Oregon 2017 Outlook - RBs: Royce Freeman's return means Ducks remain loaded

Oregon 2017 Outlook - RBs: Royce Freeman's return means Ducks remain loaded

Oregon's worst season (4-8) since 1991 (3-8) led to a coaching change. Yet, the Ducks' cupboard is hardly bare for new coach Willie Taggart. We will take a position-by-position look at what the new coaching staff will have to work with while trying to turn things around in 2017.

Other entries: Quarterbacks; Tight ends, Wide receivers, Offensive line, Defensive line, Linebackers, Defensive backs

Today: Running backs.

Key loss: None. 

Projected 2017 starter: Royce Freeman, Sr., (5-11, 230). 

Key backups: Tony Brooks-James, RJr., (5-9, 185), Kani Benoit, RSr., (6-0, 210), Taj Griffin, Jr., (5-10, 180).

What we know: Freeman's return was not required for Oregon to remain potent at this position but having him back certainly gives new running backs coach Donte Pimpleton less to worry about in 2017.

Freeman, should he remain healthy, will likely break LaMichael James' career rushing mark of 5,082 yards. Freeman, who has 4,148 for his career, needs 934 yards to tie James.

What might be more intriguing than watching Freeman chase history is seeing how Brooks-James evolves as a player. He showed flashes of elite ability last season while filling in for an injured Freeman to the point where he became the primary ball carrier in several games, even starting at USC. Had Freeman entered the NFL Draft, next season would have been Brooks-James' time to shine as the starter, but he should still receive enough carries to surpass the 771 yards he racked up last season on 7.6 per carry. Brooks-James will likely be the featured back in 2018 should he stick around for his senior season. 

Benoit, like Brooks-James, has shown abilities worthy of a starter but he won't get that chance with Freeman's return. Nevertheless, Benoit (300 yards last season) gives Oregon a starting-caliber running back off the bench. 

What we don't know: Griffin was lost for the season with a knee injury in early November. He should be able to recover by the start of next season, but where he fits in as a specialty back in Taggart's offense remains to be seen. Chances are Griffin settles back into his role of receiving spot carries in the hopes he breaks a long one, as he did with a 50-yard touchdown run at Nebraska last season. 

UO has two running backs committed to the 2017 class. Both should plan on redshirting behind this group. 

Final word: This position carries with it the least amount of mystery on the team. Pimpleton should have the easiest transition out of all of Oregon's new assistant coaches.  

Position grade: A. Oregon should lead the conference in rushing once again.  

Next up: Tight ends.

Dillon Brooks' game-winner caps Oregon comeback in 68-65 win at Cal

Dillon Brooks' game-winner caps Oregon comeback in 68-65 win at Cal

No. 6 Oregon 68, California 65

How Oregon won: Oregon junior forward Dillon Brooks made a three-point basket from straight away with two tenths of a second remaining to give the Ducks a 68-65 win Wednesday night against California at Haas Pavillion in Berkeley, Calif.

The winning shot, which was very similar to the one Brooks made on Dec. 29 during an 89-87 win at home over UCLA, ended a furious late run by UO to steal a game the Ducks trailed most of the night. 

The Ducks (24-4, 13-2 Pac-12) trailed 20-7 with seven minutes remaining in the first half after making just 2 out of their first 15 shot attempts, including missing all seven three point attempts within the first 13 minutes.

Oregon trailed 30-16 at halftime after scoring a season-low for a half, and trailed 37-21 with 16:51 remaining in the game. 

The Ducks got to within 39-30 with 13:43 remaining but then fell behind 47-34 with 10:06 remaining in the game thanks to California continuing to apply defensive pressure and make timely shots to stem any UO attempts at making a run. 

Oregon finally began to truly chip away at its deficit minutes later before getting to within striking distance late as Cal (18-8, 9-5) began to crumble by committing critical late turnovers.  

What it means: The Ducks put pressure on Arizona (25-3, 14-1) to continue winning. The Wildcats host USC Thursday night. Arizona leads Oregon by one game in the Pac-12 standings, but the Ducks hold the head-to-head tie breaker. 

