Ducks Jump In Rankings For First Time Since 2007

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Ducks Jump In Rankings For First Time Since 2007

After a weekend sweep against Arizona, some of the conference's top teams, the Ducks jump to 21 in the AP Poll.

After Sunday's close win, Tony Woods said in response to leading the PAc-12, "We had high hopes. I expected to be here. We have a lot of talent, and I feel like we deserve to be here."

The Ducks are now 14-2, 3-0 in the Pac-12. Later this week, the Ducks will make their first conference road trip to Los Angeles, where they will face USC on Thursday and No. 24 UCLA on Saturday. Both can be found nationally televised.

The Ducks hopes just got a little higher, too, and that confidence is paying off. The Ducks take on USC Thursday, an easy target, considering Coach Kevin O'Neill just got the boot.

The full AP poll:

Team (First votes)  Record  Points  Previous
1. Louisville (36)    15-1    1,591     3
2. Indiana (13)      15-1    1,527     5
3. Duke (14)         15-1    1,501     1
4. Kansas (1)        14-1    1,416     6
5. Michigan (1)      16-1    1,415     2
6. Syracuse           16-1    1,284     7
7. Arizona             15-1     1,205    4
8. Gonzaga           16-1     1,141    9
9. Minnesota         15-2     1,041    8
10. Florida            12-2     1,019   11
11. Ohio St.          13-3       939    15
12. Creighton        16-1       896    13
13. Butler             14-2       855    14
14. NC State         14-2       836    20
15. San Diego St.  14-2       704    16
16. Kansas St.      13-2       670    18
17. Missouri          12-3       598    10
18. Michigan St.    14-3       426    22
19. New Mexico     15-2       368    25
20. Notre Dame     14-2      295     17
21. Oregon            14-2      238      _
22. VCU                 14-3      212     _
23. Illinois              14-4      199    12
24. UCLA               14-3       185     _
25. Marquette        12-3       177     _

Royce Freeman and LaMichael James connected within Oregon's RB fraternity

Royce Freeman and LaMichael James connected within Oregon's RB fraternity

HOLLYWOOD, Calif. - Oregon running back Royce Freeman remains the unassuming superstar. 

He seeks to avoid media attention like he does defenders. Freeman juked virtually all media during spring drills with a well conceived class schedule that left him unavailable. 

"Had to dip and dodge," he said with a smile. 

Being the face of the team, so to speak, meant Freeman found himself in a pool infested with media during Pac-12 media days, which started today in Hollywood. 

He couldn't avoid the questions or the spotlight. He handled himself well, as usual, deflecting questions that revolved around him and redirecting them toward the team. 

When asked about East Coast bias maybe impacting West Coast teams and players, Freeman didn't bite. Nor did he when asked about being overshadowed by Stanford senior running back Christian McCaffrey, last year's Pac-12 offensive player of the year and runner-up in the Heisman Trophy balloting. 

"I feel like you get what you deserve," Freeman said. "If you want praise and everything, then you're a 'me' guy, and that's not me."

How well Freeman is viewed nationally, he can't control. The Ducks, picked by the media to finish fifth in the Pac-12, must win big for his rushing numbers to get him into the Heisman race. And the field is deep, with several returners that placed within the top six in voting last season. 

However, there is one area where Freeman could make a lasting name for himself and cement his place within Oregon football lore for decades to come. The 235-pound Freeman, who wears No. 21,  needs 1,880 yards to surpass the most famous No. 21 in program history, LaMichael James' career rushing mark of 5,082, set from 2009 through 2011. Freeman has 3,203 career yards after rushing for 1,838 in 2015. 

Freeman said he's connected with James and the two have talked. 

"He's motivating me to be the best I can be," Freeman said. "It's just a family, as far as the running back culture."

James, who excelled at 180 to 190 pounds depending on the season, said he has encouraged Freeman to remain selfless, be a leader, allow his play to inspire others to work harder. He added that he would like nothing more than to see Freeman surpass him - again. Freeman last year broke James' single-season rushing mark.  

"Some people's egos get bruised but not mine," James said of having his records fall. "Every record I broke those guys were extremely happy for me. But I knew the records meant nothing in the long run. It's how you conduct yourself as a player."

Freeman said he hasn't given much thought to James' record. 

"Not really registering," he said. "I have a long way to go."

To get there, Freeman said he must continue to improve. Last season he worked on being better in open space. This season he wants to better use his weight as a weapon by running better "behind his pads," meaning using his power and pads as a weapon to inflict more damage. 

"I feel like that will compliment me as a bigger back," Freeman said. 

A better Freeman would certainly be a scarier Freeman for the Pac-12 to contend with. 
 

Helfrich, Freeman express pride in Devon Allen's Olympic run

Helfrich, Freeman express pride in Devon Allen's Olympic run

HOLLYWOOD, Calif. - One of the hot Oregon-related topics at Pac-12 media days had nothing to do with football. 

