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Ayele Forde: The Hidden Gem

The Duck offense is one of the greatest in the nation, and their defense continuously backs it up year after year. But, there’s another part of the game that many of us either tend to forget or take for granted. You know it — special teams, baby! Special teams are just as important to a team’s success as the offense and defense. …

2014 Predictions — Part One

Boys and girls, fall camp has begun in the world of college football. This starts the official countdown until footballs are kicked off of tees and soccer is kicked back to Telemundo. Your friends at FishDuck.com have been hard at work consulting with the finest and the most brilliant minds in college football … We are here to bring you predictions …

A Letter to the Assumers Out There: Assumptions Lead to Misconceptions

As a student who has been here for four years coming up on his fifth, you wouldn’t believe the amount of horrible rumors and nonsense that I’ve heard — not just about the football players that we value so highly on the field, but any other student-athlete who walks around this campus. Let me give you a little background before I tell you how it really is. Coming into this university, I was a shy, nervous and not a very confident person. I was scared because I hadn’t experienced an independent life yet since I had just graduated from high school.

As school began, making friends seemed easy at first since everyone wanted to meet anybody they could just to feel a sense of acceptance. But how quickly those early friendships faded into the distance as people found those one or two people whom they could relate to the most and call their “best friends.” I ended up being a person who couldn’t connect with many of what we would call “regular” college students, and as time went on I began to question whether or not I belonged here at the University of Oregon.

But, how things changed as soon as I met one particular person who just happened to be on the Oregon football team. He not only was willing to embrace my insecurities, but he was willing to help me flip them around into helping me become the confident young man that I am proud to be today. He also opened the door to meeting other Division 1 athletes at this university whom I would eventually call my good friends and on whom I could count to have my back no matter what.

See, from the majority of people who I have encountered, whether it be students here, parents of students here, students elsewhere or parents of students elsewhere, these people have made some unjustified comments regarding our athletes at this university which I plan to put to correct once and for all. Just because one berry in the pile doesn’t look ripe, doesn’t mean all of the berries in the pile aren’t ripe.

Media and social media give us the only lens into the sports world that we can assume to be true and because of that, as normal civilians, we tend to accept everything that is said and make huge assumptions from those observations. If one person committed an unacceptable act at our university, all of a sudden an unwarranted stigma is placed over the entire group. People see a cocky athlete and assume that all of them are in over their heads, but that’s simply untrue.

As someone who has become close to many of our athletes by not just hanging out, but also living with, I’m here to tell you today their side of the story, one most folks never get to hear or read about because it might not be as juicy a story as those about someone committing a crime or saying something so out of the ordinary that it’s deemed wrong by our society.

Bet you didn't know one of Jonny Loyd's favorite show is Dragon Ball Z.

Bet you didn’t know one of Jonny Loyd’s favorite shows is Dragon Ball Z.

Here’s something that we tend to forget about the highly praised on-field athletes that we cheer for so loudly … they are human beings — just like us. They have their needs, likes and dislikes, their own beliefs, their different characteristics just like any of us. All we know about them is that they’re athletes and are incredibly talented at their respective sports.

But, what about who they are as people? As students, we live in the same environment as they do. We have them in our classes, but we might not talk to them because they’re athletes. We see them in our lunch lines, but we don’t talk to them because they’re athletes. However, if we’re at a party and are feeling a little buzzed, we might have the confidence to give them a quick, “Hello, how’s it going?” and feel so good about ourselves because we met so and so.

From a personal experience, I can say that the majority of the athletes I’ve met here are some of the most welcoming, caring and personable people you could ever meet. They respect you if you just treat them like any other one of your friends (assuming you are a respectful person towards your friends). Some of them whom you meet might be a little on the over-confident side, but can you blame them? That’s the reason they’re playing and representing our beloved university! Without that confidence they wouldn’t be at the incredible talent level they’re so privileged to have. It’s part of the hunger of wanting to be the best, and sometimes it carries over into their off-field conduct. But, overall it only pushes their friends to be better at everything as well, so no harm done.