Key sequence: Oregon trailed 59-52 before senior guard Dylan Ennis and freshman guard Payton Pritchard hit back-to-back three-pointers to make the score 59-58 with 3:07 remaining.

A score inside by senior forward Chris Boucher off of an assist from Pritchard gave the Ducks a 62-61 lead with two minutes remaining.

Cal's Grant Mullins gave his team a brief one-point lead before Brooks hit a jumper to make it 64-63, UO with 58 seconds remaining.

UO guard Tyler Dorsey's two free throws gave the Ducks a 65-63 lead, but Cal answered with a jumper from Ivan Rabb that tied the game at 65 with seven seconds remaining.

That led to the Brooks' heroics. 

High flying Ducks: Brooks had a game-high 22 points and Boucher scored 18 to go along with six rebounds off the bench. 

Oregon shot 46.3 percent from the field and made seven of its final 14 three-point attempts to get back into the game and win it. 

The Ducks committed just seven turnovers. 

Fowl play: Dorsey made just one of 8 shot attempts to finish with five points. Other than Boucher, the UO bench contributed zero scoring. 

Up next: Oregon continues its road trip Saturday at Stanford (13-13, 5-9) with a 3 p.m. tipoff.  

No. 6 Oregon can't allow momentum to wane on the road

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USA Today

No. 6 Oregon can't allow momentum to wane on the road

No. 7 Oregon has hit its stride. The defense has been dominant and the offense has been buzzing. 

About the only negative that can be said about the Ducks this season is that they have lost four games away from Matthew Knight Arena.

"We need to figure out how to stay focused on the road and not have letdowns," senior forward Chris Boucher told reporters on Tuesday. 

Yes, but lamenting that is nitpicking of the highest order. 

Oregon (24-4, 13-2 Pac-12) plays at California (18-8, 9-5) tonight in the final real "test" of the regular season. It's a "test" only because the game will be played away from Matthew Knight Arena where the Ducks enjoy a nation-leading, 41-game home winning streak. The Ducks squished Cal at home by the score of 86-43 on Jan. 19.  None of Oregon's final games of the season should be much trouble. Not Cal, and certainly not games at Stanford (13-13, 5-9) and Oregon State (5-23, 1-14). 

But if we were to search for a game that could hold some intrigue it would be tonight's 6 p.m. contest. 

"Cal is fighting for an NCAA berth and they'll give us everything," UO coach Dana Altman told reporters.

For that reason, UO should at least be leery. Still, if the Ducks are expecting to make a run at a national title they should be able to handle Cal in any arena. Yes, Cal does have size.

"Cal killed us with (19) offensive rebounds last time," Altman said.

Oregon had just 18 defensive rebounds. 

Nevertheless, Oregon won that game in blowout fashion. That said, Cal is a different team at home where its only two losses this season have come against No. 18 Virginia and No. 4 Arizona (25-3, 14-1). 

Let's get back to that home-away thing. Oregon's home vs. road play is slightly skewed. The Ducks are undefeated at home, which makes the four road losses appear glaring. If Oregon had two home losses and two road losses, nobody would care. So let's examine the team's four losses away from MKA. 

  1. Oregon lost at No. 9 Baylor without Dillon Brooks. Excusable. 
  2. The Ducks lost to Georgetown at the Maui Invitational the day Brooks returned to action. Hey, any loss in Hawaii is understandable. 
  3. The loss at Colorado (16-12, 6-9) could be viewed as just one of those nights, but that was at least a questionable loss. 
  4. Losing 82-79 at No. 5 UCLA (24-3, 11-3) two weeks ago was more than respectable. 

So, that's one questionable loss out of four. Not bad. For the Ducks to avoid a fifth loss away from MKA they must find the defensive mojo they seem to enjoy at home. 

"We have had some great spurts on the road with our defense, but we haven't done it for long enough periods of time," Altman said. 

Junior guard Casey Benson told reporters that the defensive energy must be produced from within because the home fans won't be able to give the team a boost. 

