Ducks Have Been Around Too

Eugene -- Are the Oregon Ducks getting tired of being nice? One would expect that teams preparing for the Rose Bowl are going to say all the politically correct things, and while reporters search for new and creative ways to solicit information out of coaches and players, usually the story is the same. The other team is big, fast, physical and tough. Yeah coach, but what do you really think?

Oregon Cornerbacks Coach John Neal said the usual same things on Saturday after the Ducks concluded the second of 15 practices in preparation for the 2010 Rose Bowl. To Neal, the Ohio State Buckeyes are all those things, big, fast, physical and tough but Neal also added, "they expect to win, just like we do"

Neal is in his seventh season at Oregon and his been in the coaching business for 25 years. He's made stops at BYU (his alma mater), Mississippi, UAB, East Mississippi State, Pacific and Oregon State. He's been around and has seen a lot of football and a lot of football players. His secondary at Oregon turned out to be one of the best in the Pac-10 and was third best pass defense at 202.8 yards per game. Considering that the Duck secondary lost two players to the NFL last spring and this season it appeared disaster had struck when pre-season All-American cornerback Walter Thurmond III was lost for the season with a broken leg. Losing Thurmond was bad enough, but when Thurmond's back up, senior Willie Glasper was also sidelined for the year, it looked as though it was going to be a long season for the Duck secondary.

How wrong appearances can be. Neal was able to sculpt a secondary using freshmen and sophomores that helped lead the team to a 10-2 regular season finish. One thing that can be said as an understatement about the Oregon defense is that there is an air about them – an attitude, something that might come from Neal. This isn't to say the Ducks are cocky or full of themselves. What the Ducks demonstrate is that they are not fearful or anyone and are ready to compete hard. This season the Ducks had some big obstacles to overcome, particularly after starting off so poorly in the opening game at Boise State. It can easily be said that the BSU game was an offensive nightmare for Oregon and that the Duck defense wasn't all that bad.

After the BSU game, the Ducks faced a number of top-25 teams including the then No. 6 Cal Bears, USC (who was ranked in the top-10), Arizona (currently 20th) and Oregon State (currently ranked 16th) and Utah (currently 23rd).

Neal has been around and with all the hoopla over the Rose Bowl and the fact Oregon is facing a legendary program, yet he has a way of keeping things balanced.

"They've been around, but so have we," observed Neal of Ohio State. "This is not the first big game we've played. Certainly not ever and certainly not this year. We've played a lot of big games against really good opponents and we get another one. That's what part of being a Division I team is."

So while still saying all those nice things people expect, Neal appears to be ready to stand up and tell it like it really is. The Oregon Ducks are not intimidated to go to the Rose Bowl and play the Ohio State Buckeyes.

For the complete video interview with John Neal, click:

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