Things Fall Apart: Ducks Lose to Stanford 52-76

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Things Fall Apart: Ducks Lose to Stanford 52-76

Not to rip the scab off a festering wound, but the last time an Oregon team came into a game with a 7-0 Pac-12 record, they lost to Stanford by a field goal and found themselves playing for a consolation prize in Glendale, AZ.

But it wasn't the Cardinal players who spoiled things for the Oregon football team, it was the Ducks themselves. And tonight, perhaps the Duck basketball team did the same thing. Maybe it was the absence of Dominic Artis. Maybe it was the distraction of rank. But somewhere, something cracked.

Then again, the Cardinal were favored in this game.

Nothing was easy for the Ducks in the first half. Ten turnovers. 0-6 from beyond the arc. 18-22 from the floor. Out-rebounded 11-18.  Johnathan Loyd and E.J. Singler were both scoreless. To put it mildly, they were struggling. 



The Ducks have come back from a deficit to win games before, but this one seemed, well, different.

Early on, Arsalan Kazemi took a blow to the face on a rebound, putting him on the training table in the crucial establishing moments. Swiftly, Stanford got into the lead. Johnny Loyd played hard on defense, but with the Cardinal reading their press with precision, it wasn't enough.

At just under four minutes left in the half, Oregon was staring down the barrel of it's first conference loss, 27-19.

The Ducks displayed no semblance of offensive structure in the first twenty minutes. They just couldn't settle down. While their confidence in shooting waned, their ability to limit Stanford's Chasson Randle also struggled; he racked up ten points heading into the half, while team mate Dwight Powell led with ten rebounds.

In the second half, E.J Singler came out with some fire, getting his first field goal and the Ducks' first three of the night. He then missed his next three-pointer on a wide open shot. Things just weren't working for him at Maple Pavilion.

With 16:14 to go, Stanford created it's largest lead, up 41-25. The Ducks had yet to make a run.

This was Stanford's coming out party, and the Ducks were tossing out three-pointers to Chasson Randle like handfuls of confetti.

The #10 team in the country was down 23 points with 11:54 in the game.

Ducks racked up 18 turnovers with under ten minutes to play. Granted, their tempo lends itself to a higher TO rate, but at this point, it was time to look away.

On the bright side, Arsalan Kazemi had 6 points and 9 boards with seven minutes remaining.

The Ducks walked away shooting 30% from the field with 20 turnovers.

A team that averaged over 70 points a game managed just 52 in tonight's game.

Dana Altman and Co. fly home tonight. No doubt, they've got some soul searching to do before boarding that plane again this weekend.

The Ducks are still a top ten team. They just have to find another way to prove it.

(Tipoff vs. Cal at 1:30, Feb 2nd.)

No. 3 Oregon makes statement in run-rule 9-0 regional win over Wisconsin

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No. 3 Oregon makes statement in run-rule 9-0 regional win over Wisconsin

How Oregon won: What a difference playing a team twice means. It was a different story today for the No. 3 overall seed, who played Wisconsin yesterday in a valiant, 6-5 comeback win. Today, Oregon seemed more confortable, had a better read on Wisconsin pitcher Kaitlyn Menz, defensively stood its ground, which resulted in an overall rout of Wisconsin forcing the run-rule to win the Eugene Regionals final 9-0. Wow. 

"A lot less suspenseful," said Oregon head coach Mike White following the game. "Much easier on me... It really puts you in the drivers seat when you have that two-win cushion. You know that got to beat you twice. I don't know if we learned from last year against UCLA but we took the fun out of it early and that was pretty good. Congrats to Miranda [Elish] pitched very well and also had a couple of good hits there... overall a good performance."

What it means: The Ducks now advance to Super Regionals to be played in Eugene. Oregon will face Kentucky next weekend at Jane Sanders stadium. This is huge because the Ducks will get to play another series at home in front of their home crowd and hold a 24-2 home record. 

One Duck who was an offensive threat all weekend long was freshman center fielder Shannon Rhodes who continued to hit well and produce RBI's.

"Pretty much what they've been doing all year for us," said White. "Especially Shannon Rhodes, I give her the MVP ball for our team. I thought she produced all weekend. The first half of the season she struggled a little bit, you know, she I think she was pressing to hard... since that time she has just been making adjustments and really stepping up for us big in that position.