"We just have to pick each other up and bring our own energy," Benson said. 

From here on out the Ducks won't be able to rely on the home crowd to help them. So tonight is a good of a night as any for the Ducks to show that they don't need to play at home to be consistently dominant. 

Former Oregon OC Matt Lubick joins Petersen’s staff at UW

Former Oregon OC Matt Lubick joins Petersen’s staff at UW

Former Oregon offensive coordinator Matt Lubick has accepted a job as the Washington Huskies co-offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach, the school announced Wednesday.

Lubick, who coached at Oregon for the past four seasons, is joining his third new team since the end of the college football season. Lubick was not retained by new Oregon head coach Willie Taggart, and in late December was hired as the wide receivers coach at Ole Miss’.  However, his return to the school he coached at from 2005 to 2006 did not last long. In early January he jumped ship to take the co-offensive coordinator job at Baylor.

Just over a month later, he is on the move again and making is return to the Pac-12.

“I am excited to add Matt to our coaching staff,” Petersen said in a prepared statement. “He has earned a national reputation as an innovative coaching mind and a successful recruiter. Equally as important, we believe he will be a terrific fit with our staff, players and the University of Washington.”

Lubick will coordinate the offense with Jonathan Smith, who has coached the Huskies offense since 2013. It is a reunion of sorts for the two. Lubick was the defensive backs coach at Oregon State at the same time Smith was a record setting quarterback for the Beavers.

The Huskies open the season on September 1, at Rutgers, and play host to Lubick’s former team (and UW rival), the Oregon Ducks, on November 4.

Oregon officially hires Marcus Arroyo as co-offensive coordinator

Oregon officially hires Marcus Arroyo as co-offensive coordinator

EUGENE – Willie Taggart has announced the addition of Marcus Arroyoas the Ducks’ new co-offensive coordinator, as well as the team’s quarterbacks and tight ends coach.

Arroyo came to Eugene after spending two years as the running backs coach at Oklahoma State. His second year with the Cowboys brought a substantial uptick in the running game from 2015, as OSU went from averaging 3.6 yards per carry and 126.8 yards per game to averaging 4.52 yards per carry and 170.9 yards per game in 2016. The Cowboys’ 32 touchdowns in 2016 were also an improvement from their 25 in 2015.

Arroyo was also instrumental in grooming running back Justice Hill, who set OSU’s freshman rushing record in 2016 and was the nation’s top freshman rusher with 1,142 yards on 206 carries (5.54 ypc).

Prior to going to Stillwater, Arroyo spent the 2014-15 season in the NFL as interim offensive coordinator and play-caller for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He originally went to Tampa Bay to coach quarterbacks, but after a health procedure sidelined Bucs offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford, Arroyo took on the OC duties.

With Arroyo at the helm of the Tampa Bay offense, receivers Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson both eclipsed 1,000 yards receiving, the first time in team history a pair of receivers went over 1,000 yards. Evans also set franchise rookie records with 68 receptions, 1,051 yards and 12 touchdowns to become one of five finalists for NFL Rookie of the Year.

Before making the move to the NFL, Arroyo spent the 2013 season as the offensive coordinator and outside receivers coach at Southern Mississippi. Operating in Arroyo’s offense, true freshman quarterback Nick Mullens earned a spot on the Conference USA all-freshman team.

Arroyo gained experience working in the Pac-12 before going to USM, spending 2011 and 2012 as the passing-game coordinator and play-caller at California. Arroyo helped quarterback Zach Maynard work his way into the school’s career top 10 in both passing yards (5,204) and total offense (5,350) in only two seasons, and his 128.36 career passer efficiency rating is eighth in Cal history.

Arroyo spent the 2009 and 2010 campaigns at Wyoming as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, developing quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels into the Mountain West Conference Freshman of the Year in 2009. Arroyo installed a new spread offense in 2009 that helped the Cowboys score 30 points or more five times and mount five fourth-quarter comebacks. Arroyo’s offense was stellar at taking care of the football, finishing seventh in the nation in fewest turnovers lost with only 14.

