Preview 2016

Oregon Preview 2016: Duck Up


The Oregon football outlook for 2016 season. Coming up with nine wins is a down year for the Ducks, and now the pressure is on to retake the Pac-12 title.


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After failing to win at least 10 games for the first time since Mike Bellotti was still on staff in 2007, Oregon is looking to recapture its championship form.

Last year was a strange one in Eugene, marked by an uncharacteristically rocky start, a torrid regular season finish and an Alamo Bowl collapse to TCU. There was a general lack of consistency, born in part from injuries, that head coach Mark Helfrich wants to see eliminated in 2016.

The upcoming season is a big one for Helfrich, his fourth since becoming the guy in charge. No more benefitting from the roster or the momentum built by predecessor Chip Kelly. From top to bottom, this is a Helfrich production.

And he’s going to bear the brunt of the criticism if his Ducks are unable to wrest control of the North Division—and the Pac-12 for that matter—away from Stanford.

For Oregon, getting back to winning titles and competing for playoff berths hinges heavily on the development of new contributors—and coordinators—on both sides of the ball, particularly on defense.

After allowing 488 points, the most by any Oregon squad in school history, Helfrich has handed the reins of his D to Brady Hoke, the guy who preceded Jim Harbaugh in Ann Arbor. Hoke is facing a tall order in 2016. He’s being asked to instill an aggressive and physical attitude at a school whose reputation is deeply rooted in a fast-paced, high-powered offensive attack.

His first Duck team is being overhauled in the front seven, with as many as six new starters. Even if this group is better coached under Hoke, it’s unlikely the personnel at his disposal will warrant a complete turnaround.

The vaunted offense will have new looks, too, now that QB Vernon Adams has graduated and coordinator Scott Frost is the UCF head coach. The staff went the FCS route for a second straight year, landing Montana State transfer Dakota Prukop. But Helfrich, coordinator Matt Lubick and new quarterback coach David Yost are still evaluating Prukop and rookie Travis Jonsen.

Otherwise, this will be a typical Duck offense, with an abundance of speedy options at running back, wide receiver and tight end. Oregon doesn’t figure to skip a beat, provided Prukop can pick up where Adams left off.

Oregon wants to build a bridge to last November, when it, well, looked like Oregon. After hitting the pause button on 10-win seasons that end with titles and major bowl invitations, the Ducks and Helfrich are eager for a return to normal. Getting there will require Hoke to rebuild the front seven and Prukop to be the triggerman who helps unlock the enormous potential at the skill positions.