Oregon preview

All Tennessee is asking of Justin Wilcox is an encore. But that's asking an awful lot.

As defensive coordinator at Boise State last fall, Wilcox limited Oregon to 31 rushing yards, 152 total yards, six first downs and one touchdown as the Broncos beat the Ducks 19-8 in the opener for both teams.

Big Orange fans undoubtedly would be thrilled if Wilcox, who now coordinates Tennessee's defense, could limit Oregon to double those numbers when the Ducks visit the Vols on Sept. 11.

Here's why: Oregon rallied from last September's opening setback to average 412.0 yards and 36.1 points per game last fall, clobbering No. 6 Cal 42-3 and No. 4 USC 47-20 along the way. With most of the key weapons returning, the Ducks could be even more of a juggernaut this fall than they were last fall.

A key loss, though, was quarterback Jeremiah Masoli. A first-team All-Pac 10 pick as a junior last fall, he has been suspended for the 2010 season. He'll be missed after throwing for 2,147 yards and 15 touchdowns with just 6 interceptions last year. He'll be replaced by senior Nate Costa, who guided the Ducks to a win at UCLA in his only start of '09.

Costa will benefit from the return of Oregon's top three wideouts from '09. Senior Jeff Maehl (6-1, 176) caught 53 balls for 696 yards and 6 touchdowns last fall. Junior Lavoisier Tuinei (6-5, 203) added 24 catches for 217 yards and senior D.J. Davis (6-1, 212) chipped in 23 receptions for 233 yards. Tight end Ed Dickson, who caught 42 balls in '09, is the only player missing from last fall's top five pass catchers.

Moreover, the Ducks boast two of the fastest running backs Tennessee will face all season. LaMichael James and Kenjon Barner comprise half of the 4x100 relay unit that helped Oregon place fourth in the Pac 10 track and field championships. James was named the league's Offensive Freshman of the Year after averaging 6.7 yards per carry en route to 1,546 rushing yards last fall. Barner chipped in 366 rushing yards, 30 receiving yards, 137 punt return yards and 1,020 kickoff return yards to finish ninth among Pac 10 players in all-purpose yardage at 1,553.

After surrendering 23.8 points per game last fall, Oregon should be stingier in 2010 due to the return of most of its better defenders.

Safety John Boyett, a Freshman All-American last fall, is back after leading the team with 90 stops. Senior linebackers Spencer Paysinger (6-3, 232) and Casey Mathews (6-2, 237) registered 81 tackles each last fall. Junior rover Javes Lewis chipped in 78 stops and 3 fumbles forced last season. Also back are senior cornerback Talmadge Jackson (50 tackles, 4 interceptions, 10 passes defended) and senior defensive end Kenny Rowe (43 stops, 15 tackles for loss, 11.5 sacks).

The Ducks were somewhat vulnerable away from home last fall - losing 19-8 at Boise, 51-42 at Stanford and 26-17 to Ohio State in the Rose Bowl. If Justin Wilcox is to achieve an encore on Sept. 4, he may need a lot of help from 100,000 Vol fans.


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