In the immediate aftermath of the systematic dismantling of the Oregon Ducks
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Beers were tossed, gestures were made and all Oregon outside linebacker Torrodney Prevot could do was look at the angry Washington State crowd, blow a kiss and wave.
With a beaming smile from cheek-to-cheek, Prevot, and the rest of his Oregon teammates, headed towards the tunnel that led away from Martin Stadium to a chorus of boos from a disgruntled Cougars fan base. During the game, Washington State matched Oregon stride-for-stride, but the Ducks nursed a slim second half advantage to beat the Cougars 38-31 and pass their first road test of the season.
A win well worth a smile and a goodbye salute from Prevot.
“It was huge to us,” Prevot said after the game. “We knew what we were missing throughout the week. We could tell the atmosphere that was there. This game was pretty big for us to get it out of the way and just to know that we can always stick together no matter what. That’s a clutch game for us.”
Throughout the game, it became obvious that the Cougars wouldn’t be the only opposition for the Ducks. Oregon also had to stare adversity in the eyes and overcome it.
“We faced a ton of adversity, some self-inflicted, some not,” Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich said after the game. “I thought our guys did a great job of seeing it through.”
Oregon’s offensive line struggled against the Cougars defense, allowing quarterback Marcus Mariota to be sacked an unprecedented seven times. With walk-on Matt Pierson starting at right tackle — his first career start — and freshman Tyrell Crosby making his first start at left tackle, Mariota was constantly on the run.
In the second half, Oregon offensive coordinator Scott Frost adjusted his offensive attack. He moved Mariota out of the pocket more and aimed to get the ball out of his hands before pressure could arrive.
“That was huge,” Mariota said. “For both coaches to make that call, it was pivotal for us. It really helped us get receivers open. It opened up some running lanes, as well.”
Mariota finished 21-of-25 for 329 yards and five touchdowns. He added 58 net rushing yards, as well.
After the game, Prevot described the victory as “ugly,” a testament shared by his fellow teammates. However, all were fortunate to leave Pullman, Washington with a Pac-12 victory and a untarnished record.
“Like I told those guys in the locker room winning a road game in this conference is hard,” Helfrich said. “People just expect (a win) to happen. I know people around the country are looking at the scoreboard and be surprised, but we spat a few guys together, taped a few guys together and gutted it out. I’m really proud of that.”
As the No. 2 team in the country, Oregon will be in the cross-hairs of an opponents scope each and every week. To come away from Washington State’s best shot unscathed is something senior wide receiver Keanon Lowe things the team can build off of.
“Tough place to play and you know when you’re a team that’s highly ranked you’re going to get everyone’s best shot,” he said. “They gave us their best shot. They hit us in the mouth and we hit them back.
It was good to face adversity. We learned a lot about our team, I think we grew a lot from this.”
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I am not a “professional,” per se, as I refuse to write the usual “blah-blah” that you’ll see from other media outlets, but then that is why this site began. I wanted more information, and to learn — and our readers have agreed. This Oregon Football Media day was like going down memory lane … in how similar it was to my …
The departure of Kiko Alonzo and Michael Clay after 2012 made last season a rebuilding year of sorts for the Duck linebacker corps, and some maintain the Ducks’ run defense suffered accordingly. The numbers reveal that the Ducks gave up 169 ypg on the ground, up from 142 ypg the year before.
How much that attributed to the extra loss Oregon suffered over the previous season is debatable, but Oregon would like to improve significantly against the run in 2014. Returning all linebackers except Boseko Lokombo from the 2013 two-deep should help. Here’s what’s in store for Oregon’s LB unit this fall.
Derrick Malone: Pride of Colton Part I
Derrick Malone was half of the “Colton Combo” the Ducks relied on to fill those big shoes left by graduation in 2012. The 6-2, 220-pound Malone responded by leading the Webfoots with 105 tackles, most on the team by nearly twenty stops. Though a bit small for a major college linebacker, Malone makes up for it with speed and play-making ability as evidenced by his 38-yard pick six against Texas in the Alamo Bowl.
Malone actually played defensive back at Colton High School near San Bernardino, then got to Oregon and kept growing. Now weighing in at 30 pounds over his listed weight as an in-coming freshman, Derrick is prepping to pop someone and spearhead the 2014 edition of Gang Green.
Rodney Hardrick: Pride of Colton Part II
Suffice it to say, the Colton Yellowjackets fielded a salty defense when it featured both Rodney Hardrick and Derrick Malone. Hardrick will again man an inside backer position after emerging in 2013 with 65 tackles, third-most among returning Ducks. Like his Colton counterpart, Hardrick flies to the ball and has good ball-hawking skills when he drops into coverage. His 65-yard scoop and scamper of a blocked FG attempt aided Oregon’s furious fourth quarter rally at Stanford.
New DC Don Pellum has voiced an inclination to turn players loose a little more in 2014 and let playmakers make plays. Along with Malone, Hardrick stands to benefit as much as any Oregon defender in a more aggressive defensive philosophy.
Tyson Coleman is ready to breakout
One of three Oregon natives with a solid shot at starting when the 2014 season kicks off is outside linebacker Tyson Coleman out of Lake Oswego. After a promising redshirt freshman season that saw him get significant backup and special teams duty, Coleman seemed to experience a minor hiccup in 2013. Late in the year, injuries hampered the former 4-star prep standout named by ESPN as the 17th-best outside linebacker in the nation in 2011.