Bet you didn't know Ayele Forde's loves playing the guitar.

Bet you didn’t know Ayele Forde’s loves playing the guitar.

Athletes live different lifestyles than we spectators, there’s no doubt about it. Their work ethic will blow your minds if you ever get the chance to see them at work. But just because they live different lifestyles doesn’t mean that they aren’t trying to live a normal college life and meet normal college students. These people are very big-hearted once you get to know them, and they are almost always willing to do stuff with you if you just ask. I mean, imagine having to practice all day with your teammates and then having to go back home to hang out with them again every single day. That’s like a 24/7 marriage to your teammates; they need to experience other people!

So next time you run into an athlete, simply treat them as you would treat anyone else. The royal treatment is normally what pushes them away from people because they want to be equals — on a social level – with everyone else. Give them a chance with an open mind and I guarantee you will find someone in our athletic program who’s more like you than you think.

 

Top photo by Kevin Cline

Former UO basketball player Brandon Austin not admitted to Hutchinson Community College

Former Oregon men’s basketball player Brandon Austin will not be admitted to Hutchinson Community College in Kansas, the Hutchinson athletic department confirmed to The Emerald Thursday morning. ESPN’s Jeff Goodman first reported the news, saying the school president made the final decision.

Former Oregon and Providence player Brandon Austin will not be admitted to Hutchinson CC — per reports. Told President make final ruling.

— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanESPN) July 17, 2014

Austin’s attorney, Laura Fine Moro, could not be reached for comment as of late Thursday morning.

Last week, multiple reports said Austin would be transferring to Hutchinson, but the school’s athletic department denied the reports the following day, saying Austin was interested in the school but he wasn’t on the team or even enrolled in classes at that time.

Austin transferred to Oregon in January after being suspended from Providence College, where he was later investigated for sexual assault. Austin was also involved in a sexual assault case at the University of Oregon and was suspended from the school last month. He was not charged in either sexual assault case due to insufficient evidence.

Follow Victor Flores on Twitter @vflores415

Ted Miller, Einstein, Receivers and Relativity

In a June 27 analysis, ESPN’s Ted Miller rated Oregon’s receivers as “We’ll see.” Ted awarded “Great shape” to receivers for Stanford, Arizona, WSU, USC, ASU and the Berkeley Bears. UCLA, Utah, Washington, OSU and even Colorado got “Good shape.” That left only Oregon to receive the dreaded “We’ll see.”

"Time-space ... quarterback-receiver ... yes, relativity applies."

“Space-time … quarterback-receiver … yes, relativity applies.”

Einstein and I disagree. Just as the theory of special relativity requires that you look at space and time as a single continuum known as space-time, to look at the Oregon receiving corps without considering how they relate to the overall offensive structure, not to mention the speed of light, can result in conclusions that don’t hold up under close scrutiny.

First, just as there is no gravity without warps in the space-time continuum, there are no receivers without a quarterback, and Oregon has the best. Those teams that are in “great shape” had 75 of their passes intercepted last year (12.5 per team). Oregon’s Marcus Mariota had four. WSU’s Connor Halliday, who probably caused some disturbances to the time-space continuum with the number of passes he threw against the Ducks last year (At least I felt that way by the time the game was finalllllllllly over.), had 22 interceptions. And I also wonder if he maybe didn’t break the Pac-12 record for most incomplete passes, along with the other records he broke against the Ducks. But I digress. Mariota will bring out the best in Oregon’s receivers — absolutely, nothing relative about it.

Disturbances to the time-space continuum are ... well, disturbing.

Disturbances to the space-time continuum are … well, disturbing.

Second, there’s the coaching. Matt Lubick was the 2012 Wide Receivers Coach of the Year, so you have to know that Oregon’s relatively young receiver corps will receive the best coaching possible.

