Updated: Jul 22
Head Coach: Dan Lanning (First Season)
Offensive Coordinator: Kenny Dillingham (First Season)
Defensive Coordinator: Tosh Lupoi (First Season)
2021 Record: 10-4 (Lost to Oklahoma in Alamo Bowl)
2022 Non Conference Opponents: Georgia, Eastern Washington, BYU Key Additions: QB Bo Nix (Auburn), WR Chase Cota (UCLA), CB Christian Gonzalez (Colorado)
With Mario Cristobal taking the head coaching job at Miami, the Ducks decided to bring in former Georgia defensive coordinator Dan Lanning. Fresh off a national championship, many believe Lanning was a great hire. However, at Georgia, Will Muschamp was doing most of the play calling, not Lanning. With that being said I am not as high on Lanning as the consensus, but I believe he could still be a solid head coach as he was able to learn from the likes of Kirby Smart at Georgia. The main thing that has me concerned is Lanning’s ability to coach quarterbacks, which was something both Kirby Smart and Will Muschamp, Lanning’s two main mentors, struggled with.
In his first season at Oregon, Lanning will have Auburn transfer Bo Nix behind center. Nix has had a very odd career to say the least and the main reason for that is his lack of consistency. Since his freshman season, Nix has seen his passing yards as well as his passing touchdowns decrease after every season, which is not a very healthy stat given how highly touted he was as a recruit. Without a doubt though. Nix still has talent and with him making the switch from the SEC to the PAC-12, I think he is due for a solid season. As for the rushing attack, Nix will be a nice addition as he rushed for 18 touchdowns over his three seasons at Auburn. At running back, the Ducks lost longtime contributor Travis Dye to USC so as a result sophomore Byron Cardwell will be given a much larger role than he had in 2021. Last season as a freshman, Cardwell had 61 carries for 418 yards, averaging 6.8 yards per carry, which is extremely impressive. The only downfall in Cardwell’s game is that he is an abysmal blocker, as he had a 26.9 PFF pass blocking grade in 2021. This season, if Cardwell wants to be a true all around threat, he must improve his blocking. At wide receiver, the Ducks lost all their main contributors from 2021 including Devon Williams, who was extremely underrated. To limit the bleeding, they brought in UCLA transfer Chase Cota who simply is not very good. In his four seasons at UCLA, Cota never had a PFF grade above 60 and last season he only caught 54.5% of his targets, making him very unreliable. On top of that, the other starters have little to no experience and the Ducks don’t have a tight end to act as a wide receiver one. This Oregon receiving core is one of the worst in the conference. Without a doubt though, Oregon’s strength on offense is their offensive line, which returns five players who played over 500 snaps in 2021. That experience will help a ton, especially when having a new quarterback and a running back who is starting for the first time in his college career. TJ Bass leads the way on the line, as he played 931 snaps in 2021, while also being an elite run blocker, posting a 90.5 PFF grade in that department. Ryan Walk played the least out of all the starters but look for him to have a breakout campaign as he was productive in every department in 2021.
On defense, the Ducks lost their best player in Kayvon Thibedeux, but still expect their front seven to be extremely elite. On the defensive line, they have Popo Aumavae and Brandon Dorlus, who both played over 500 snaps in 2021 and combined for 56 hurries. Getting both back is huge for the Ducks front seven as they have already solidified themselves as an elite defensive tackle duo. On top of those two studs on the line, the Ducks’ linebacking core is even scarier. Noah Sewell headlines the group, as he put together an incredible 2021 season, which saw him make an impact in every department. As a pass rusher, he had 34 hurries, he had 72 tackles stopping the run, and he also forced two fumbles and picked up an interception. A true all around linebacker and a great leader for the Ducks’ defense. In order for Oregon to truly make the most out of their talent, Justin Flowe MUST stay healthy. The former five star recruit and number one linebacker in the class of 2020 has yet to play more than 65 snaps in a season, making what was a promising career disappointing upto this point. Expect Mase Funa to produce from linebacker and the edge. Funa is a sure tackler, only missing 8.8% of his opportunities in 2021 and his 6’3 265 pound frame will offer great value in the Ducks pass rush too. With the trio of Sewell, Flowe and Funa leading the way for the Oregon defense, expect teams to have trouble running the ball and expect quarterbacks to see those three in their nightmares. The secondary loses their two best cover corners in DJ James and Mykael Wright as well as its best safety in Verone McKinley III. Without a doubt, the Oregon secondary will regress as the only two players with meaningful reps are Jamal Hill, who quarterbacks had a 100 passer rating while targeting and Colorado transfer Christian Gonzalez who had a productive freshman season in 2021, posting a PFF coverage grade of 72.4. The Oregon secondary will undoubtedly struggle early on and might be the downfall of their defense.
Overall, the Ducks will be extremely physical upfront as they have a great front seven and offensive line. However, if they are going to make the jump from good to elite, Bo Nix must be the reason. Opening the season with a loss against the defending national champions is a guarantee for the Ducks. Luckily for them though, that is not the end of the world, as their conference schedule is extremely easy. They avoid USC and get not only UCLA at home, but Utah too. With their physicality on both sides of the ball, expect Oregon to control the tempo of most of their games, and if Bo Nix can keep the ball out of trouble, the Ducks have a good chance to run the table in the PAC-12. I see the Ducks going 8-1 in conference play before falling to Utah in the Conference Championship for the second straight season.
2022 Record Prediction: 10-3 (8-1)
V Georgia (Neutral): Loss
V Eastern Washington: Win
V BYU: Win
AT Washington State: Win
V Stanford: Win
AT Arizona: Loss
V UCLA: Win
AT CAL: Win
AT Colorado: Win
V Washington: Win
V Utah: Win
AT Oregon State: Win
PAC-12 Championship Game: Loss