Olshansky in action against Fresno State (AP)
Part of what makes college football so interesting year in and year out is the never-ending cycle of players through a program. Occasionally a team will be lucky enough to retain all of their key players from one year to the next, and usually that turns out to be a peak year for the program. More common is the eternal pattern of approximate 20 per cent loss and replacement.
Each year fans tend to minimize the losses, have high expectations for the additions, and, coupled with the performance the previous year, develop
expectations for the coming season.
Developing personal expectations this year is difficult for Duck fans. Last year was a disappointment. I have watched with interest the comments made by many Duck fans in a variety of venues, and it occurs to me that the classic "glass half full/half empty" analogy is quite appropriate for the program this coming year.
So here is the way I see it.
If you believe we have a returning starter at quarterback overthrowing and under throwing receivers, exhibits little confidence, can't make reads under pressure and can't consistently make the big play, then your glass is half-empty.
If you believe the backup contending for the starting role is only an inexperienced sophomore, hasn't shown enough skill or talent to push
aside the poor performing starter, has happy feet and won't stay in the pocket, then your glass is half empty.
On the other hand, if you feel that last year's starter had one of the best statistical years of any first year Duck quarterback, has a rocket for an arm, had many passes dropped and was let down by other members of the team, then your glass is half-full. If you think that the sophomore was a top-ten
prospect in the nation, has just recently had an opportunity to get game experience and is improving daily, shows superior leadership skills and kicked butt in the Spring, then your cup is half full.
If you believe the Ducks lost their most prolific receiver ever (in Keenan Howry) and his talent cannot be replaced then your cup is half empty. If you believe that Samie Parker hasn't got the hands or focus to live up to his potential, then your cup is half empty. If you believe Kellen Taylor may not make grades and (James) Finley won't get in then your cup is half empty.
If you think Samie Parker is the fastest college wide receiver in the country and will play up to his potential (ala the Fiesta Bowl) then your
cup is half-full. If you think Keith Allen will stay healthy and Demetrius Williams is developing into a top-notch possession receiver then your cup is half full. If you saw the intensity of Taylor in the spring and believe that Finley is one of the top incoming freshmen in the country, then your cup is half full.
If you believe that sending the starting tight-end to the NFL means the position cannot be re-loaded with talent the cup is half empty. If Tim Day has shown you superior size and blocking, and adequate hands, then half full. If (Eddie) Whitaker, (Josh) Rogers or (Nate) LiaBraaten can fill the gap in the two tight end sets, then all the better.
If you believe the offensive line provided marginal pass blocking and inferior run blocking last year, and that there is no influx of new talent to make it better, then your cup is half empty. If you recognize that most of the line is returning with a year of maturity, and that (Joey) Forster and (Dan) Weaver (the seniors) have been projected as NFL draft picks, things might look a little better.
For the running backs, the Ducks lost one of the best of all time to the NFL. Surely that glass is half-empty. But if you believe that they have
four quality guys who can bring different strengths to different strategic situations, and that the opponents will no longer be able to focus on a single guy to shut down the Duck's offense, then the cup is half full.
If you blamed the defensive failure last year on the defensive line's inability to get to the quarterback, things may not look any better. Igor
had off-season surgery - will he return to full strength? With Devon Long hurt and Rod Wright kicked off the team, can any defensive end pose a threat to the quarterback? On the other hand, if you acknowledge that (Haloti) Ngata was a
freshman last year and often dominated, or the Igor (Olshansky) is said to be bigger and
stronger than last year, that (Quinn) Dorsey has returned and looks effective, or that Darius Sanders looks like a jewel in the rough, maybe some potential exists for this group.
If you think the linebackers consist of Kevin Mitchell and a bunch of no-name, no-talents that couldn't earn playing time last year, then things
indeed may look grim. On the other hand, if you followed the spring workouts you may think that the new contributors are faster to the ball and
a good mix with the powerful D-line.
If you think (Keith) Lewis will be convicted of a felony and never play again and that the other safety spot is filled with little or no experience then things may be bad. If Lewis plays and keeps his mouth shut, and if Rasuli Webster's replacement can play a little pass defense, then this may be a major strength for the team.
If you know the same defensive backs that could not stop a pass for their life, or tackle after the catch, are going to return and play the same way then the cup is half empty. If you believe they were thrown in the fire as freshmen, that they have had a year to gain strength and experience, and that there is notable new talent coming in, then possibly half full. If you
think the new defensive back coach will help them improve and that one of the top high school recruits spurned Florida State to be a Duck, then things may significantly improve.
If you observed the dismal punting in the spring then you will definitely be worried about special teams. If you watched Jared Siegel casually kicking 55-yard field goals just for the fun of it, you might feel better.
If your cup is half empty, then the Ducks are in for a long season, perhaps 3-9 or 4-8 wins. The heat will do them in at Mississippi State, Michigan will come into Autzen a top-10 team and crush them, at Arizona will be a challenge and at Washington a game of no hope.
If your cup is half full you may 8-4 to 10-2. Arizona, Cal, Stanford and Washington State look like solid shots at wins. Michigan won't know what
hit them. Oregon State at home is do-able. Arizona State, UCLA and Washington will be toss-ups.
So -- is your cup half empty or half full?