The receivers also have to be considered relative to the offensive line. Oregon returns five talented starters who have been hitting the weight room hard, and in Steve Greatwood the Ducks have possibly the best offensive line coach in the country. Chances are Mariota is going to have a relatively long time to find open receivers.

Then there are the other pass-catching threats. The Ducks are relatively loaded at tight end, and any team that devotes too much matter and energy to watching the receivers won’t have a quantum of a chance against Thomas Tyner’s 10.3 hundred speed when he explodes out of the backfield on a wheel route.

Most of all, though, you have to consider the receivers in relation to Oregon’s running game. In addition to catching passes, Duck receivers are expected (and trained) to block for the run, which is a statistic that never shows up in the post-game analysis. And when you consider that defenses have to contend with Byron Marshall, Thomas Tyner and Mariota running the ball, not to mention probably an occasional sweep by Devon Allen, the defensive backs are going to be relatively short-handed covering the Duck receivers.

Devon Allen adds a wrinkle to the offensive continuum.

Devon Allen adds a wrinkle to the offensive continuum.

It’s well known that the Ducks like to stretch the field sideline to sideline, but they have a new wrinkle to the continuum with the addition of wide receiver Allen, who just this Sunday became the first speedster to double NCAA and USATF 110 meter hurdles titles since the great Renaldo Nehemiah did it in 1979. And Allen did it by beating professionals and Olympians in the process. But here’s the relatively bad news for those eleven Pac-12 teams who appear to have better receivers relative to Oregon: As a freshman, Allen is relatively young, so he’s due to be on the roster for a relatively long time. He’s so young that he would have to time travel back to sixteen years before he was even born to see Nehemiah pull his double.

Oregon receiver Keanon Lowe blocks for his quarterback.

Oregon receiver Keanon Lowe blocks for his quarterback.

So the Oregon receivers have all kinds of relative advantages: A great quarterback to get them the ball, great coaching, a talented and experienced offensive line, a dynamite running game, passing options with backs and tight ends to divert coverage, and a deep threat who runs relatively closer to the speed of light than anyone on the field. This creates a relative dilemma for defensive backs. If they don’t load the box, look out for the running game. Flush the quarterback and risk a twenty yard (or more) scamper behind receivers who are trained to block. Play the receivers loose and leave them open for pinpoint passing. Play a two-time national sprint champion tight? Bad idea. Double-team him – one short, one long – and you’ve got one less man to watch the run. Drop into zone? Here comes the run again … Einstein and I are relatively glad we’re not defensive coordinators.

Ted Miller says, “We’ll see,” and although I think he really should have considered relativity, he’s certainly correct. We will see. But what would Einstein say? My guess is: “e=mc^2.”

Main photo courtesy of Valero Alamo Bowl

Horrible Situation Turns into an Incredible Outcome

 

A few weeks ago the University of Oregon basketball team took a huge hit, as it lost three vital pieces to the future of the program due to some unacceptable actions that have been covered in depth. The entire nation heard of the situation, and surely an untrue stigma has been placed upon the university.

Coach Dana Altman has expressed his disappointment in his group of guys in his most recent interviews, as he has stressed multiple times that this behavior is unacceptable, and was totally shocked about the actions of those individuals. Altman is a recruiting genius, as he’s been able to recruit some incredible players to boost the team’s credibility across the nation. This situation was a setback in what the Ducks’ ultimate goals are … or was it?

Oregon has struggled for many years to establish a feared basketball program, and as strange as it may sound, this may have opened a door that no one would have ever imagined could have been opened. Yes, the situation that was presented to the program was disgusting, and sickening, regardless of whether or not the athletes are innocent. But, with Dominic Artis, Damyean Dotson, and Brandon Austin now dismissed from the team, the Ducks have become a team in a very prosperous position.

Prosperous? Favorable? Dean, are you insane? If this happened when Altman first began to coach here, yes, I would agree that this is a terrible situation for the Ducks and it could take years, maybe even decades for their recovery. However, with the timing of the players’ departure, Oregon can make some situational moves.