Oregon pitching: Freshman Miranda Elish got the nod today. Elish finished allowing 0 runs, 1 hit, 3 base on balls, and 2 strikeouts. The Badgers had only seen the other Oregon pitchers in the previous game (freshman Maggie Balit and sophomore Megan Kleist), so Elish had that advantage coming into the game. And she capitalized. She got ahead in the pitch count and relied on her defense to back her up. The one hit came from a base-hit up the middle. Elish also contributed on the offensive side as well going 2-for-3 and 2 RBI's. 

Oregon defense: What started up front for the Ducks from Elish, finished with a solid defensive effort from the Oregon infield and outfield. It seemed like every Ducks infielder made several plays at some point during this game. Elish forced the Badgers hitters into groundouts and popflys, and it was an all-out defensive effort from every one. The team only had one error on the day. 

Oregon offense: After seeing Menz pitch the day before, Oregon batters recognized her style early and often. The Ducks poured in four runs in the first inning and five more in the fifth enforcing the run-rule and finishing the game with nine runs, nine hits, and nine RBI's. 

"Me personally, she just didn't throw it for strikes as well as she did yesterday," said Oregon senior infielder Danica Mercado (who went  on Wisconsin pitcher Menz. "Yesterday I felt like she was really commanding it in any count and today she was kind of throwing it a little high, a little low, so it made me able to not worry about it less and just focus on the hard."

Up next: No. 3 Oregon hosts Kentucky in the Eugene Super Regionals Memorial Day weekend at Jane Sanders Stadium. 

No. 3 Oregon puts the rally caps on with 6-5 win over Wisconsin

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No. 3 Oregon puts the rally caps on with 6-5 win over Wisconsin

How Oregon won: A roller coaster of events in this round two NCAA Eugene Regional game between the No. 3 overall seeded Oregon Ducks and the Wisconsin Badgers. What started as a huge momentum swing for the Ducks stemming from two quick Badgers infield errors and two Ducks runs, quickly swung in the other direction. A two-run home run in the second from Badgers' senior Chloe Miller and another two-run home run from Badgers' senior Sara Novak completely silenced Oregon and extended Wisconsin's lead to 5-2 heading into the sixth.

But this Oregon team is scrappy. This comeback started with freshman Shannon Rhodes doing Shannon Rhodes things. The freshman, known for her number of RBI's, placed her bunts so accurately and her speed allowed her to safely get to first. A quick steal to second, advance to third on a wild pitch, and a Miranda Elish sacrifice fly lead to Rhodes scoring to close the gap to 5-3 Wisconsin lead. This sparked another momentum swing, this time in Oregon's favor. 

One inning left to go. Two outs already on the board. Ducks' fans biting their nails. But Oregon found a way when hope was dwindling. With runners on second and third, Rhodes came up big. The freshman delivered once again, but this time on a double that lead to two Oregon scores and tying the game 5-5. A solid defensive stance from Oregon forced this game into extra innings. 

"It's like coach Kolaitis said 'probably the most important run was the run in the sixth inning, getting that one run back'," said Oregon head coach Mike White. "It kind of gave us momentum going into the seventh. We were lucky Miranda [Elish] hit a shot to the right fielder and gosh just the way the game works in the last inning she hit a little squibbler and it's a base hit, go figure. But we could feel we were starting to get onto her [Wisconsin pitcher Kaitlyn Menz] at the end there."

A controversial call at the plate is what gave Oregon the 6-5 edge in the eighth inning. Elish was waved into home from head coach Mike White after a base hit into center field. It was a bang-bang play at the plate that was ultimately called obstruction from the Badgers' catcher giving Oregon their first lead since the first inning. 

Oregon pitching: Sophomore Megan Kleist got the start today, but her day ended in the bottom of the fourth inning after finishing on 85 pitches, three runs, two walks, seven strikeouts and one home run. Freshman Maggie Balit, who got the start last night in game one, came in to relieve her. Balit finished aloowing four hits, two runs scored, six strikeouts and one base on balls. 

Oregon offense: Capitalizing on errors, advancing runners, bunt placement, the list goes on for Oregon. At least in the first inning. As Wisconsin freshman pitcher Kaitlyn Menz got settled in, the Oregon bats got quiet and couldn't get the ball past the Badgers infield. 

