2016 season preview: Oregon Ducks

The Ducks will need to break in a new quarterback and defense, but they're in good shape to compete for the Pac-12 North.

| 11 months ago
(Steve Dykes, Getty Images)

(Steve Dykes, Getty Images)

2016 season preview: Oregon Ducks

The Ducks have a premier power running back, ludicrous speed at wide receiver, the best tight end group in the country and their only question mark is at the quarterback position. If the Ducks can get solid performances from their new QB and new defense, they can be Pac-12 North contenders. Let’s take a look at the season ahead:


Oregon will be breaking in a new starting quarterback in 2016, just like their main Pac-12 North rival Stanford. The current front-runners heading into fall appear to be Dakota Prukop, a graduate transfer from Montana State, and redshirt freshman Travis Jonsen. Running back Royce Freeman is one of the top backs in the country and his 108.6 elusive rating ranks No. 1 among returning Pac-12 running backs. Running back Taj Griffin forced 30 missed tackles on only 85 touches in 2015. Talented tackle Tyrell Crosby anchors their offensive line. The Ducks have arguably the best tight end group in the country in Evan Baylis, Johnny Mundt and Pharaoh Brown and will look to get more than one of their talented tight ends on the field together by using two-tight end sets.

The Ducks wide receivers have some elite speed. Devon Allen is so fast he is representing the US in the Summer Olympics in the 110m hurdles. Charles Nelson is moving from a two-way player to just wide receiver. Nelson is one of the most dynamic playmakers with the ball in his hands in the Pac-12, so with the increased touches look for a big spike in his production and a lot of highlights. Darren Carrington’s 144.9 WR rating ranks No. 2 among returning Power-5 wide receivers. Freshman wide receiver Dillon Mitchell was the best looking player in the Ducks’ Spring Game and showed he is an instant red-zone threat by adjusting to two passes for touchdowns.


The Ducks’ defense struggled to stop opponents in 2015, so they brought in Brady Hoke as a new defensive coordinator. Under Hoke, the Ducks will be switching from a two-gap defense to a one-gap 4-3 defense and will try to get their athletic defenders attacking more. The defense will also be trying to replace several talented starters including top-10 draft pick DeForest Buckner. The pass rush should come from Torrodney Prevot and Jalen Jenks. Tyree Robinson is the Ducks’ most talented defensive back. The Ducks will need the new scheme and improved performances from their defensive players to improve upon last season’s defensive effort if they are going to have a chance to compete for the Pac-12 North title.

Biggest star

Royce Freeman’s production in 2015 ranks right up there with the elite running backs in the country. Freeman is a power-back who is difficult to tackle and his 1067 rushing yards after contact in 2015 ranks No. 2 among returning FBS running backs after only LSU’s Leonard Fournette. Freeman forced 80 forced missed tackles on rushing plays in 2015 which ranks No. 2 among returning Power-5 running backs and his monstrous1844 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns both rank No. 3 among returning Power-5 running backs.

Royce Freeman - Oregon - Pac-12 North

Under-the-radar player

Tight end Pharaoh Brown is a bit of a forgotten player, as he missed the 2015 season due to injury. In 2014 — Brown’s last healthy season — he ranked No. 4 among all FBS tight ends in slot performance. Brown moves well for his basketball-player size and is a serious red-zone threat with NFL-like ability.

Bottom line

Oregon’s schedule luckily lets them face top Pac-12 North foes Stanford and Washington in Eugene. With a new attacking defense and a talented offense, the Ducks have a chance to win the Pac-12 North, but those hopes will hinge on the quality of their quarterback play.








  • Lavina689548544

    Great analysis and right there except I have to believe the D cannot go anywhere but up. Prukop was a all american at MS and has the ability to run this offense even better than Adams did last year. I mean it’s not a given but from his strong Spring game it leads me to think he’s got a heads up over Jonsen. The fact that Helfrich could see the writing on the wall that last years debaucle especially on defense was that he clearly needed to make changes if he wanted to keep his job beyond 2017. I believe he did in Yost who will solely work with the QBs something we really surprisingly didn’t have in the past. He showed what he was capable of at Missouri and they had 2 QBs that could run the spread at that time. I believe with Prukop and Jonsen Oregon will be fine as their offense shouldn’t skip a beat to return as PAC 12 North champs. The Hoke hire as time has went on looks to be a smart hire by a smart Coach in Hoke. The guy knows what he’s doing and it will be nice to see a defense attacking rather than waiting for the action to come to them with Nic Aliotti’s BBDB Defense. Pellum was clearly over his head and it showed that Helfrich bombed on that one. Oregon is still the most talented Roster of all the PAC 12 and thats why they will with all the disrespect play with beat their asses mentality once again that kind of left this team when Kelly left. If this team fails and goes 9-4 again I believe that will not be good enough for Helfrich to remain as HC.