"They've got talented guys," said Hoke responding a question about hte USC offense. "At multiple positions."
Oregon is challenged every time it plays in the LA Coliseum and this year the Ducks have struggled all season long in stopping the run and haven't fared much better in stopping the pass. In fact Oregon is dead last in the conference in points allowed (42.2 ppg) and holding opponents in total yardages (529.8 ypg). This isn't exactly new territory for the Ducks as the 2015 edition of the Oregon defense lagged behind the rest of the conference for most of the season in both categories.
However, as bleak as the statistics are, there is a ray of hope. Last week against a formidable offense in the Arizona State Sun Devils, Oregon scored more points that the Devils (54-35) and gained more offensive yards (734 vs. 468). Of course, putting into context, one must keep in mind that ASU had a lot of its starting unit missing due to injury but the Ducks looked better on the field than they have at any point in the season.
Hoke attributes that to the fact more players are getting a grasp on what the coaching staff has been teaching and have been maturing as a unity.
“The kids (the players) have taken it upon themselves,” observed Hoke of his team’s improvement. “Guys like (Henry) Mondeaux, (Tyree) Robinson and Jimmie Swain, those guys have taken it over and that’s a good thing.”
Hoke also pointed out that certain players are not only “taking over” during the game but also in practice.
Another player that sticks out in Hoke’s mind is senior T.J. Daniel, whom Hoke would “love to have for a couple more years.” Hoke thinks Daniel is playing “better and better each week,” and describes Daniel as an “intelligent football player” that can play in multiple spots.
While one of his players, Eddie Heard will not be available because he has been suspended from the team because of a domestic violence issue of which Hoke referred all questions to head coach Mark Helfrich, Hoke did say that he hopes a lot of guys will step up against USC. Hoke thinks that Jalen Jelks will be at full speed and that will help Oregon’s cause along with Bryson Young and Jonah Moi, all of whom play multiple spots on the defense.
The challenge USC presents can come from the passing game behind quarterback Sam Darnold and a host of talent receivers. Of course given the amount of yardage Oregon has given up in the running game, USC could also have a big day – that is unless the hard work the Oregon coaches have continually said that they see from the team pays off.
This could be a tremendous opportunity for the Oregon Ducks to turn its season around and even if the game does not end up as a victory, a highly competitive game could spark major dividends down the road for a very young team.
Hoke and his team will find out just how much this improvement is worth when the meet the Trojans at Saturday starting at 4 p.m.