Ducks' redshirt junior wide receiver Devon Allen's victory in the 110-meter hurdles during the U.S. Olympic Trials at Hayward Field in Eugene sent him to the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio and jolts of pride through UO football coach Mark Helfrich.

"It's awesome," Helfrich said today. "I was tearing up that night and I get misty every time I sit down and think about it for a while because he's just such a good dude."

Allen's Olympic endeavors could ultimately lead to him giving up football, although that decision remains unaddressed and very much up in the air. 

Allen started for the football team as a redshirt freshman in 2014 before injuring his knee returning a kickoff during the Rose Bowl. He returned to action last season but simply wasn't quite the same. Now nearly 20 months removed from the injury, Allen should be expected to return to his past form on the football field. 

Helfrich said Allen has been present at team development activities over the summer, and appears to be very much planning to return to football. Should Allen not return, the Ducks would be just fine at receiver, a testament to how well they have recruited the position. 

Oregon lost Bralon Addison and Byron Marshall to the NFL, and Kirk Merritt transfered. Losing Allen would compound the long list of departures at the position. Most teams would be devastated by such a loss of talent. Not Oregon. 

Senior Dwayne Stanford, redshirt junior Darren Carrington Jr. and junior Charles Nelson will likely start. Then there's redshirt sophomore Jalen Brown, who missed spring drills with injuries but Helfirch said is now back at full strength, and freshman Dillon Mitchell, who had two touchdowns in the spring game.

"We're very excited about that position," Helfrich said. "Obviously we would love to have Devon back just to solidify everything...but we're all so excited about our young guys there as well as our guys coming back."

First things first. Helfrich and the team want to see Allen win gold in Rio.

"It's crazy," UO running back Royce Freeman said of Allen's accomplishment. "I'm proud of my boy, Devon...Wishing all the best when he does go to Rio. Him qualifying and winning that race was great."

Freeman watched first hand as Allen went down against Florida State only to work his way back onto the football field and into the Olympics. 

"I'm excited for him," Freeman said. "Especially after his injury, it's well deserved. He's worked hard to accomplish that. I really couldn't think of anybody more deserving than that guy after his injury."

Freeman said he expects Allen to dazzle in Rio. 

"He's going to win it," Freeman said. "The boy is talented and he's blessed. And he's a hard worker."

Oregon picked third in Pac-12 North, fifth in conference

Oregon picked third in Pac-12 North, fifth in conference

HOLLYWOOD, Calif. - My how the mighty Ducks have fallen. 

After winning four conference championships in eight seasons and playing in two national title games, the Oregon Ducks shine has lost some shimmer. At least with those who cover the Pac-12 Conference. 

Media members picked Oregon to finish fourth in the Pac-12 North and fifth overall. Not one media member gave a vote of confidence that the Ducks would win the Pac-12 title game. 

"We know it's not as big of a target (on our backs)," UO junior running back Royce Freeman. "It's a long season. That's all I have to say... no matter where you're projected to end up in the conference, you just gotta win football games."

Oregon coach Mark Helfrich also brushed off the poll, as he said his team does with every poll.

"I don't think we've ever mentioned the BCS," he said. "I don't think we've ever mentioned the College Football Playoff. I don't think we've ever mentioned any poll. No offense, but it just doesn't happen."

Here is how the voting went, announced today at Pac-12 Media Days:

PAC-12 NORTH

1. Stanford (24 first-place votes), 186 points

2. Washington (8), 163

3. Oregon (1), 132

4. Washington State, 112

5. California, 67

6. Oregon State, 33

 

PAC-12 SOUTH

1. UCLA (19), 180

2. USC (12), 173

3. Utah (2), 127

4. Arizona, 87

5. Arizona State, 85

6. Colorado, 63 

Stanford received 20 votes to win the Pac-12 title game, followed by USC (5), Washignton (4), UCLA (3) and Utah (1). 

--- 

Of course, polls are for entertainment purposes only. If they always proved correct, Las Vegas sportsbooks would go out of business. 

Oregon certainly does have enough question marks to warrant such a low ranking. The Ducks (9-4 last season) lost six of their front-seven starters on defense, including conference defensive player of the year, DeForest Buckner, from a unit that ranked 115th in the nation. Oregon is once again turning to a transfer quarterback from the Big Sky Conference, Dakota Prukop out of Montana State, and the offensive line must replace two key starters now in NFL camps. 

Furthermore, the rest of the conference has improved dramatically since Chip Kelly coached at Oregon. It's simply not the same conference he dominated durihng his four seasons as the Ducks head coach (2009-2012). 

Still, Oregon is very talented in most areas and has a lot of players poised for breakthrough seasons. The Ducks could very well end up with the last laugh. That said, the voting is further indication that the Ducks' national title window indeed closed for the forseable future after quarterback Marcus Mariota left for the NFL following the 2014 season. 

