In a year full of uncertainty, the Oregon Ducks will look to make the most of 2020 come November 7th when they begin their condensed six game season at home against Stanford.Despite being the overwhelming favorites in the Pac-12 North, the Ducks still have a huge chip on their shoulder. Head coach Mario Cristobal stated Thursday “We live our lives and practice like we have everything to prove”.
After winning the Rose Bowl last January,2020 looked to be Oregon’s year. Everyone knew the departure of senior quarterback Justin Herbert would leave some question marks, but with a talented young group at quarterback and almost every other key starter returning, the Ducks looked poised to contend for a national Championship. Now, they find themselves in facing some huge question marks. Who will start at quarterback? Are six games enough to make the College Football Playoff? Who will fill the voids from player opt-outs? How do they keep their players safe during a pandemic?
Fortunately for the Ducks, they enter the 2020 season with one of deepest groups they’ve ever had. Oregon will feel some big losses with opt outs from Outland Trophy winner Penei Sewell, Jim Thorpe Award finalist Jevon Holland, Defensive Back Thomas Graham, and Safety Brady Breeze, but they’re also confident the returning leaders can help fill those voids. Notably, star defensive end Kayvonthibodeaux will be returning for the Ducks, and after declaring for the NFL Draft senior corner Deommodore Lenoir opted back in for the 2020 season. The Ducks will also bring back an electric set of skill players with running backs CJ Verdell and Travis Dye, along with wide receivers Johnny Johnson III, Jaylon Redd, and Mycah Pittman.
Everything else aside, Oregon’s biggest question is still at the Quarterback position. Mario Cristobal has spoken highly of redshirt sophomore Tyler Shough but hasn’t ruled out the possibility of the graduate transfer from Boston College Anthony Brown or any of the young quarterbacks on the roster from having a legitimate chance to start this season. Speaking on the quarterbacks, Cristobal stated that “Tyler Shough has done a great job…he has a natural field presence; he has a commanding presence”, and In the short amount of time that Anthony Brown has been with the team he has proved that he “is an extremely talented guy that really is hungry, [and] driven, just like Tyler”. When asked to speak on the starting job, Cristobal said “We’ll enter day one with Tyler taking the first reps, and with Anthony taking reps with the twos. But we’re going to make it a competition, but it’s going to start off like that”. Referring to the talented young group in true freshman Jay Butterfield, true freshman Robby Ashford, and redshirt freshman Cale Millen he addedthat“they’re talented guys, and we have to ramp them up… They’re hungry, and as long as they are, they’ll have a shot”.
The 2020 season will also bring in a new wave of challenges as Mario Cristobal and the Oregon staff keep safety priority during the outbreak of COVID-19.They know the entire season is at risk if they don’t get everyone in the program to buy in, and they’ve been speaking to other programs that started their season already to create their protocol. Cristobal stated that “daily testing is the real game changer” and “the protocol is now a way of life. The mask really doesn’t come off. You’re going to have to make sacrifices for the four-month period of time that the season is going to last”.