Ducks Down To Implementing Game Plan

In just two days the Oregon Ducks will be taking on the Arkansas State Red Wolves to kick off their highly anticipated 2012 season. For many players, coaches, and fans, that is a big relief, especially when taking into account how hectic the past few weeks have been for the Ducks.

First there were reports that tight end Colt Lyerla was not attending practice. Then rumors that Oregon was going to be hit hard with NCAA sanctions. After that, Marcus Mariota was named starting quarterback. Finally and most recently, rumors had Bryan Bennett transferring, only to have those rumors disappear when he declared his support for the Oregon program.

Needless to say, all those associated with the Duck football program are happy to take a sigh of relief before game time on Saturday.

This is not to say, however, that the Ducks will not be preparing these next two days.

"Really just a lot of film work," said starting running back Kenjon Barner when asked about how the Ducks are preparing with just one practice left before game day. "Making sure we know exactly what we're doing (and) what type of defensive plan we'll be facing."

Oregon Duck Head Coach Chip Kelly also emphasized that the next few days would be about implementing their game plan that they had been coming up with in the past few days.

"It's a lot of situational work, offensively and defensively," Kelly said.

As for specifically preparing for Arkansas State, coaches and players indicate that it has been rather difficult assessing just what this Red Wolves team will bring to Autzen Stadium on Saturday.

"That's the million dollar question," responded Offensive Coordinator Mark Helfrich when asked how much game film he had on Arkansas State. "You get to watch a little bit of their personnel from last year and the guys that are returning."

Other than that, however, film has been rather limited and the coaches did indicate that there may be somewhat of a surprise factor come Saturday evening.

What has Helfrich seen on the Arkansas State defense?

"(They're) very impressive, those guys were outstanding defensively," replied Helfrich of the Red Wolves. "They play hard, they have a good scheme…they are really good at tackling the ball (and) playing the ball. When you have a sound defense (like the Red Wolves do) that is unpredictable and then they play hard, that (can) cause a lot of problems."

One particular player that immediately jumped out for Helfrich on the defensive side of the ball was defensive back Chaz Scales. As a junior cornerback in 2011, Scales racked up 33 tackles, three tackles for loss, half a sack, one interception, and his team leading 11 pass breakups.

Scales is not the only player that stood out on the Arkansas State defense.

"Number 40 (Nathan Harrold), he's big and athletic," said Barner when asked the same question as Helfrich.

Other players that Barner noted were number 53 (Nick Nelms) and number 5 (Don Jones).

Arkansas State is clearly not a team to underestimate. A sound defense combined with a stellar returning quarterback and two talented wide receivers definitely make this team much more dangerous than what some fans may be making them out to be.

The Red Wolves finished first in the Sun Belt conference a year ago while also being ranked as high as number 35 in the 2011 BCS Standings.

In order to come away from Saturday's game unscathed, the Ducks must implement their offensive attack to the best of their abilities while also executing the game plan that they have developed over this past week.

A Duck who will have all eyes upon him is newly selected starting quarterback Marcus Mariota. A player making his college football debut Saturday, Mariota has given many Duck fans high expectations for this season and beyond.

Will coach Helfrich be paying particular attention to any facet of Martioa's game?

"The overall game," said Helfirch of Mariota's game he would be focused on. "We want to get caught in the act of being ourselves. Our guys have prepared really well, they've worked really hard, and hopefully it will keep going that way on Saturday."

Another key piece of Oregon's offense heading into Saturday will obviously be its running back corps.

"We look good," said Barner about the stable of running backs the Ducks have. "As a group I think we are pretty solid. We got a good group of core guys in Byron, Kenny, Ayele, myself, and DeAnthony."

One of the more hyped players on the list of players Barner stated is Byron Marshall, a player that has many Oregon fans excited about the future of the Duck football program and situation at running back.

"Byron looks really good," said Barner about the young running back. "He's picking up the offensive scheme fast and doing everything that he needs to do to get on the field. He's very versatile."

Though Barner and De'Anthony Thomas will undoubtedly receive the most attention at the running back position, it is good for Oregon fans to hear that they have numerous players at the position that can come in and potentially make a big impact.

Kickoff for Saturday's match up with Arkansas State is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. (Pacific) and will be carried on ESPN.

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