Prior to his stint at Wyoming, Arroyo was the co-offensive coordinator for two seasons and quarterbacks coach for three campaigns at his alma mater, San Jose State. He was the quarterbacks coach and play-caller for the Spartans in 2006, and added co-offensive coordinator duties for 2007 and 2008 under head coach Dick Tomey. Arroyo tutored the Spartans’ all-time leader in passing and total offense, Adam Tafralis, from 2006-07, guiding him to 7,548 career passing yards and 8,111 yards of total offense. Arroyo was an offensive graduate assistant at San Jose State in 2005 before being elevated to a full-time assistant.

Arroyo began his coaching career with the Spartans in 2003 as an undergraduate assistant coach. He was the offensive coordinator at Prairie View A&M (FCS) in 2004 before returning to San Jose State as a graduate assistant.

A native of Colfax, Calif., Arroyo was a three-year letterman at San Jose State, where he played quarterback from 1998-2002. In 2000, he passed for 2,334 yards and 15 touchdowns while leading the Spartans to seven wins, their most in eight seasons.

 

How Oregon's recruits fit in: DBs - Graham and Lenoir could push for instant playing time

How Oregon's recruits fit in: DBs - Graham and Lenoir could push for instant playing time

Oregon coach Willie Taggart last week signed his first recruiting class, which Rivals.com ranked No. 18 in the nation. Now CSN is taking a look at how each new recruit could fit into the Ducks' plans next season.

Other entries: QuarterbacksRunning backsWide receivers/tight endsOffensive line, Defensive lineLinebackers

Today: Defensive backs.

New Ducks: Cornerback Thomas Graham Jr. (6-0, 175, Rancho Cucamonga H.S., Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.) and safeties Deommodore Lenoir (5-11, 183, Salesian H.S., Los Angeles, Calif.), Nick Pickett (6-1, 187, Salesian H.S., Los Angeles, Calif.) and Billy Gibson (6-1, 185, Miami Southridge H.S., Hialeah, Fla.). 

Projected starters: Cornerbacks Arrion Springs, Sr., (5-11, 205) and Ugo Amadi, (5-10, 195). Safeties Brenden Schooler, Soph., (6-2, 190) and Tyree Robinson, RSr., (6-4, 205).

Key backups: Cornerbacks - Tyree Robinson, RSr., (6-4, 205),  Malik Lovette, RSo., (5-11, 200) and Jihree Stewart, RSo., (6-0, 182). Safeties - Khalil Oliver, RJr., (6-0, 205), Juwaan Williams, RSr., (6-0, 200), Brady Breeze, RFr., (6-1, 205), Mattrell McGraw, RJr., (5-10, 195) and Fotu T. Leiato II, Jr., (6-1, 200). 

The situation: Oregon's landed two potentially elite defensive backs in Graham and Lenoir. Both should push a secondary that certainly didn't play impressive football in 2016. 

Graham, a four-star recruit rated by Rivals.com as the No. 12 cornerback in the nation, has a chance to push Springs and Amadi for a starting cornerback job. Lenoir, a four-star recruit rated as the top athlete in the nation, definitely could start at safety or be moved to cornerback.

Remember when Budda Baker got away from Oregon in 2014 and landed at Washington? Lenoir is his potential equivalent as an athletic safety. None of Oregon's returning safeties is a lock to start. Robinson, Schooler, Williams and Oliver could all be surpassed by Breeze, who redshirted last season. Add Lenoir to the mix and new safeties coach Keith Heyward will have a serious mess to sort through. 

Gibson and Pickett, both three-star recruits, don't figure to be candidates to push their way through a crowded field of safeties, but one never knows for sure until they start practicing. 

At cornerback, Springs and Amadi are the favorites to start with Robinson potentially remaining at cornerback. Experience will heavily favor the returners but none have lived up to their potential as of yet. That will open the door for Graham to make a move, especially as an early enrollee.   