Coach Altman a master not only of the X's and O's, but bringing order as a leader

Coach Altman a master not only of the X’s and O’s, but bringing order as a leader.

As Dana’s time has gone on as the Oregon coach, the success of the program has only grown more and more, and a greater number of highly recruited players have shown their interest in our incredible athletic establishment every year. It started with Jabari Brown, who unfortunately didn’t feel fit for the program, all the way to today as we have an incoming three 4-star recruits and one 5-star joining our program, three of them being freshman!

The positions include a center, a guard, and two forwards. Hmmm, and don’t we already have an established shooting guard (Joseph Young) in the program who can lead by example and mentor the younger players in their roles?

Dana Altman is always thinking one step ahead of everyone else, and with the situation playing out as it is, the Ducks have put themselves in a position to be one of the best teams in the Pac-12, if not the nation, within the next couple of years, something I never could have said confidently with the personnel that was previously on the team.

It all starts with a position that has been long lost for the Ducks — center. Who was the last great center for the Ducks that was really able to dominate the paint? Yeah, I don’t remember anybody either. But, with 6’10”, 240 lbs., Michael Chandler – former teammate of Elgin Cook with Northwest Florida State – joining the squad, he’ll probably be the closest thing to a great center that the Ducks have had in recent years. With height, and size, and the ability to score on the inside, Oregon should feel a lot more comfortable with Chandler starting things off for the Ducks.

It doesn’t end there, as right next to Chandler on the other side of the paint, will be Jordan Bell. He is a 6’7″ monster, as he puts fear in every person coming into the key. In fact, they usually get embarrassed badly at the rim. I can’t say enough about this young man, so check out Lawrence Hastings’ analysis of Jordan Bell for more in-depth coverage on whom Lawrence calls, “The Bug Zapper.”

Elgin Cook throwing it down like a boss.

Elgin Cook throwing it down like a boss.

But, the fun doesn’t end there, as Coach Altman has acquired an incredible amount of talent in such a short period of time. Starting at the three spot is a little unsure, as Cook has worked his tail off. However, incoming freshman Dwayne Benjamin may be even more talented!

The young man dropped 21 points and 8 rebounds a game in his senior year of high school, and his ceiling for growth goes as high as he’s willing to work. The kid is a beast, and it will be interesting to see who wins the battle between the two, or maybe three if Bell’s starting job is challenged due to this kid’s talent. Here’s a little taste of what Benjamin can do to spice up the squad:

We obviously know Young has incredible ability, so no need to talk about what our MVP adds to the team. As long as he continues to improve on his ability to handle the ball and take it to the basket, the Ducks should be set with the best 2-guard in the conference.

But finally, who’s going to get the ball to all of these talented athletes? Who’s going to take over the role that we’ve loved so much over the past four years with Johnathan Loyd running the point? Coach Altman has an answer for that too, as he is bringing in one of the most talented point guards in the nation, something we haven’t heard about in a very long time. The name is JaQuan Lyle, and this kid will be your favorite point-guard in the games to come.

At an incredible height of 6’5″, the guy can handle the ball. Handles, stroke, vision, rebounding, defense, aggressiveness … he’s got it all, baby! He may not be as quick due to his height, but man can this kid run the point. If he can develop into the player he has the potential to be, watch out as he could be the future of not only this league, but the big boy’s league too. If you don’t believe me, just watch:

So, yeah, whatever you knew about the Ducks as a team, scratch that. This is a whole new dynamic squad, and they’re coming harder, faster and stronger than ever!

Go Ducks!!

Top Photo by Craig Strobeck

Oregon softball: Ducks ranked No. 1 in country for first time in school history

For the first time in school history, the Oregon softball team can proudly say it’s the No. 1 team in the country, based on the latest rankings released Tuesday morning.

The Ducks received 497 total points and 18 first-place votes while Florida State and Alabama each received a vote for No. 1. Oregon has a 26-point lead on Alabama while UCLA, Michigan and Tennessee round out the top-five.