Oregon defense: The Ducks got off to a slow start defensively with two errors from the infield in the first inning. With the bases loaded of Badgers, Kleist came through with a huge strikeout to end the inning and get Oregon out of potential disaster. Kleist seemed to get more and more comfortable as the game went on. 

"I think in the first couple innings, she didn't have her changeup going," said White on Kleist's pitching performance. "She's effective when she's throwing that changeup for a strike. I thought her pitches were moving pretty well, she just got pitches up in the zone. That's always been her problem and always will be her problem." 

Oregon finished the game with three total errors. Not good.

Up next: The Ducks will face the winner of Wisconsin vs. winner of regionals game 4 (University of Illinois-Chicago vs. Missouri) at 4 PM tomorrow at Jane Sanders Stadium.  

Former Oregon RB Thomas Tyner making comeback with Oregon State

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USA Today

Former Oregon RB Thomas Tyner making comeback with Oregon State

Former Oregon running back Thomas Tyner, who left the Ducks' program following the 2015 season, will return to football with Oregon State, his father, John Tyner confirmed today.

The news was first reported by The Oregonian

Tyner, who according to his father is two credits shy of graduating from Oregon, will have one year of eligibility remaining. He played for Oregon in 2013 and 2014 before undergoing season-ending shoulder surgery prior to the 2015 season. Rather than return to the Ducks in 2016, Tyner elected to retire. 

Now 100 percent healthy and still possessing the speed that made him a state track champion and a five-star recruit coming out of Aloha High School, Tyner, 22, has decided to return to football. 

John Tyner said that the way Oregon wrote the medical retirement paper work made it so that Thomas could not return to Oregon. The irony of him landing with OSU is that Tyner flirted with the idea of going to Oregon State coming out of high school before ultimately honoring his oral commitment to the Ducks. 

"I've wanted to be a Beaver my whole life," Thomas Tyner told The Oregonian.

Tyner last played football during Oregon's 42-20 loss to Ohio State in the national championship game on Jan. 12, 2015.  He was still recovering from a serious shoulder injury suffered on Oct. 18, 2014 against Washington. Tyner returned three weeks later and played well the rest of the season, peaking with a 124-yard, two-touchdown performance during Oregon's 59-20 win over Florida State in the Rose Bowl. Tyner finished that season with 573 yards and five touchdowns. He rushed for 711 and nine scores as a freshman in 2013. 

Tyner's shoulder never healed properly and surgery ended his 2015 season before it began. Six months later, it appeared that his football career had also ended. Now he is back with rival Oregon State. 

The Beavers could have one of the best backfields in the Pac-12 with Tyner and junior Ryan Nall, who last season rushed for 951 yards and 13 touchdowns.

Tyner, a speed back with size at about 210 pounds, will provide the perfect compliment to the bruising style of Nall, who is 6-2, 234 pounds. Nall is hard-charging freight train of a back that rolled over the Ducks for 155 yards and four scores during last season's Civil War victory for the Beavers. 

Nall and Tyner going up against UO running back Royce Freeman and company would make for quite the show during this season's Civil War. 

"He got better and started thinking about returning," John Tyner said about his son. "Thomas basically dances to the beat of his own drummer. He isn't in it for the glory. He just wanted to see what it would be like to finish up his career."

 

No. 3 Oregon steals the flame from the Illinois-Chicago Flames in 13-0 regionals round 1

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No. 3 Oregon steals the flame from the Illinois-Chicago Flames in 13-0 regionals round 1

How Oregon won: In the opening round of the NCAA softball Eugene regional, the Oregon Ducks (48-6) proved once again why they are one of the top ranked teams in the country. The Ducks stole all the fire from the visiting University of Illinois-Chicago Flames (38-21) advancing them into the second round with a 13-0 over UIC in just five innings. Oregon's own freshman pitcher Maggie Balit did not look like a freshman in the slightest under the Jane Sanders stadium lights of her first college regionals. Balit finished the game with a shutout zero runs, two hits, and nine UIC strikeouts. Backing her up was a consistent, defensive force from both her infield and outfield finishing the game with no errors paired with the power from Oregon batters.