The verdict: The secondary battles are going to be fun to watch. Unless Gibson or Pickett turns out to be a big surprise, both should redshirt behind a host of capable and more experienced safeties.  It would be a disappointment, however, if both Graham and Lenoir do not at least see time as backups in 2017. 

Preview: No. 6 Oregon at California

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Preview: No. 6 Oregon at California

Don’t be fooled by their record, the California Golden Bears (18-8, 9-5 Pac-12) are a scary team to play in Haas Pavilion. Of their 18-8 overall record, the Bears are 14-2 at home. The No. 6 Oregon Ducks (24-4, 13-2 Pac-12) have quite the challenge in front of them tomorrow night at 6 p.m. in Berkeley. 

The battle of the boards has been an issue for Oregon this season. California comes into this game as one of the top rebounding teams in the conference. In their last matchup back on January 19th, the Cal Bears out rebounded the Ducks 34 to 25. Of those 34 Bears rebounds, 19 came from the offense. However, Oregon coming off a dominant rebound performance against Colorado (another top rebounding team in the conference), proved that the Ducks can fight for boards from every position, including guard play. 

Four Ducks scored in double digits back in January: Bell lead all scores (26 points), Dorsey (16 points), Benson (15 points), and Brooks (10 points). Oregon made a collective nine three’s in the first half alone. Junior forward Jordan Bell’s performance was not only dominant on the offensive end, but he held Golden Bears sophomore forward Ivan Rabb to just four points. Rabb also found himself in foul trouble finishing with four. Rabb is currently averaging a double-double. Oregon’s other main concern, besides Rabb, is Golden Bears senior guard Jabari Bird, who accounted for 21 points, 15 of which from three-point range (five-of-nine). 

One other thing that has been a real challenge for Oregon this season is getting off to a good start on the road and maintaining that energy for 40 minutes. This could continue to be a concern as Oregon’s last three conference games are on the road: California, Stanford, and Oregon State.

Following the Ducks dominant performance over Colorado last Saturday, Oregon coach Dana Altman said, ”I didn't like our defensive energy early…We made a couple bad rotations which allowed them to have some good three's that they hit. So I didn't think we were very sharp to start the game... That's something that has really got to be a focus for us here going on the road, to finish three on the road."

A quick look at the game:

No. 6 Oregon at California

Where: Haas Pavilion, Berkeley, CA

When: 6:00 p.m.

TV: ESPN2        

Records: Ducks (24-4, 13-2 Pac-12), Golden Bears (18-8, 9-5 Pac-12). 

Last outings: The Ducks dominated Colorado in their final home game of the season, 101-73, last Saturday. California lost 73-68 to Stanford at Stanford last Friday. 

Coaches: UO's Dana Altman (178-68 at Oregon, 588-311 Division I). California’s Cuonzo Martin (59-34 at California, 183-116 overall). 

Key Ducks: G Tyler Dorsey, 6-4, So., (13.0 ppg, 3.4 rpg, .388 3PT%), G Dylan Ennis, 6-2, Sr., (11.1 ppg, 4.3 rpg, .396 3PT%), G Payton Pritchard, 6-2, Fr., (7.9 ppg, 3.1 rpg), F Jordan Bell, 6-9, Jr., (10.9 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 2.1 bpg), F Dillon Brooks, 6-7, Jr., (15.4 ppg, 2.8 rpg, .433 3PT%), F Chris Boucher, 6-10, Sr., (12.0 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 2.7 bpg).

Key Bears: F Ivan Rabb, 6-11, So., (14.8 ppg, 10.7 rpg), G Charlie Moore, 5-11, Fr., (13.2 ppg, 2.0 rpg), G Jabari Bird, 6-6, Sr., (14.9 ppg, 5.1 rpg).

Notes: This week, Oregon has clinched a first round BYE for the Pac-12 tournament coming up in March…The Ducks have their final three games on the road, rounding out their home-win streak to 42…Cal is 14-2 at home this season. 

