Continuing our look at each of the opponents the Ducks will face in 2012, today Duck Sports Authority brings to you a first look at the first conference opponent the Ducks will face in 2012. After three non-conference opponents all facing an uphill battle, a storyline that will be seemingly the same every week faces Oregon in their first conference game; coaching change. In four of their first five games and five of their first seven games, the Ducks will face an opponent with a new head coach.
The first week of conference play falls into that trend with the Ducks facing the Arizona Wildcats at Autzen. Arizona brought Rich Rodriguez to Tucson to replace the mercurial Mike Stoops.
|Rich Rodriguez was perhaps the most important arrival for Arizona for the 2012 season|
One thing Rodriguez has brought to Tucson which should help them prepare better for teams like Oregon is a fast temp[o practice pace. Rodriguez is dividing his practices into 20 five minute segments. Rodriguez uses a 3 light system to indicate what type of period that the team is running. Red light is for brief water breaks while yellow is for "speed" and the green is for "all-out" periods. If he runs this tempo throughout Spring practices and through fall camp, the Wildcats are sure to be better prepared for the tempo Oregon plays at than in years past.
Returning Starters: 6
Key returners: Matt Scott, 6-3, 197, QB; Kadeem Carey, 5-10, 203, RB; Kyle Quinn, 6-3, 294, Center; Dan Buckner, 6-4, 214 WR
Key Losses: Nick Foles, QB; Juron Criner, WR; Keola Antolin, RB
Key Arrivals: None
Rich Rodriguez will have his work cut out for him in his first year at the helm of the Wildcats. The team lost its starting QB (Foles) leading receiver (Criner) and leading rusher (Antolin) not to mention the second, third and fifth leading receivers from the 2011 squad.
He will have a good start at replacing that production, however, with senior Matt Scott and emerging sophomore Kadeem Carey. Scott is well suited to a spread option offense with better speed than Foles possesses and a better arm than people know about. He will have some tools to work with as Buckner proved to be a dangerous weapon in the passing game and Carey showed last season that he is more than capable with the ball in his hands.
Buckner is the leading returning receiver having accounted for 606 yards on 42 receptions which included 2 touchdowns. Carey carried the ball 91 times for 425 yards. Despite his second strong status in 2011, Carey led the team with 6 rushing touchdowns. Carey also caught 15 balls out of the backfield for 203 yards and 2 additional touchdowns.
There is not a lot of experienced depth at any position on the offense. While Scott should prove to be a good fit for Rodriguez' offense, he did not see any action in 2011 preserving a fifth year of eligibility. Scott has proven a capable passer completing 71% of his passes in 2010 as a backup to Foles. He is also an exceptional ball carrier averaging 6.4 yards per carry for his career carrying the ball 99 times for 632 yards during his first three seasons as a Wildcat.
Early Offense Prediction: Though the team will have its work cut out, the Wildcats have a few very dangerous weapons on the offense that will give a lot of Pac-12 teams fits over the course of the 2012 season. Matt Scott will be able to gain some rushing yards in both scramble situations as well as designed rushing plays. The Wildcats will be able to gain some yards and score some points against the Ducks.
Returning Starters: 7
Key returners: Marquis Flower, 6-3, 220, Junior, FS; Shaquille Richardson, 6-2, 180, Junior, CB; Kirifi Taula, 6-3, 280, Sophomore, DE
Key Losses: Paul Vassallo, LB; Derek Earls, LB; Robert Golden, SS; Trevin Wade, CB
Key Arrivals: Kyle Kelley, DE, 6-3, 230
Though Mike Stoops was considered a defense oriented coach, it was the defense that needed improvement after a poor 2011 showing that saw the Wildcats give up over 460 yards per game and 35.4 points per game last season.
The Wildcats lost their best players on defense to graduation and will have a tough time replacing them in 2012 with no true "impact" players having signed in the 2012 recruiting class. The Wildcats will likely still need to outscore opponents to win games in 2012.
The defensive line was very young in 2011 and the year of experience should help solidify the line, but now Arizona finds itself in need of replacing two exceptional linebackers and its best cover corner.
The Wildcats will be switching to a 3-3-5 defense in 2012 which should alleviate some of the sting of losing their top three tacklers and top three pass rushers. Sophomore cornerback Jonathan McKnight, who missed 2011 due to injury is currently recovering but should be 100% healthy by fall camp which will help the Wildcats depth in the defensive backfield
Early Defense Prediction: Arizona struggled to contain the Ducks over the last two seasons. The best "secret" to defending the Ducks is with dominant defensive linemen that can disrupt the offense with "push" up the middle. Arizona will not be doing themselves any favors running a 3-3-5 against the Ducks, but they should find themselves better equipped to handle themselves in space. Expect the Wildcats to try and attack the edges with their outside linebackers and defensive backs and try to contain the middle with their young, stout defensive line and a middle linebacker. They will struggle to contain the likes of Kenjon Barner and De'Anthony Thomas.
OREGON WILL WIN IF: The Oregon offense should have worked out any early season kinks with the opening three games, this should provide an opportunity for the Ducks to be playing crisp and relatively healthy. Based on the 3-3-5 defense Arizona will be looking to run, expect the Ducks to use the run early to set up passing plays over the middle. The Wildcats will have a difficult time defending the many options Oregon has on offense.
OREGON WILL LOSE IF: If the Duck defense starts to give up big lays to the newest spread option team in the conference and the offense begins to feel "pressured" to score every time it has the ball, expect the inexperience to begin to show. If that happens, the Ducks could lose in an old-fashioned "wild west" shoot-out type game.
PREDICTED OUTCOME: Based on the defensive weaknesses that Arizona has shown and their relatively unimpressive recruiting classes over the last two seasons, do not expect the Wildcats defense to have much bite. Oregon should win this game and move to 4-0 on the season.