"It has to do with coverage concepts," replied Neal to the question of why the defensive backs give so much cushion to opposing wide receivers. "If you are Washington and play a lot of what we call match coverage, the same thing the Seattle Seahawks do; SC (USC) plays a lot of man-free, they play nickel-concepts, so you play up. You play zone concepts, you play back.That's way it goes, it's systmatic."
Nickel packages is when five defensive backs are used, normall in obvious passing situations, or in situations when the defensive front is stout enough to put pressure on a quarterback while the linebackers are mobile enough to protect against the run and assist in pass coverage underneath. Usually speedy defenders make the nickel package much more successful.
The match coverage relies heavily on the defensive back's ability to keep up with the receiver along with being able to recognize and understand the offensive blocking during the play. Of course the match coverage is vulnerable to the run, which require agile and strong defenders on the line and at linebacker.
Is this all just a fancy way of saying the Ducks aren't big, fast or strong enough to run man coverage?
Ironically, the two college teams Neal mentioned badly beat Oregon not only on the defensive side of the ball, but the offense side as well.
Maybe the problem is who the Duck were recruting?