Five Questions: on Oregon

Steve Summers from answers five questions from about Oregon.

Q: Like Florida State, Oregon fought through a lot of injuries this season and should benefit from the long layoff. What does Oregon’s injury situation look like at this point and what is the status of some of those the Ducks expect to get back from injury (such as center Hroniss Grasu)? Where do the Ducks stand to benefit most from the layoff?

What we are hearing is that the Ducks will enter the Rose Bowl in good shape, including Grasu who missed the last two games of the regular season and the Pac-12 Championship game. Additionally, running back Thomas Tyner should also be back having missed the Oregon State and the P12C game.

Oregon doesn’t allow local media into practice so I’ll hedge my comments by saying, that’s what we’re hearing. I haven’t actually seen practice to know for sure.

Oregon will be without a couple players who haven’t played a down this season. Offensive tackle Tyler Johnstone has been generally regarded at the best offensive lineman on the Ducks roster but he re-injured a knee in fall camp and I’d be stunned if he were available for the January 1st game in Pasadena. Wide receiver Bralon Addison has also been out since spring ball so again I don’t expect them to be on the field.

Tyner struggled all season long with a handful of injuries and statistically was way down from his impressive freshman campaign. The good news for the Ducks was freshman running back Royce Freeman was sensational so if Tyner can get healthy enough during the break up to the Rose Bowl, then Oregon will have two top-notched running backs.

Grasu’s loss was eased somewhat when the Ducks moved guard Hermani Stevens to center to take over the snapping chores. Stevens initially came to Oregon as a center but Grasu was better at it and so Stevens found himself as a guard.

Another player absent at a critical point of the season was offensive tackle Jake Fisher, who missed the first time Oregon faced Arizona. Of course that was Oregon’s only loss of the year. Fisher came back the next week following the Arizona game against UCLA and it was the first game of the season the Ducks managed to get a running back in the plus 100 yards rushing category. Fisher has played all season and has been instrumental to the Ducks’ success.

Offensive tackle Andre Yruretagoyena started the first couple of games in place of Johnstone but went down in the second game of the season against Michigan State. He finally made it back for limited duty in the regular season finale against Oregon State and was used in a back role in the P12C game. However, he rolled an ankle but again we are hearing he should able to go against FSU.

Q: Based on my early film study, Oregon is primarily a fire-zone defense that prefers to keep everything in front of it while bringing four or five rushers, but the Ducks have had trouble pressuring the quarterback most of the season and have had problems against good tight ends. How do you expect Oregon to attack Jameis Winston and the Florida State offense, and what wrinkles might we expect to see as they try to make the FSU offense uncomfortable?

From what I’ve seen of Jameis Winston, little is going to make him uncomfortable and certainly what the Ducks will want to do is put a very fast spy on him. Oregon will also have to mix up its coverage and the Duck coaches are going to have to trust the secondary’s athletic skills.

[Jason’s comment: If Oregon puts a spy on Winston, taking an additional player out of coverage, FSU will be able to name its score. I’d much rather Winston run against me than throw.]

That is easier said than done of course.

Oregon has always wanted to stop the run first then go aggressively after the quarterback using linebackers to season the deal.

One thing the Ducks did in the P12C game against Arizona was being more aggressive up front. Both DE Arik Armstead and DE DeForest Buckner were using their size advantage over the Wildcat offensive linemen and Arizona ended up using three quarterbacks in the lop-sided game. I thought that was significant, especially against Rich Rodrigues who was particularly frustrated with his team’s effort after having beaten Oregon two times in a row.

[Jason’s comment: the size mismatch will go the opposite direction in the Rose Bowl.]

Q: Most games are won and lost up front. How do you see Oregon matching up with Florida State on the line of scrimmage? What are Oregon’s strengths up front and where are they weaker?

A number of observers of the Oregon football program have commented that the Oregon big men do not bench press enough weight. Conversely, Oregon’s Strength and Conditioning Coach Jim Radcliffe is a major proponent of what he calls the Pyramid of Power conditioning program that incorporates a lot of Olympic or overhead weight moves, squatting and functional weight training, plus throwing in lots of endurance training including plyometric training to enhance conditioning and flexibility.

Radcliffe is quick to point out that the Ducks have not abandon the bench press, but the Oregon coaching staff believes it isn’t as necessary as some who think that the bench should be a major part of training for the biggs.

Oregon offensive line is tall and rangy, but you won’t see any 340 pounders out on the field. In fact the biggest guy is 6-6, 20 and he is a freshman using his redshirt year. Most of the offensive linemen are around the 300 pound mark. Do they miss the bulk heavier men can offer? Maybe, but then again the Ducks want to get to line of scrimmage without huddling and snap the ball within 14 seconds.

The lighter men more svelte types are better at that!

Q: In your estimation, what are Oregon’s biggest concerns about facing Florida State?

Winston’s ability to scramble and run with the ball is probably the No. 1 concern. He’s a big man that doesn’t go down very easily and he has a strong arm -- a very dangerous combination. Oregon is going to have to be very quick off the snap, not get tangled up in mano-a-mano pushing contests with FSU offensive linemen; not over shoot the quarterback and make sure tackles.

Offensively, Oregon will have to execute and keep Marcus Mariota upright. The Ducks had problems early in the season with sacks and have played some pretty tough defenses including Michigan State, Stanford and Utah where they were successful in protecting Mariota. However, they are playing the two-time defending National Champion and one would expect the Seminoles bring their A-game to Granddaddy of them all, the Rose Bowl.

Q: By the same token, what should the Seminoles be most concerned about playing the Ducks?

Oregon is a very, very hungry team. They missed winning a National Championship in 2011-12 against Auburn by a last second field goal. They’ve been on the fringe so many times over the last several years and they have the 2014 Heisman Trophy winner in Mariota. If ever there was a perfect opportunity, this is it.

What I assume the FSU coaches will be most concerned about is Mariota who can also scramble, run and has a strong throwing arm. Also the Ducks can score bunches of points quickly. Oregon likes to pride itself in the condition of the players and this season the average margin of victory was 23.8 points per game.

Oregon wants to get ahead early and continue to points up on the scoreboard.



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