Can Oregon Still Prosper In 2022?
Change is a process every team must undertake at some point. What is more important is how a program responds to change and finds a way to adapt and ultimately improve after its period of transition.
Few programs have experienced the number of changes that Oregon has endured this offseason. In a span of six months, the Oregon Ducks football team has seen many big departures. On December 6, 2021, head coach Mario Cristobal, the man who led the Ducks to three straight PAC-12 championship games, decided to return to his old alma mater and become the head coach of the Miami Hurricanes. In addition to losing standout pass rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux in this year's NFL Draft, the transfer portal saw the departure of key players such as running back Travis Dye, who rushed for 1,271 yards last season; and one of the leaders of their defense, cornerback DJ James.
Through the transfer portal, the Ducks were able to make important additions to their roster. On offense, they added notable names such as quarterback Bo Nix and former Minnesota Gophers running back Mar’Keise Irving, and on defense, safety Christian Gonzalez.
Above all, they still have Noah Sewell, considered by many as the nation's top interior linebacker, and potentially fellow linebacker Justin Flowe, whose 2021 season was plagued by injuries. This year's spring game may have revealed a potential star in sophomore receiver Seven McGee, who may prove to be Nix's favorite target this season.
The PAC-12 landscape continues to grow competitively as teams have made big moves to ensure their success. For instance, few programs have had more success this offseason than Lincoln Riley's USC Trojans. To say the least, they increased their value exponentially after acquiring two of nation's top players in the transfer portal in quarterback Caleb Williams and Biletnikoff Award winner Jordan Addison. UCLA has one of the nation's top running backs in Zach Charbonnet returning, and the Utah Utes have the tight end tandem of Brant Kuithe and Dalton Kincaid, along with a top-rated defensive unit.
This season will be far different than what it was in 2019, when Oregon dominated the PAC-12 with then-quarterback Justin Herbert. Even though they do not have the same caliber of talent they had the last few seasons, they should not be counted out. If the right pieces are in place, the Dan Lanning era could prove to be just as fruitful as the Cristobal era.