Oregon has attained this honor after starting the season 34-5 and being 8-1 in the incredibly tough Pac-12 conference. Five other Pac-12 teams are ranked in the top-10 with Oregon going 5-1 against those teams.

The Ducks’ rise to No. 1 began when they were ranked No. 8 to start the season. After going 4-1 in the opening weekend, the Ducks fell to No. 10 in the country but then rose all the way up to No. 4 amidst a 15-game winning streak that came to an end after a 2-1 loss to then-No. 1 Florida.

Even after the loss, the Ducks were able to jump to No. 2 in the rankings and for the past three weeks, Oregon has traded slots between No. 2 and No. 3 in the country.

Entering the previous weekend against then-No. 1 UCLA, the then-No. 3 Ducks defeated the Bruins 9-7 in the first game and run-ruled 12-4 in the second game before dropping the series finale 6-1 on Sunday. Those wins coupled with No. 2 Tennessee losing two of three games against unranked LSU over the weekend has allowed the Ducks to jump both the Bruins and Volunteers for the No. 1 ranking.

There was a little controversy in last week’s rankings when the Ducks held the No. 2 spot and were leap-frogged by Tennessee. But while the Ducks swept No. 5 Washington, the Volunteers swept No. 4 Florida in three-game series for each.

The Volunteers and Ducks have played three of the same opponents (Florida, LSU and BYU). The Ducks have gone 2-1 against those teams while the Volunteers are 4-3 against them.

Adding to the good news, Kailee Cuico was named the Pac-12 player of the week on Monday, making her the third Oregon player to receive the honor this year. Cheridan Hawkins is a three-time winner for pitcher of the week while Alexa Peterson has been named player of the week once.

Follow Ryan Kostecka on Twitter @Ryan_Kostecka

Smallest Mistakes Have the Biggest Impact

TUSCON, AZ.- The Oregon Ducks jolted out of the snow in Eugene just in time, as they took on Arizona Thursday night.  The Arizona Wildcats proved that they were beatable, as they lost their first game of the year earlier in the week to the Cal Golden Bears, and the Ducks saw this as an opportunity to strike while Arizona was shaken up.  After one heck of a battle, the Ducks were unable to execute in the last couple of minutes of the game, as they came up just short of a huge upset in a 67-65 loss.

Calliste for 3!

Calliste for 3!

Oregon came out in the first half with the “Eye of the Tiger,” showing absolutely no fear of the Wildcats.  Oregon executed a solid offense, running their usual pick and pops, creating opportunities for their shooters.  Damyean Dotson, in particular, was playing incredibly well in the first half, creating opportunities for himself by taking it to the rack, and hitting his jump-shots.

His success gave Oregon some early confidence, that was necessary if the Ducks were to have a chance at winning this one.  While a few of the Ducks starters were struggling a bit to get theirs, the x-factor – Jason Calliste – came in off the bench, orchestrating the offense with his smooth yet deceiving quickness and court vision.

Oregon shot a decent 43% from the field at the half, while Arizona shot 38%, in a game Oregon led, 38-37, heading into the break.  A huge reason that the Ducks were able to keep themselves in this one was their hard work on the boards, and tenacious defense.  Oregon held upcoming superstar, and Bay Area native Aaron Gordon to only three points at the half, showing Dana’s defensive scheme was successful.  Also, star Nick Johnson was held to only seven points.

This matchup was a great test for the Ducks to see how they could go against higher quality teams, and they looked very impressive for the most part.  Earlier in the season, Oregon struggled on the boards, and a huge question mark was how well they would do against legitimate big men.  Tonight, Oregon actually out-rebounded the Wildcats 39-35, but allowed Arizona to snatch 15 offensive rebounds.

Oregon had great momentum coming into the second half of this nail-biter.  The Ducks continued their to work their tail off throughout the entire game, hustling for every loose ball, getting active on the boards, and finding the open shooter for the shot.  It all came down to who could “act like they’d been there before,” and with Oregon’s new roster in comparison to last year’s, they simply couldn’t put it away.

