Helfrich: UCLA defensive scouting report
Oregon's Ducks have known all season that their two biggest games would come at this point of the season. There's never been much doubt that UCLA and Stanford, particularly the latter, would be the story of their season. And frankly, the games leading up to those haven't offered much competition.
And that's why I've believed all season Oregon has been holding back a few things. I don't think the playbook has been wide open all season long. Trust me, I don't have any idea what they're keeping in their bag of tricks, but I figure there are things tucked inside with "Stanford" (and maybe "UCLA") written all over them.
And coincidentally, as you know by now, De'Anthony Thomas makes his return to the lineup this week against the Bruins and that's going to probably bring surprises, too. I'd be shocked if Thomas takes a regular turn at running back for any length of time, for instance. The smart play is to return him to the slash position -- slot receiver/wide receiver/running back, a bit of everything. When you move him all over the field you make it tougher on the defense to focus on him. And I know Coach Mark Helfich is creative enough to continually find new ways to get Thomas into open space with the ball.
And then you leave Byron Marshall and Thomas Tyner to split the running back duties.
And what I have been thinking about for weeks now is the possibility of getting Marcus Mariota, Thomas, Marshall, Tyner and emerging star receiver Bralon Addison all on the field at the same time. Now THAT is a lot of playmakers for a defense to worry about, particularly in the Oregon spread, where a hand-off or a pass can head in anybody's direction at any time.
I'm positive that I'm not football-savvy enough to catch all the little wrinkles that coaches add to their game plans every week. But I know I wouldn't want to be UCLA or Stanford trying to construct a defensive game plan for Oregon right now.
The Ducks have simply not needed to play all their cards yet. And so I think they've still got quite a few up their sleeve.