 

Oregon moves up to No. 6 in AP

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Oregon moves up to No. 6 in AP

After their last two home games this season, the now No. 6 Oregon Ducks moved up one spot in the AP polls this week. Oregon also jumped up one spot to No. 7 in the USA Today Coaches poll. Oregon still joins No. 4 Arizona and No. 5 UCLA as the only three teams representing the Pac-12 conference in the national rankings since week 10 (USC then ranked No. 25).

Conference standings remain the same as well with Arizona (25-3, 14-1 Pac-12) leading the way, followed by Oregon (24-4, 13-2 Pac-12), and then UCLA (24-3, 11-3 Pac-12).

Oregon rounds out the rest of the conference on the road at California on Thursday (18-8, 9-5 Pac-12 and currently sitting fourth in the league), at Stanford (13-13, 5-9 Pac-12) on Saturday and finishing at Oregon State (5-23, 1-14 Pac-12) for the second chapter of the Civil War this season on March 4th. 

One game to keep an eye on and set the DVR for is February 25th when Arizona hosts UCLA.

Revenge is sweet, 42-home win streak is sweeter. No. 7 Oregon tops Colorado 101-73

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Revenge is sweet, 42-home win streak is sweeter. No. 7 Oregon tops Colorado 101-73

How Oregon won: Both Oregon and Colorado had its own three-point contest today on this NBA All Star weekend. Neither team hesistated behind the arc and both teams found their rhythm. The Ducks went a perfect five for five from the three-point line to start the game before finally missing. But on this Oregon senior day, senior guard Dylan Ennis, playing in front of Ducks fans one last time, stepped up big time. The vocal leader on this team, Ennis dived after loose balls, rushed to help teammates up, dished out three assists, grabbed six rebounds and finished with 20 points. His performance, along with fellow canadian teammates senior forward Chris Boucher and junior forward Dillon Brooks, helped No. 7 Oregon get its revenge over Colorado with a 101-73 win earning the Ducks their 42 straight home win to close out their season at home. 

"Absolutely. I felt really good for Chris [Boucher], played with a lot of energy, lot of focus," said Oregon coach Dana Altman. "Dylan Ennis got it going on offensively in the first half. Wish we could have got Charlie [Noebel] a bucket there but other than that a lot of good things."

The canadian trio of Ennis, Boucher, and Brooks came alive today. Collectively, they accounted for 61 points of the team's 101, 16 of the team's 38 rebounds, and four assists. Oh, Canada! 

What it means: The Ducks got their revenge rematch over Colorado who defeated them earlier in the season in Boulder, CO. Getting revenge is great and all, but doing it in commanding fashion for the last time in front of Ducks fans at Matthew Knight Arena this season is sweeter. Oregon got its final win at home this season extending its current home-win streak to now 42, which leads the nation.

A big question coming into this game was how would Oregon respond to Colorado's ability to rebound on both sides of the court? The Ducks answered that question and won the rebounding battle 38 to 24, limiting the Buffs to just seven offensive rebounds part due to how effeiciently the Ducks guards rebounded. Ennis finished with six, sophomore guard Tyler Dorsey with four, and freshman guard Payton Pritchard with three. Oregon hits the road next to California, another team who is excellent on the boards and is currently sitting fourth in the Pac-12 conference. 

"The boards really changed around, we won by 14 on the boards, which I've been on the guys the last couple days with film and that, just to get on the boards," said Altman. "Thought it was everybody coming back. I thought the guards did a good job, you know coming back and getting involved. So, no I liked plus 14 on the boards is really a good sign."

Key sequence: With 8:57 left in the first half, Ennis subbed in with the score at 26-25 Ducks lead. Oregon went on a 9-2 run to extend its lead to 35-27 thanks to Ennis' sharp shooting from all areas of the court including drives to the hoop, lay-ins, jump shots, and three-pointers. The Ducks maintained this energy and followed their leader to a 45-32 lead at halftime. 

"I didn't like our defensive energy early. I don't think we took anything away, didn't seem like we were flying around and a step late on everything," said Altman. "We made a couple bad rotations which allowed them to have some good three's that they hit. So I didn't think we were very sharp to start the game... That's something that has really got to be a focus for us here going on the road, to finish three on the road."

