Oregon Preview

After a 49-21 loss at Cal, a much needed home game is on tap for the Sun Devils. The opposition does not get any easier; however, as an undefeated Oregon squad invades Tempe. As ASU looks to keep a Pac-10 title run alive, so are the Ducks in search of a statement game to quiet any nay sayers following a controversial win over Oklahoma that was the talk of college football circles for a week.

2006 Record: 3-0, 1-0 Pac-10
Head Coach: Mike Bellotti

Last Week: The Ducks are coming off of a bye week that was preceded by a thrilling 34-33 home victory over the Oklahoma Sooners.

Injury Bug: Oregon's roster was full of minor injuries following the Oklahoma game. The extra week off helped heal most of the players but the Ducks are without three defensive starters, linebacker Brent Haberly, cornerback Jackie Bates, and tackle Ra'Shon Harris.

* Projected Starters

WR Jaison Williams, So.
LT Max Unger, So.
LG Josh Tschirgi, Jr.
C Enoka Lucas, Sr.
RG Palauni Ma Sun, Sr.
RT Geoff Schwartz, Jr.
TE Dante Rosario, Sr.
QB Dennis Dixon, Jr.
TB Jonathan Stewart, So.
WR James Finley, Sr.
WR Cameron Colvin, Jr.

Oregon's offense can present a handful of mismatches for opposing defenses as they have talent all over at the skill positions. Quarterback Dennis Dixon appears to have settled into offensive coordinator Gary Crowton's spread offense. The junior has passed for over 800 yards, 3 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions in the Ducks' perfect start to the season. Besides a talented supporting cast, Dixon's command of the offense has been aided by a full vote of confidence by his head coach and an offensive line, led by All Pac-10 candidate at center, Enoka Lucas, that has done a nice job of keeping opposing defenders at bay. Junior signal-caller Brady Leaf backs up Dixon and has attempted only one pass this season.

The Ducks ground game is perhaps the conference's most potent attack as their 198.3 yard average per game is tops in the Pac-10. Tailback Jonathan Stewart has emerged as one of the conference's top rushers and appears to be headed for even bigger things in the future. The talented sophomore is a rare mix of power and speed. Earlier in the week, Bellotti noted that Stewart's health is the best it's been since the season opener. Stewart has run for 315 yards and 4 scores on 46 carries this season. Sophomore Jeremiah Johnson is also just as capable of moving the chains when Stewart is out of the game. Johnson has hit pay dirt 3 times in his 24 carries.

Sophomore receiver Jaison Williams has the chance to notch his third straight 100+ receiving yard game this Saturday. Williams has emerged from a talented pack of receivers that have struggled with consistency at times. The sophomore leads the team in receptions with 18 and averages 18.1 yards per catch to go along with his 2 touchdowns. Junior Brian Paysinger, 8 catches, is the only other wide out that has scored this season. James Finley, a senior, is the top returning receiver from a year ago but is off to a slow start with only 4 receptions. Finley is also nursing an ankle injury. Senior Jordan Kent, a 6'5" target with track speed, and junior Garren Strong each have 7 catches. Cameron Colvin has yet to reach his full potential in his third season for the Ducks. Oregon is utilizing tight end Dante Rosario more this season, as they should since the senior has sure hands. 8 of his 11 receptions have gone for first downs.

* Projected Starters

DE Darius Sanders, Sr.
DT Cole Linehan, So.
DT Jeremy Gibbs, Jr.
DE Matt Toeaina, Sr.
WILL A.J. Tuitele, Jr.
MIKE Blair Phillips, Sr.
ROV Patrick Chung, So.
SS Kwame Agyeman, Jr.
FS J.D. Nelson, Sr.
CB Jairus Byrd, RS-Fr.
CB Walter Thurmond III, RS-Fr.

The defensive line has been a M.A.S.H unit but the Ducks have made the most of it so far this season. Defensive end Matt Toeaina anchors the line with 6 tackles and can line up at either end or tackle. The senior may move inside to tackle at times this Saturday if junior Jeremy Gibbs is slowed by his ankle injury. The Ducks have been extremely pleased with Gibbs' progress from junior college as he's recorded 8 tackles, 1 sack, a forced fumble, and a blocked kick that sealed the win over the Sooners. Also questionable for the game is senior defensive end Victor Filipe. After dislocating his left elbow in August, Filipe may be available to play, which would be good news for Ducks skipper Mike Bellotti, who said he'd like to have a rotation of three tackles and three defensive ends this weekend in the desert heat. Left tackle Cole Linehan leads all defensive linemen with 11 stops, including 2 tackles for a loss. Juniors David Faaeteete and Dexter Manley II, as well as sophomore end Nick Reed will most likely see some time off the bench should the heat or injuries persist.

Middle linebacker Blair Phillips has had a breakout senior season, leading the team in tackles with 31. The senior's 10.3 tackles per game average also leads the Pac-10. Phillips' emergence is even more significant now that Brent Haberly, the starter on the weak side, suffered a broken arm in the Oklahoma game. Junior A.J. Tuitele will start and is a seasoned reserve, having played last year before injuries slowed him down. Tuitele has been active already with 15 tackles and 1 sack.

Arizona State may look to attack the two redshirt freshmen corners for the Ducks, Jairus Byrd and Walter Thurmond III. Byrd, who moved over from the rover spot after starter Jackie Bates broke his leg against Fresno State, has 10 tackles and an interception. Thurmond has collected 17 stops and 1 quarterback sack. The arrival of redshirt freshman Terrell Ward will help bolster the corner depth along with Willie Glasper. Ward was initially named a starter but a pre-season knee injury has kept him out of action in the first three games. Rover Patrick Chung has followed up a promising freshman campaign with 25 stops, a sack, and 1 interception. Chung combined with free safety J.D. Nelson last year to give the Ducks one of the better safety tandems in the conference. Nelson has almost identical numbers, 23 tackles and 1 sack, in his senior season. Kwame Agyeman and Jerome Boyd have a combined 17 tackles at the strong safety spot.


PK Paul Martinez, Sr.
P Matt Dragich, Sr.
KR Jonathan Stewart, So.
Jeremiah Johnson, So.
PR Jeremiah Johnson, So.

Paul Martinez has converted on 5 of his 7 field goal attempts. The senior has an accurate leg and his only miss of the season was from beyond 50 yards the other miss was the result of a blocked kick. Only one of Matt Dragich's eight punts have been downed inside the 20 yard line. The senior is averaging 38.9 yards per punt.

Tailbacks Jonathan Stewart and Jeremiah Johnson have combined to give the Ducks a dangerous return game if given the lanes to run. Johnson is averaging 15.5 yards on 4 kick returns while Stewart has amassed 78 yards on just 2 returns, good for a 39 yard average. Johnson has also returned 9 punts for an average of 12.8 yards. His longest return went for 27 yards.

Sun Devil Source Top Stories