The 2019 Oregon Ducks are ranked in the preseason top 15 in most national polls. The Ducks are loaded with talent entering the season with the most hype focused on quarterback Justin Herbert a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate. Oregon opens against Auburn in Texas and any chances to reach the College Football Playoff could hinge on the outcome of that first game.
Herbert passed up a possible No. 1 selection in the NFL draft to play a fourth and final season with the Ducks. Herbert will be protected by an offensive line with over 150 career starts and a set of skills position players deep in talent. Herbert threw for 3,151 yards and 29 touchdowns last season. Three offensive linemen return as four-year starters and Penei Sewell returns from an injury that shortened his 2018 season at left tackle.
Graduate transfer Juwan Johnson gives the Ducks receiving unit a huge boost, while true freshman Mycah Pittman is expected to see action early and often. Returning for the Ducks to provide even more targets for Herbert will be Brenden Schooler and Johnny Johnson III. The running game features CJ Verdell and Travis Dye. Verdell is the power back and Dye the speed burner. Cyrus Habibi-Likio will see action in special situations.
The red zone defense in 2018 was a key to Oregon’s success. Opponents had to kick field goals 43% of the time when in the red zone, which helped the Ducks hide deficiencies in its defense against the run and on third-down. The front four will return Austin Faoliu and Gus Cumberlander with top recruit Kayvon Thibodeaux expected to do big things from the start. Jordon Scott at nose tackle is the cornerstone of the line.
Troy Dye is a tackling machine at inside linebacker. Last season Dye had 115 tackles. Isaac Slade-Matautia returns as the other inside linebacker, while on the outside La’Mar Winston Jr. returns and Bryson Young rounds out the staring four at linebacker. The secondary has a pair of three-year starters in Deommodore Lenoir and Thomas Graham Jr. Jevon Holland returns as the starting free safety while the strong safety will be fought over between Brady Breeze and Nick Pickett, and Verone McKinley III will play nickel.
With Justin Herbert back under center, the Oregon Ducks offense is expected to put up big numbers on the scoreboards. However, the defense needs to step up if the Ducks want to play in the Rose Bowl and have an opportunity to win the national championship. A subpar rushing defense from last season must be fixed and third-down defense needs to be improved for Oregon to be a true title contender. Projected win total 11