Devon Allen's family creates GoFundMe to help get to Rio

Devon Allen's family creates GoFundMe to help get to Rio

Devon Allen won the 110-meter hurdles Saturday in the U.S. Olympic Trials at Hayward Field. Allen will represent University of Oregon and the USA in the 2016 Summer Olympics.

Allen's school-record time of 13.03 is the second-fastest in the world this year.

Allen's parents, Louis and Bernadette, have created a GoFundMe to help with trip expenses to watch their son compete in Rio De Janeiro. 

The fund goal is $15,000; the rasied money would cover airfare, room, ground transportation and some meals for 10 days. Within 18 hours and 59 donations, the fund has raised $3,420. 

To donate or read the note from Devon's parents go to this website: https://www.gofundme.com/2cmqfv3f .

Devon Allen hurdles his way to the Olympics

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Devon Allen hurdles his way to the Olympics

Most guys clear 10 hurdles. Devon Allen took an extra leap.

The University of Oregon receiver and hurdler for the Ducks track team became a U.S. Olympian on Saturday.

Allen won the 110-meter hurdles at trials and celebrated by racing over to the seats and jumping into the stands to hug his family.

“It was a really exciting moment for me,” said Allen, who became the first man to win the 110 hurdles at trials and NCAA championships since 1956. “It’s something I wanted to share with my family. I’m glad they could be here.”

Allen won in a school-record time of 13.03 seconds, holding off runner-up Ronnie Ashand Jeff Porter. The rest of the results were as surprising as the three qualifiers for Rio.

Defending Olympic champion Aries Merritt finished fourth, falling just short of making the team after a kidney transplant. Jason Richardson, 2012 Olympic silver medalist, was fifth, and 2008 Olympic bronze medalist David Oliver withdrew just before the final with a tweaked left hamstring.

“It seemed like age didn’t give you the experience factor that you’re used to,” the 30-year-old Richardson said. “It seemed like it was more of a handicap. Tried to will myself to this last Olympics.”

Merritt won a bronze medal at the 2015 world championships in Beijing on a kidney that was working at 10 percent capacity. After receiving a new one from his sister in September and going through another surgery because of complications in October, he hurt his groin five weeks ago and wasn’t in top form.

“For me to be where I am is a miracle,” said Merritt, the world-record holder in the event. “It’s a pity that I’m not going to the Games. I know in six weeks times I’ll be in much better shape and probably pull off something similar as I did in Beijing. However, that’s not the case.”

CONTINUE READING

Kirk Merritt transfers to Texas A&M

Kirk Merritt transfers to Texas A&M

Two weeks after promising wide receiver Kirk Merritt left Oregon, the sophomore has found a landing spot. And that spot is in the SEC with Texas A&M. 

The former four-star recruit out of Louisiana announced his transfer on Twitter:

Merritt played in 12 games last season as a true freshman, catching five passes for 61 yards while displaying elite level elusiveness. Oregon also used him on special teams and in spot duty at receiver. 

With the departure of receivers Byron Marshall and Bralon Addison to the NFL, Merritt figured to see an expanded role in 2016 and been in line to start by 2017. 

Now at A&M, NCAA transfer rules will force him to sit out a year. The season will essentially serve as a redshirt season and Merritt will have three years of eligibility remaining beginning in 2017.

Return of Dylan Ennis makes Oregon a Final Four favorite

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Return of Dylan Ennis makes Oregon a Final Four favorite

Before I begin making thrashing and gurgling sounds as if I'm drowning myself in Oregon Ducks basketball Kool-Aid, allow me to assure you that I have not yet booked my travel plans to Arizona for the 2017 NCAA Final Four. 

But only because CSNNW management won't allow me to do so nine months out. I fully plan to be on hand to cover the Ducks next April.

The news that senior guard Dylan Ennis has been granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA after missing most of last season with a leg injury, reported by Tyson Alger of The Oregonian, cements the Ducks greatest ever returning collection of accomplished talent, and should make them a favorite to reach the Final Four.

Ennis,who averaged 9.9 points and 3.5 assists at Villanova two seasons ago, is a dynamic playmaker that will elevate the Ducks' offense and draw attention away from other scorers. Some said he was the best player on Oregon's team before he went down. 

Adding him makes up for the loss of senior forward Elgin Cook and leaves the Ducks with no excuses other than bad luck to not reach the Final Four. 