"I thought we did a great job out there tonight getting a lot of pressure on their [UIC] defense," said Oregon head coach Mike White following the game. "Maggie [Balit] pitched well, was in control most of the game, just had to make me come out of the dugout just once which is pretty good." 

What it means: What a first game for the Oregon Ducks in their home town. The Ducks defended the jane just as they have done all season long (22-2 home record). Oregon faces a defensively solid Wisconsin Badgers team tomorrow and will need to bring the accuracy and bats once again.

Ducks offense: The bats were red-hot once again for the Ducks. It all started in the first inning when UIC senior starting pitcher Elaine Heflin left the game with an apparent ankle injury. She was replaced with freshman pitcher Allie Trudeau. Oregon scored in every inning and finished with 12 total team hits. Lead off hitter Danica Mercado went two-for-three to lead the Ducks. The fourth inning is where the Ducks sealed the deal with nine runs, five hits, two UIC errors, advancing runners into scoring positions, a UIC pitching change, and a commanding 13-0 lead heading into the fifth. 

"Yeah I think so, it was like watching a new team out there. There was a lot of energy and I thought they were pretty pumped up. I hope it conitues," said White. "It was great to see and it's a lot of fun coaching the team when they're like that. I thought their [UIC] pitching staff wasn't that bad, I thought they threw the ball pretty hard, and we did a great job of hitting the ball."

Something to note, however, is the fact that UIC had four total errors coming off bad throws to both home and first base allowing Oregon to advance and score on several occasions. The Wisconsin Badgers, who Oregon will face tomorrow, did not make those same errors. In fact, none at all. 

Ducks defense: Backing up the Oregon bats, the Ducks defense, lead by Balit at the mound, was consistent in their throws and outfield making goof reads on pop-flys. The Ducks defense finished the game with zero errors, a critical statistic especially this deep into the season. 

Up next: No. 3 Oregon (48-6) faces the Wisconsin Badgers (34-15) in round 2 of the Eugene NCAA softball regionals at Jane Sanders Stadium in Eugene, OR at 2 PM tomorrow afternoon.

LeGarrette Blount leaves Patriots for Eagles and $2.8 million

LeGarrette Blount leaves Patriots for Eagles and $2.8 million

Former Oregon running back LeGarrette Blount has signed a one-year, $2.8 million contract with the Philadelphia Eagles, continuing what has been a seven-year career, and marking the second time he has left New England. 

Blount, who had his best season last year with 1,161 yards and 18 touchdowns, appears to simply be chasing the money in this case. The Patriots reportedly offered Blount $2.1 million to return to New England. The Eagles' offer guarantees Blount $1.25 million and carries $1.55 million in incentives. 

"LeGarrette Blount is a tough, physical runner who has enjoyed a great deal of success in New England and we are excited about adding him to this football team," Howie Roseman, Eagles executive vice president of football operations, said in a statement. 

Philadelphia released running back Ryan Mathews, opening the door for Blount to become its starter. 

Blount, who has rushed for 5,122 yards and 49 touchdowns over his career, is heading to his fourth team. He began his career in 2010 with 1,007 yards rushing as a rookie with Tampa Bay. In 2012, he lost the starting job to Doug Martin and signed with New England in 2013 when it reached the AFC title game. 

Blount in 2014 signed with Pittsburgh but the Steelers released him during the middle of the season for repeated selfish behavior, including leaving a game before it had ended. 

That turn of events worked out well for Blount, who was scooped up by New England for a second go around that led to the Patriots defeating Seattle in Super Bowl XLIX. Blount earned his second Super Bowl ring after the Patriots won 34-28 over Atlanta in February's Super Bowl LI. 

Blount could be a big part of the Eagles' attempts to upgrade their offense around quarterback Carson Wentz, who began last season well before tailing off over the final 10 games of the season. 

The Eagles have already signed wide receiver Alshon Jefferey (Chicago) and Torrey Smith (San Francisco) to upgrade Wentz' targets. 

The battering ram that is Blount should help the Eagles' running game. However, Blount has primarily thrived under the coaching of New England's Bill Belichick and while sharing the backfield with Tom Brady. 

