A View From eDuck

Dawgman.com spoke with eDuck.com’s Steve Summers to get some more perspective on the Washington-Oregon matchup, scheduled for 5 pm Saturday at Autzen Stadium. Gorcey gave us his thoughts on Oregon’s offense, defense, changes in style with new coordinators, Jake Fisher, and a bunch more in this Q&A.

DM: What have been the significant changes offensively from Kelly to Helfrich and defensively from Aliotti to Pellum?

Steve Summers: Offensively, the Ducks are passing a bit more; the Ducks continue to run the no-huddle, spread the field and try to up the tempo as the game progresses. Through the first five games this season Oregon averaged 209.0 rushing yards per game and 324.4 passing ypg. Against UCLA the Ducks rushed for 258 yards and passed for 210 yards. Last week was the first time this season Oregon had a rusher go for more than 100 yards in the game and was also the first game the Ducks had more rushing yardage than passing yards.

Last season Oregon averaged 273.5 ypg rushing and 291.5 ypg passing.

In Kelly’s three years as head coach, the Ducks averaged 300.2 ypg rushing and 230.0 ypg passing. For what it’s worth, Kelly’s new team, the Philadelphia Eagles averages 116 ypg rushing and 262.3 ypg passing this season.

Even though the Ducks rushing yardage average is less than its passing under Helfrich, it might not be as significant of a change between he and Kelly as the statistics would indicate; the philosophy is pretty much the same.

Defensively, Don Pellum was Nick Aliotti’s understudy for many years and it’s no surprise that the defense looks very much like it did when Aliotti sat up in the box. The fact that Aliotti spent his time in the coach’s box during games might be the biggest difference between him and Pellum, who directs the defense from the sidelines.

DM:Is the Arizona game being seen as a wake up call, and the UCLA game was a truer reflection of what to expect from the Ducks?

SS: The Arizona game may have been a bigger wake-up call for fans as opposed to the team, especially the coaching staff. Injuries played a significant part particularly on the offensive line. Oregon was without senior tackle Jake Fisher and the absence created a loss of a big, strong experienced player but also the leadership to a line that has a true freshman (Tyrell Crosby) and a sophomore (Cameron Hunt) that look more confident when Fisher was back against UCLA.

One other factor about the Arizona game is that Rich Rodriguez is as knowledgeable if not more so about the spread offense as is Chip Kelly. There really are no surprises for him when it comes to Oregon and that made the Duck coaching staff’s job all that more difficult. The Ducks said all week prior to the UCLA game that the one thing they really emphasized was communications and it was apparent that Oregon did a much better job communicating on the field against the Bruins.

One would expect that the lesson learned from the Arizona game is that preparation during the week is the key to success for these Ducks – no one in the conference is going to roll over and play dead just because they are playing Oregon.

DM: Jake Fisher is being heralded as the difference in Oregon's offensive fortunes Saturday and into the future. Agree?

SS: Fisher’s return was important from the stand point of a returning veteran with three years’ experience provided stability, especially for the younger linemen. Physically, Fisher added some much needed muscle but it seems to me that his presence gave confidence to the other offensive linemen more than anything else.

“I think he's the best offensive lineman in the league," said Oregon Offensive Coordinator Scott Frost of Fisher after the UCLA game. "He played like it today.”

Obviously the Duck coaching staff has a high opinion of Fisher’s contribution.

DM: Is Pellum going to be given time in his new role, or is his seat already heating up?

SS: Winning solves everything so I think Don Pellum’s seat may not be cooled completely it is definitely off the high burner after the Ducks were successful for three quarters against UCLA in holding down a very potent offense. However in the fourth quarter the Bruins managed to run off 20 straight points, even though they came up 12 points short of tying the game. While the Duck defense’s reputation wasn’t helped by the that quarter, the fact that they held UCLA to 10 points while the Duck offense scored 42 somewhat mitigates the situation for Pellum.

Some have suggested that Pellum go into the coach’s box instead of trying to run the defense from the sideline as Aliotti did. I don’t know if I concur with that, but that is something that has been floated around.

DM: Who is the one player in all three phases you feel will impact Saturday's game that we won't necessarily be reading about in the papers? For example, we all know about Marcus Mariota, but who else on offense could spell the difference versus UW? And on defense and special teams?

SS: For offense I’ll nominate tight end Pharaoh Brown. The big man (6-6, 250) provides Marcus Mariota a big target and Brown’s work as a blocker has been noteworthy. Last week he was the leading receiver with five catches for 84 yards and one touchdown on a 31-yard pass play. For the season Brown has caught 15 passes for 215 yards and three touchdowns.

Defensively I’ll go with junior linebacker Joe Walker who has steadily contributed all season long and was particularly effective last week. Walker has been coming in on the defensive rotation and has played well against the run. He is a hardnosed player who isn’t afraid of mixing it up. Walker is the third leading tackler this year with 37 (18 solos) including four TFLs.

On special teams, I’d keep my eye on returner Charles Nelson. So far this year the true freshman has returned one punt 50 yards for a touchdown and seemed to be a heartbeat away from breaking off other big runs on returns.

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