Amardi scores!

Amardi scores!

The Fighting Ducks were up 60-55 with 3:22 to go, and up until that mark Oregon was moving the ball around, and taking care of each possession as if it were their last.  But, Arizona couldn’t handle losing two straight, and ended up making a little run, as they held the Ducks scoreless for about 2 minutes, and taking advantage by creeping up point-by-point taking the 62-60 lead.

With about 1:20 left, two critical mistakes were made by the Ducks that sealed the deal for the Wildcats.  The first, was a very ill-advised three-point fade away heave by Joseph Young early in the shot clock, that allowed Arizona to grab the board and run the clock down.

The next mistake occurred with 43 seconds left in the game as Mike Moser fouled Nick Johnson on a foul-line jumper, giving him two free-throw opportunities when Arizona was only leading 64-62.  These two small mistakes ended up making the difference between Oregon having a chance to win the game, and Oregon taking themselves out of it.  With a couple of prayer shots towards the end, the Ducks just couldn’t come up with the dagger.

Oregon showed their potential Thursday night. They showed that the early hype was in fact somewhat legitimate.  Obviously, there’s still a lot of work to be done, but hope should not be lost after the great battle that we witnessed tonight.

Pat & Stephanie Kilkenny

Pat & Stephanie Kilkenny

Jillian Alleyne will play against Connecticut on Wednesday

The Oregon women’s basketball team received good news regarding star forward Jillian Alleyne. The sophomore tweeted late Tuesday night that she will play against the reigning national-champion Huskies Wednesday night in Connecticut.

Alleyne gave Ducks fans quite a scare after she left the game early on Sunday against Sacramento State. Alleyne, the reigning Pac-12 Freshman of the Year, has already recorded two double-doubles for the Ducks this season. Despite missing most of the game on Sunday, Alleyne is averaging 18.7 points per game and 12.3 rebounds.

When the two teams met last year on New Year’s Eve, the Ducks fell to the Huskies 95-51.

Alleyne (ankle) and Amanda Delgado (knee) were listed as questionable in the game notes distributed to the media on Tuesday morning.

The game tips off at 4 p.m., PT and will be televised on SNY and ESPN3.com.

Follow Jonathan Hawthorne on Twitter @Jon_Hawthorne

Ducks win 62-38 using second half scoring barrage to outlast Washington State

In spurts, Washington State looked like a team thinking upset.

The Cougars raced around the field, pounced on Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota and rode the arm of quarterback Connor Halliday to 24 points against a stingy Ducks’ defense.

In the end, however, it was the repeated visions of Oregon running backs breaking tackles and racing towards the end zone that led to the Cougars eventual demise. The tandem of running backs Byron Marshall and Thomas Tyner used their individual career bests in rushing yards to outlast a hungry Washington State team. Marshall finished with 21 carries for 192 yards and three touchdowns while Tyner almost eclipsed the 100-yard mark for the first time in his collegiate career. He finished with 99 yards and two touchdowns.

Mariota, who came into the game without committing a single turnover on the season, fumbled twice, one leading to a Xavier Cooper scoop and score for the Cougars that made the score 27-21 midway through the second quarter. In fear of letting momentum slide all the way into the grasp of the Cougars, the Ducks needed a spark and they got it immediately. Using wide receiver Keanon Lowe as a lead blocker, Tyner split two would-be Cougar tacklers and bursted down the sideline 66 yards for the touchdown.

Last year, Oregon entered halftime leading only 23-19 against the same Cougars, but outscored Washington State 28-7 in the second half on their way to a 51-26 victory. This year’s second half was much of the same.

Oregon emerged from the locker room with a 34-24 lead, but took advantage of the half’s first drive. Mariota led the Ducks down the field in expedient fashion, finishing the drive with a 10-yard touchdown pass to Lowe to make the score 41-24. Oregon never looked back. The Ducks outscored Washington State 28- 14 in the second half and cruised to an easy victory.

 

 

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