 

 

Oregon's Jordan Bell looking for right fit as much as high pick in NBA Draft

Oregon's Jordan Bell looking for right fit as much as high pick in NBA Draft

CHICAGO – It was during an interview with an NBA team this week when Jordan Bell said he became emotional, his past at the University of Oregon haunting him again.

Over two days in Chicago, he was interviewed by nine teams: Detroit, Brooklyn, Washington, Miami, Oklahoma City, Dallas, Houston, Atlanta and the LA Clippers.

One of the teams – Bell wouldn’t reveal which one – showed him video of the deciding plays in the Ducks’ Final Four loss to North Carolina – two offensive rebounds off missed free throws by the Tar Heels in the final seconds, which Bell in a tear-stained postgame interview blamed on himself.

“One of the meetings they had a video of the last two box outs and I got a little emotional just thinking about it again,’’ Bell said. “I don’t think it’s something I will ever get over. It is something that will always be in the back of my mind.’’

If it seems like a cruel exercise to throw at a 22-year-old kid, Bell didn’t take it that way. After the video stopped, Bell said the team asked how he learned from it, how he got over it and what he took from the experience.

Emotional, Bell said he answered like he plays: to the point and with feeling.

“Teams have been trying to get to know me as a person, and see who I am outside of basketball,’’ he said.

What he hopes they discover is a person who has found himself, which he says carries over to the basketball court.

While he says he patterns his game after Golden State’s Draymond Green and Denver’s Kenneth Faried, Bell says he is a defense-first player who will know how to embrace his role at the NBA level.

“I’m not someone who has to go from being a scorer in college to trying to adapt to a new role,’’ Bell said. “The person I’ve been playing in college is exactly the person they will ask me to be in the NBA.’’

That role, Bell figures, should be in demand in this draft.

“I think the need in the NBA right now is definitely defense,’’ Bell said. “Everybody has pretty much been a scoring. I’ve been watching basketball, and getting to 100 was a big thing, now it’s 120, 110. I figure there is definitely a need for defenders.’’

He says he has been studying noted defenders like Green and Oklahoma City’s Andre Roberson, and their skills call to his love of the game.

“I just get a thrill,’’ Bell says of playing and watching defense. “I understand blocking shots is, to me, more important than getting a layup. Getting a layup is two points, but blocking shots is minus two points, and you are putting a fear into their hearts. Like, if you are in there, and they miss a layin, you might not block it, but I know I effected it in some kind of way.’’

After the NBA Combine ends this week, Bell says he has workouts scheduled with Indiana, San Antonio, Houston, the Lakers, Utah, Boston, Brooklyn, Cleveland, Golden State, Detroit and Atlanta.

Most mock drafts have Bell projected to be a late first round, early second round pick.

“With me, my main focus is to make sure I go to the right team,’’ Bell said. “I don’t want to go 15th and go to a team that will probably have me go to the D-League or something like that. I’d rather go mid-second round to a team that has a need for what I do.’’

Four Ducks set to workout at NBA combine, follow CSN for coverage

Four Ducks set to workout at NBA combine, follow CSN for coverage

Oregon made a historic run to the Final Four last season and now four key catalysts from that team will participate in the 2017 NBA Draft Combine Thursday and Friday in Chicago, Ill.

Forwards Dillon Brooks, Jordan Bell and Chris Boucher, along with guard Tyler Dorsey, were invited to the annual event where NBA executives and scouts will size up the talents of players hoping to get selected in June's NBA Draft.

The 67 invited players will participate in five-on-five games and go through strength and agility drills at Chicago’s Quest Multisport.

For information on the former Ducks' progress, check back to CSNNW.com for coverage from Trail Blazers insider Jason Quick and follow him on Twitter @JWQuick.

The Trail Blazers have three picks in the first round of the draft? Could one be an Oregon Duck?

NBADraft.net projects Bell to be a late first-round pick, and for Boucher and Brooks to go late in the second round. Dorsey is not projected by the website to get selected.

 

Oregon basketball receives commitment from 5-star forward Miles Norris

Oregon basketball receives commitment from 5-star forward Miles Norris

Oregon's rebuilding process following last season's run to the Final Four received a huge boost Wednesday when five-star forward Miles Norris announced his commitment to Oregon. 

Norris, a 6-foot-9 forward out of San Diego, Calif., is rated as the No. 21 player in the nation by Rivals.com. 