Colorado finished the first half and started the second on a cold shooting streak, a complete 180 turnaround from how the Buffs started the game. Oregon took advantage of this. The Ducks shot a collective 58 percent from the field and 55 percent on 16-of-29 from three-point range. They used this energy and did not let up the rest of the game.

High flying Ducks: Brooks got off to a hot start creating plays for himself and finding good looks from the three-point line. He finished leading all scores with 23 points, three rebounds, and even lead the team in blocks with three. On senior day and in front of his family watching him play in-person for the second time ever, forward Chris Boucher finished with 18 points, seven rebounds, and two blocks. Pritchard finished with 11 assists and added two steals.

Fowl play: Pritchard finished with three fouls and Boucher fouled out with 7:48 to go in the game. Boucher received a gigantic standing ovation on his way to the bench and pointed up to his family sitting in the section next to the bench.

Up next: No. 7 Oregon hits the road south to California to take on the Golden Bears (18-8, 9-5 Pac-12) at 6 p.m. next Wednesday. 

How Oregon's recruits fit in: LBs - Tough competition ahead

How Oregon's recruits fit in: LBs - Tough competition ahead

Oregon coach Willie Taggart last week signed his first recruiting class, which Rivals.com ranked No. 18 in the nation. Now CSN is taking a look at how each new recruit could fit into the Ducks' plans next season.

Other entries: QuarterbacksRunning backsWide receivers/tight endsOffensive line, Defensive line.

Today: Linebackers.

New Ducks: Inside linebackers Sampson Niu (6-1, 217, Madison, H.S., San Diego, Calif.) and Isaac Slade-Matautia (6-1, 206, St. Louis High School, Honolulu, Hawaii), and athlete Cyrus Habibi-Likio (6-1, 211, St. Francis H.S., Mountain View, Calif.). 

Projected starters (3-4 defense): Outside linebacker Troy Dye, Soph., (6-4, 225), inside linebacker A.J. Hotchkins Sr., (5-11, 230), inside linebacker Jimmie Swain, Sr., (6-2, 235) and outside linebacker La'Mar Winston Jr., Soph., (6-3, 220).

Key backups: Inside linebackers - Danny Mattingly, RSr., (6-5, 245) and Keith Simms, Soph., (6-3, 235). Outside linebackers - Eric Briscoe, RFr., (6-3, 225), Justin Hollins, RJr., (6-6, 235) and Kaulana Apelu, Jr., (5-11, 200).

The situation: Oregon has plenty of young talent to work with here. Dye is a star. Simms and Winston were 4-star recruits in 2016. Hollins could be an interesting option if he moves to linebacker from defensive end. 

Only Dye is untouchable in the starting lineup with Swain and Hotchkins as the front-runners to start inside. However, they will have to fend off Simms and two very talented inside linebackers, four star recruits Niu and Slade-Matautia. 

Niu, ranked by Rivals.com as the No. 12 inside linebacker in the nation, has a chance to play right away assuming he adds some weight. Playing inside at 217 pounds likely won't cut it.  Slade-Matautia was rated No. 11 in the nation. He is listed at 206 pounds and must add bulk. 

If they live up to their billing, Niu and Slade-Matautia could have an impact in 2017. But that's a big if. 

There's reason to believe that the young outside linebackers, Winston and Briscoe, will take the next step and compete for playing time. They will be joined in that race by Habibi-Likio should he start off his career at linebacker. He could play safety, or even running back.  

The verdict: This competition should be wild. Oregon has seven linebackers that are freshmen or sophomores. Something has to give. On the inside, Swain came on strong late last year but Hotchkins was wildly inconsistent. Expect at least one of the two freshmen inside linebackers to play in 2017. Habibi-Likio might have a tougher battle in front of him on the outside because of the potential of Briscoe and Winston. But only Dye has established himself there. In other words, who truly knows what's going to happen? This could be the Ducks' most interesting position group to watch. 

Next up: Defensive backs