The Oregon Ducks are just a few days away from playing Florida State in the Rose Bowl. It has been a banner year for the program with Heisman Trophy Winner and Quarterback Marcus Mariota at the helm.
Mariota has been responsible for much of the Offensive firepower for the Oregon Ducks this season. He is accountable for fifty-three touchdowns, thirty-eight of them through the air and over three-thousand yards of Offfense by himself. If he returns to Oregon there will be a huge sigh of relief. If he does not return and decides to take his talents to the National Football League.
If the Junior Quarterback decides to depart some of the key players this season could follow. On the Offensive Line Senior Hamani Stevens who played two roles on the Line this season will also depart, leaving a big hole to fill for 2015. We already know that Doug Brenner is the heir apparent to the Center position which will be left vacant by departing Senior Hroniss Grasu. Brenner had his opportunity for starting time this season and struggled. Stevens was the saving grace filling the void. (There is hope that Grasu will be able to play in the College Football Playoff, if not I would expect Stevens to fill the Starting Center position.)
One area that no one is talking about if Mariota leaves are the guys he is throwing the ball to. Dwayne Stanford has played two years with Oregon and has had solid statisitics in that timespan, including five-hundred fifty seven yards of Offense and six touchdowns this season. I don’t think anyone from the Wide Receiving group will depart, aside from those graduating. Junior Byron Marshall could forgo his Senior Year would be the most likely candidate. Marshall has grown this season into a hybrid of sorts. A Running Back turned Wide Receiver that coaches at the NFL level could be drooling over in May.
On the Defensive side of the ball Arik Armstead is name that would be hard to replace in just one season. The talented Junior who had his share of injuries this season but battled through them could take his talents to the NFL and enter the 2015 Draft.
Oregon is already losing a lot of talent on Defense to graduation with Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, and Defensive End Tony Washington, but the area that concerns me the most is on the Offensive Line where the talent behind the Starters appears to have a pretty steep dropoff. Entering 2015 I’m not sure the experience will be there to get the team through a tough schedule including a visit to Michigan State who will be looking for revenge and will likely again be a contender.
If Mariota stays, we will all breathe a sigh of relief, but if he decides to leave it could be a tough road ahead for the Oregon Ducks next season on both sides of the ball.
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