Oregon simply checks all the boxes:

  • Returning experience: The Ducks will welcome back four starters and five of their seven main rotation players headlined by junior forward Dillon Brooks, sophomroe guard Tyler Dorsey and senior center Chris Boucher.
  • Recent success to build upon: Returning talent means little if that talent didn't go anywhere the previous season. That's clearly not the case here. The Ducks won a program record 31 games and for the first time ever captured the Pac-12 regular season and tournament championships in the same season. 
  • Tournament experience: Oregon entered last year's tournament as a No. 1 seed and reached the West Region finals where it lost to a much more experienced Oklahoma team. Along the way, Oregon defeated Duke to capture one of the greatest victories in program history. 
  • Depth: Oregon, mostly limited to a seven-man rotation last season, could go nine or 10 deep next season. Ennis and junior forward Jordan Bell will likely end up in the starting lineup. Junior point guard Casey Benson and junior college transfer, center Kavell Bigby-Williams will be the primary backups. Also, three four-star recruits join the team, point guard Payton Pritchard, guard Kevin Smith and guard M.J. Cage.  Guard Kendall Small played last season, as well. 
  • Versatility: The Ducks will be able to play small ball with Ennis, Dorsey, Brooks, Benson and Bell or Boucher, or go much bigger with the 6-foot-10 twin towers, Boucher and Bigby-Williams. Both are intimidating shot blockers who can score. Bell certainly can block shots and has vowed to work on his offensive game. The depth and versatility will allow coach Dana Altman to match up with any team's strengths while also forcing opponents to deal with whatever it is Oregon choses to do on the court. 
  • Coaching: Atlman has proven to be a very good in-game coach and his emphasis on defense has paid off well for Oregon. He has simply needed the right mix of experience and talent to push the Ducks along. He has that now more so than ever. 
  • Star power: Brooks and Dorsey tested the NBA waters before wisely returning. Both need work before they are ready for the big time, but each certainly has NBA-caliber talent. 
  • Hunger: The Ducks haven't been to the Final Four since 1939 (won national title) but have reached the Elite Eight three times since 2002. The emotion in the locker room following the team's loss to Oklahoma was palpable, and many players vowed to work even harder to get over the hump next season. The return of Ennis ads to the hunger of this team. He watched his former team win the national title last season without him. 

Nothing is ever guaranteed in sports, espcially one with a single-elimination tournament like college basksetball. Nevertheless, Oregon will be flat ou better than it was last season, which makes taking the next step both logical and expected. 

 

NCAA Grants Ennis Sixth Year

NCAA Grants Ennis Sixth Year

EUGENE, Ore. – Senior guard Dylan Ennis’ petition for a sixth-year of eligibility was granted by the NCAA on Thursday.

Officially termed a Fifth-Year Rule Waiver, Ennis was granted a sixth year “based upon the totality of the circumstances and student-athlete well-being,” according to the NCAA.

Ennis appeared in just two games for Oregon in 2015-16 due to a left foot injury. The injury to the foot was initially discovered in the fall, after which Ennis went through surgery and rehabilitation, before returning to action Dec. 29. He played against Western Oregon and Oregon State before re-aggravating the injury.

The Brampton, Ontario, native transferred to Oregon from Villanova as a graduate senior in the summer of 2015. He averaged 9.9 points per game as the Wildcats won the 2014-15 Big East title and advanced to the NCAA Tournament’s third round.

Ennis is pursuing a graduate degree in conflict and dispute resolution.

Ducks working on potential top 20 recruiting class

Ducks working on potential top 20 recruiting class

Oregon's 2017 recruiting class is starting an upward climb in the national rankings that could land in the teens come signing day. 

The Ducks' class has jumped from No. 55 to No. 44 in the nation according to Rivals.com's rankings thanks to three huge gets in the past 10 days. 

Four-star linebacker Sampson Niu and four-star defensive back Deommodore Lenoir committed to Oregon last Thursday giving the Ducks four four-star commits among the eight players total that have said they will attend UO in 2017.  Oregon also received a commit from three-star tight end Moses Robinson-Carr on Monday. 

The program's 2016 recruiting class included just five four-star recruits out of 18 signees. There is reason to believe that Oregon could end up with closer to the eight four-star recruits signed to the 2015 class, which ranked 17th in the nation. 

According to A.J. Jacobson of DuckSportsAuthority, Oregon is in a strong position with several other four-star recruits that could commit soon. Jacobson has routinely said that although Oregon's class started out low in numbers, it was not because the Ducks were striking out with targeted players, but that said players had yet to make decisions. Several have made decisions lately, thus the influx of committments flowing Oregon's way. 

The program has historically (save for this year) closed strongly, so expect some big time commitments in January, weeks before signing day. 

 

 

Very strong month for Oregon football recruiting

Very strong month for Oregon football recruiting

It's been a very strong June for Oregon Football's 2017 recruiting class. The Ducks have eight total commits, six of which committed in June.

The most impressive part? Four of those commits are ranked as 4-star athletes. For a more in-depth look into Oregon's commits, check out the video above. 

[RELATED: Oregon recruiting bolstered by commitment from LB Sampson Niu