We’ve been waiting patiently for the last eight months, but at long last everyone from fans to players to coaches are ready to get the 2023 college football season underway.
The Oregon Ducks will kick things off on Saturday afternoon against the Portland State Vikings in a non-conference matchup that is not expected to be very competitive. While we may not see a close game, we will get a great look at some major questions that fans have had all offseason with the Ducks reshaping their roster in Year 2 under head coach Dan Lanning.
To help preview all of the action, Ducks Wire writers Zachary Neel, and Miles Dwyer got together to make predictions and offer opinions on what we might see.
Here is your first regular-season Ducks Wire Roundtable of the 2023 season. Enjoy.
Question: A lot has taken place since the end of the 2022 season for the Ducks, and there are a lot of new faces on the roster and the coaching staff. What is the one adjustment or addition this offseason that you think gives you the most confidence in Oregon’s ceiling being higher this year than it was last year?
I think overall, it’s just the depth that was added to this team that gives me the most confidence. That seems a bit like a copout answer, but the fact that going into Week 1, we have so many questions about who is going to start, and who is going to be in the rotation is wild, and encouraging in the end. It’s not that the Ducks are picking between players to see who is capable, but rather that they have so many capable players that make it hard to choose a starter.
The difference between having one quality edge rusher and having two is so drastic, and I think the lack of a second pass-rusher in 2022 was a huge hindrance to the Ducks’ defense. Brandon Dorlus only had 2.5 sacks last year, which is much lower than he is capable of. I think the addition of Jordan Burch — and perhaps Matayo Uigalelei — will have a tremendous impact on the ability of both players to sack the QB.
Will Stein's Offense
Question: This will be our first real look at a Will Stein offensive scheme compared to the Kenny Dillingham scheme from last year. Do you expect anything different? What is the No. 1 thing you are looking to learn about the scheme in Week 1?
I’m excited to see what wrinkles Stein brings to the offense. Earlier this week in an interview with John Canzano, Dan Lanning said that he brought in Stein because he can continue what the Ducks found worked for them in 2022. However, there are times throughout the year when fans would say “hey, that’s new.” I can’t wait to see what those little wrinkles will look like.
While the Ducks were definitely not afraid to throw the football last year, they often fell back on the run, and rightfully so with the backs and the offensive line we saw in 2022. In 2023, I think passing will become a much bigger part of Oregon’s identity, and while the run game will still have a strong impact, it won’t be the primary avenue of offense.
Oregon Offensive Line
Question: The offensive line will look a lot different than it did last year in terms of personnel. How confident are you that Oregon can have the same type of success in 2023 upfront as they did a year ago?
Comparing an offensive line to last year’s unit is a bit unfair because they were so good and so experienced in 2022. However, I think that the Ducks absolutely have the talent to be as good in 2023, it will just depend on their cohesion early in the season. Once this front unit can get used to playing together in game situations, I think the sky is the limit.
At the tackle spots the Ducks have the No. 1 OT from the class of 2022, Josh Conerly Jr., and the No. 1 transfer last season in Ajani Cornelius. On the inside, they have a 4-star transfer from Texas, Junior Angilau, PFF’s pick for the number one returning IOL in the country, Jackson Powers-Johnson, and plenty of other capable players. Oregon has the talent up front, it will just depend on how capable they are under pressure. I hope they’re up to it, and I think they will be.
(Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
Question: The defensive secondary has been retooled with a number of transfers and incoming recruits. Call your shot — which player in the secondary (new or returning) has the biggest impact this season?
There are so many options… I think someone who isn’t getting a ton of coverage going into the season is Khyree Jackson, the transfer from Alabama. He is long and athletic and could be a perfect replacement for Christian Gonzalez on the outside.
I think a lot of players are primed for a breakout year. I like Dontae Manning and I like Nikko Reed, but my pick for the most impactful secondary player is Tysheem Johnson. He showed off his run-stopping capabilities in the run-heavy SEC at Ole Miss, but now that he’s in the Pac-12, I think he’ll show that he can have an equally large impact in pass coverage.
The WR Group
Question: I want to ask a similar question about the wide receiver group. If you were to take Troy Franklin out of the question, which WR do you think has the biggest impact for the Ducks this season?
It’s definitely the easy answer, but I’m going to take the low-hanging fruit. I think that Tez Johnson can be the next version of De’Anthony Thomas in Oregon’s offense, and I don’t say that lightly. The speed and agility that he brings to the field, and the explosiveness that he gives the receiving corps is something we haven’t seen in Eugene for several years. My vote is for Tezmania.
A lot like on the defensive end, I think a lot of Oregon’s receivers are primed for a good year. Tez Johnson feels like the obvious pick for this question, and while I think he’ll he have a terrific, touchdown-laden year, I think Traeshon Holden will be the most impactful Ducks receiver this season save Troy Franklin. With his size and speed, I think he will solidify himself as Oregon’s No. 2 receiver, and Johnson will fall in as the top slot receiver.
Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports
Question: How do you measure success in this game? Obviously, a win is important, but it’s also expected against Portland State. What do you need to see on Saturday to feel good about the Ducks going into a Week 2 clash with Texas Tech?
For me, it’s all about the defense this weekend. I don’t care if Bo Nix and the offense put up 35 points or 70 points, it all means nothing to me if the defense can’t hold Portland State under 14-17 points, ideally. We know that the offense can score 40 points per game, but after last year, there are major questions about the defense’s ability to stop opponents. If the Ducks aren’t able to shut down the Vikings’ offense, then I still have some big questions going into Week 2 vs. Texas Tech.
I want to see Bo hitting throws and Bucky hitting gaps. I want to see the offensive line working as a cohesive unit. This won’t be a massive test for them, but it will still be important as they are the Ducks’ biggest unknown headed into 2023. I hope that everyone stays healthy. Lastly, I want to see Oregon score more than 50 points and allow fewer than 20.
Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports
Question: Let’s get some score predictions. Who do you think wins, and what is the final score?
56-13 is my official prediction, Ducks win.