stated goal of winning the job. I think both of those are important for winning over teammates, who want to see a certain confidence in their quarterback but also the willingness to compete. Is it as perfect a picture as Helfrich likened it? Likely not. But when coaches gave Adams the nod as starter, it signaled Oregon’s push to get all-in behind their new quarterback this season. 

  1.      Any chance the Ducks look past EWU, given the big game at Michigan State next week?

Even if Vernon Adams hadn’t transferred I don’t think Oregon would overlook Eastern Washington, given his and EWU’s track record for humbling Pac-12 teams. But his arrival especially makes this more than your typical FCS-FBS paycheck game, and the players have acknowledged that awareness. Defensive end DeForest Buckner agreed that EWU will carry more motivation that usual into this game: “

  1.       What do you see as the biggest mismatches for Oregon? 

It has to be Oregon’s depth on offense against Eastern Washington’s youth movement under new coordinator Jeff Schmedding. Oregon is the only team in FBS to boast four returning wideouts with at least 600 receiving yards last season, and that’s not counting Bralon Addison, who went for 800-plus in 2013 before sitting out last season due to a knee injury. The Ducks suffered a blow by losing running back Thomas Tyner to a season-ending shoulder surgery in August, but running back Royce Freeman remains a Heisman Trophy candidate after 1,365 yards as a freshman, and he’s backed up by a rotating cast of speedy Tony Brooks-James and heavy runner Kani Benoit.

 

  1.       What’s your guess on a final score, and why?

Oregon 60, Eastern Washington 20. UO’s depth eventually overwhelms the Eagles’ emotion and overcomes whatever liabilities it might have in the secondary. The Ducks have won 10 straight home openers and averaged 55.1 points per game during that span. With all its offensive weapons, I wouldn’t expect UO’s spread offense to sputter now.



Jim Allen
Jim Allen joined The Spokesman-Review in 1984. He currently covers K-12 education and women's basketball.

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