Norris announced his decision live on KUSI News. 

"It felt like a great fit for me," Norris said. "Outside of basketball, I just love the student atmosphere and the fan atmosphere that they there. The facilities are amazing."

Norris' top five choices were Oregon, Gonzaga, Arizona, UCLA and San Diego State. 

Norris won't join the team until 2018. He could end up playing with 2017 five-star recruit, Troy Brown, who will one of the key pieces to next season's team as the Ducks look to recover from losing seven of their top nine players from last season's historic team. 

 

Oregon's "#TheMovement18" recruiting blitz must scoop up impact defensive linemen

Oregon's "#TheMovement18" recruiting blitz must scoop up impact defensive linemen

Oregon's coaches are killing it on the recruiting trail. They are Tweeting up a storm complete with the fresh hashtag, "TheMovement18," while using plenty of Emojis, GIFs and photos of Ducks swag in order to appeal to the talented teens they are pursuing.  

So far, the high-energy and social media-savvy recruiting tactics under new coach Willie Taggart have worked well and have fans giddy about the future. Oregon's 2018 recruiting class currently ranks No. 11 in the country, according to Rivals.com. That's coming off of a No. 18 ranking for the 2017 recruiting class, completed last February. 

Just one problem: Where are all of the impact defensive linemen?

I know, I know, it's early. Signing day is nearly nine months away. But let's be clear: All of the bells and whistles and hyped commitment gatherings won't mean squat in the end unless the new coaching staff can make a habit out of landing high-end defensive line recruits. Just ask the former coaching staff whose failure in this department from 2013 through 2016 contributed greatly to a defense that last season ranked 128th (518.4 yards per game) in the nation in total defense and 121st (246.5) against the run during a 4-8 season. 

The defensive line is so depleted with veteran talent that Taggart went out and signed graduate transfer defensive lineman Scott Pagano. The former Clemson part-time starter will instantly become the Ducks' best defensive lineman, if not best defensive player. 

Oregon must sign the Paganos of the world on the front end of their careers, not at the back end. The Ducks are trying. According to 247Sports.com, Oregon has issued offers to 24 defensive ends and 10 defensive tackles. Of those 34 players, 21 are rated as 4-star recruits, or better. However, just one is even listed as being "warm" on Oregon while 17 have either already committed, or are listed as "cool" toward Oregon. 

Here is the overall recruiting situation thus far: 

Oregon's big weekend during the spring game included receiving commitments from six recruits followed up by another on Monday. Five were rated as four-star recruits by Rivals.com while 247Sports rated six as four-star prospects.

But zero defensive linemen were included in the haul. 

The Ducks on Friday did receive a commitment from Mohamed Diallo, a three-star defensive lineman out of Arizona Western Community College. He's a nice get. At an athletic 6-foot-3, 295 pounds, Diallo could become a good player for the Ducks at nose guard in 2018. But he must be an addition, not the center piece, to what has to be a much stronger class of defensive linemen. 

Taggart made a big splash in his first recruiting go around, but not at defensive line. UO signed three, but only one is a four-star recruit, freshman early enrollee Rutger Reitmaier. He committed to Oregon last June, five months before Taggart took over the program following the firing of Mark Helfrich.

A quick turnaround for the Oregon Ducks will mostly depend on dramatic improvement from the defense, and that will require a head-turning upgrade in play from the defensive line. So give credit to the Ducks for addressing this problem with the addition of Pagano. But the future of the defensive line remains in serious doubt and must be upgraded through recruiting. 

One of the knocks on the previous staff was that they failed to recruit impact players on defense after 2012, especially within the front seven. Under former coach Chip Kelly In 2012, the Ducks signed maybe their best defensive line recruiting class ever with the additions of four-star recruits, DeForest Buckner, Arik Armstead and Alex Balducci. Buckner and Armstead both went on to become first-round NFL Draft picks by the San Francisco 49ers. Balducci signed with the 49ers as an undrafted free agent and is now a center with the New York Jets.

Kelly's final recruiting influence came in 2013 before he moved on to the NFL. That class, which included 13 of 19 players who committed to Oregon under Kelly, ended up with just two defensive linemen: Torrodney Prevot and Doug Brenner. Prevot actually ended up playing linebacker while Brenner played offensive line. Elijah George, a two-star recruit offensive lineman in that class, is now a reserve defensive lineman.