Like Malone, Coleman has great athleticism and a nose for the football, making him a disruptive force against both the run and pass. After missing the Civil War and Alamo Bowl games, Coleman looks to get back on track in 2014.
Rahim Cassell is back with a vengeance
The 6-0, 223-pound product out of Lakewood, CA, is another Duck linebacker who saw the field a lot last year. Whether he earns a starting spot in 2014 or not, he’ll be counted upon heavily. Last season he accounted for 32 total tackles, a sack and two tackles for loss. He also forced and recovered a fumble.
At the very least, Cassell provides the quality depth Oregon needs to keep the linebacker corps fresh enough to play with speed and urgency for four quarters. As Duck fans know, given how horrible the team is at possessing the ball on offense due to scoring so quickly (writer’s tongue firmly in cheek), the team simply can’t have too many fast, physical linebackers to rotate into the lineup.
Joe Walker arrives and thrives
Don’t let Joe Walker’s Southern California surfer dude appearance fool you — his game is more all out than laid back. Walker plays with his hair on fire, which accounts for quite a conflagration given the extent of his locks. From summer pre-season workouts on, it was clear the transfer from L.A. Harbor Community College was going to contribute in his first season in the program.
Walker’s passion and work ethic was rewarded with enough playing time in 2013 to show flashes of what Duck fans can look forward to in the years ahead. Look for him to be among those making the greatest strides of any Duck player in 2014.
Backing the backers
As with defensive backs, Oregon has recruited linebackers at a high level in recent years. The LOI day splash signing of Torrodney Prevot in 2012 comes to mind, and the talented Texan did, in fact, burn his redshirt in his first year in Eugene. At 6-3 and only 215 pounds, Prevot is several laps around the buffet table inside the Hatfield-Dowlin Complex of weighing what he needs to, but his high motor and athleticism is compelling reason to believe the Houston native is going to an outstanding defender.
Other highly touted preps poised to earn their wings in the very near future include 4-star San Diegan Tyrell Robinson, Danny Mattingly out of Spokane, Oshay Dunmore from Newport, OR, and Isaac Ava from Ewa Beach, HI. The 2014 recruiting class welcomes incoming standouts Jimmie Swain from Olathe, KS, and Justin Hollins of Arlington, TX.
At the presser introducing him as the new Oregon DC, Don Pellum indicated a desire to ratchet up the attacking defense the Ducks have been known for. The very players he’s been most instrumental in recruiting in recent years can make that happen.
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Top photo by Craig Strobeck
Entering the twilight of the 2014 recruiting cycle, Oregon has made no bones about an unshakable desire to keep their tabbed recruits. Now in mid-December, Oregon’s list of commits sits at 15 with several “still at-large” preps shoring up the final stages of their recruitment.
This past weekend, longtime Oregon defensive back target Mattrell McGraw (3-Star/River Ridge, LA) made the cross country trek to Eugene to experience Oregon on an official visit.
“It was great, they really rolled out the red carpet for me at Oregon,” said McGraw. “I had a chance to chill with the players and I spent a lot of time talking with coach (John) Neal. Coach Nick (Aliotti) spent a lot of time with me too. I watched three practices in my time at Oregon, which was something I really liked.”
Considered a strong Duck-lean, McGraw’s 4.5/40 speed and stout 6-foot-0, 180 lb. frame would be a welcome addition to an Oregon secondary on the verge of reloading.
“Coach Neal was telling me how important this defensive back class is for them. He greeted me as soon as I showed up for practice which was nearly the first thing I did when I got to Eugene.”
McGraw, fresh off leading prep squad John Curtis to its third-straight state title, noted similarities between his alma mater and Oregon’s systems.
“(The Ducks) do a lot of the same things we do at (John) Curtis; fly to the ball, run on and off the field and other things like that. I spent a lot of time watching the defensive backs and they all impressed me.”
McGraw plans to announce his program decision on national signing day with family and friends. Stay tuned!
Joining McGraw over the weekend amid Oregon’s bowl prep, wide receiver Frank Iheanacho (4-Star/Houston, TX/Rivals250) is a late, but vital cog in the Ducks’ plan for the future.
“Oregon had everything you need to be successful,” said Iheanacho.
Also a venerable hardwood talent, Iheanacho’s 6-foot-7, 220 lb. frame and presence in the red-zone are aspects Oregon would immediately benefit from.
“(Oregon) let me know they are very interested in me and I am a key part of this recruiting class for them.”
While on his visit, Iheanacho made note of the cohesiveness he saw amongst the Oregon roster.
“I was looking for the chemistry among the team and with each other. Everyone was really cool up there, the coaches and the players. I got to meet Bralon Addison, Torrodney Prevot… Chance Allen… They let me know (Oregon) is a home away from home.”
Like McGraw, Iheanacho was also impressed with the Ducks’ pace on the field.
“The tempo they practice at is something else. It was really cool to watch, and Oregon is a good fit for me.”
Iheanacho will make his college decision public prior to the U.S. Army All-American game on January 4th.
To view Iheanacho highlights, please click here.
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