Let that all sink in for a minute.

The Ducks sought to recover in 2014 with the addition of five defensive line recruits. Only one, however, was rated as a four-star player and that was junior college transfer Tui Talia. Of the four three-star recruits, Justin Hollins and Jalen Jelks have had the only impact. Both remain tweeners who might be undersized to be more than pass rushers. Eddie Heard, who ultimately played linebacker, and former starter, Austin Maloata, were removed from the team following their respective troubles with the law last year. 

Oregon tried again with five defensive line recruits in 2015. Again, just one was a four-star get. That was Canton Kaumatule, who appeared to have the potential to become the next Armstead or Buckner before repeated injuries and concussions slowed his development. He retired last season.  

The other four signees, all three-star recruits, remain projects. Junior Rex Manu and redshirt sophomore Gary Baker are the top returning defensive tackles. They will now play nose guard in UO's 3-4. Redshirt sophomores Drayton Carlberg and Gus Cumberlander will be competing for time at defensive end. 

UO signed four more defensive linemen in 2016. Redshirt freshman Hunter Kampmoyer and sophomore Bryson Young, a four-star recruit, have shown promise. However, Ratu Mafileo retired due to injury concerns and Wayne Tei-Kirby, thrust into action as a freshman, has transferred to BYU. 

To put all of this into perspective, consider that over the last five recruiting cycles Clemson has signed 10 four-star defensive linemen, including Pagano in 2013, and two five-star defensive linemen.

Oregon, during the past handful of years, did just fine signing players at most every other position, especially on offense. Running backs. Wide receivers. Offensive linemen. Even at quarterback where the Ducks at least signed promising four-star recruits, Morgan Mahalak (2014) and Travis Jonsen (2015). Mahalak has since transferred while Jonsen has yet to meet his potential. But, the Ducks hit big on Justin Herbert in 2016. 

Recruiting at defensive back and linebacker has been mixed, but at least some bright spots exist at those two positions. The defensive backs improved greatly last year over 2015, but a lack of a run defense and adequate pass rush left the secondary hung out to dry.

That all said, the linebacker position also needs an upgrade. Even with Balducci, Buckner and Armstead, Oregon's defense got steamrolled in the national title game by Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott. One reason was Elliott's talent, another was Oregon's lack of future NFL prospects at linebacker.

But we've seen and are seeing inroads being made at the second level of defense. Sophomore linebacker Troy Dye is a budding superstar. Commit Adrian Jackson, is rated as the No. 11 outside linebacker in the nation. The 2017 class featured linebacker Sampson Niu, who committed to Oregon last June under Helfrich and was rated as the No. 12 outside linebacker in his class. 

Oregon must match that level of recruiting along the defensive line so that transfers such like Pagano are viewed more as nice additions, such as 2015 transfer center Matt Hegarty, rather than as saviors, like 2015 quarterback Vernon Adams Jr..

The 6-foot-3, 295-pound Pagano could be an immediate starter opposite Mondeaux in defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt's 3-4 defense. Or, the former Clemson defensive tackle could also play nose guard. Figure he will play all over in different situational packages. 

Pagano's presence will prevent Leavitt from having to depend on a young end or nose guard that might not be ready to stand up to the rigors of the 3-4 defense.

Freshman nose guard Jordan Scott, a Taggart get, turned heads during spring drills with his athleticism and size but shouldn't be relied upon to carry the load in the middle next season. It's likely going to be up to Manu and Baker to get it done inside. 

But Pagano only buys Oregon time. All of the young defensive linemen have time to develop under position coach Joe Salave'a, considered to be a great recruiter. Helfrich's recruits could ultimately pan out. Regardless, the Ducks must move away from waiting for linemen to develop and step into an era of having a revolving door of impact defensive linemen with NFL potential flowing through the system. 

So while it's nice for Oregon that this staff has brought high energy to the recruiting trail and has landed commitments and signatures from promising recruits at many positions, the reality is that unless they can sign some Buckners, Armsteads and Balduccies, the Ducks' future will include more teams padding their offensive stats against Oregon's defense.