Pac-12 Football Media Day: Oregon Ducks

On Tuesday, the Pac-12 gathered in Universal City, California, where every team came for media day to present their hopes for the coming season, their accomplishments over the offseason, and the keys to victory for 2012. The defending Pac-12 champion Oregon Ducks were represented by their head coach Chip Kelly, running back Kenjon Barner, and linebacker Michael Clay. Video of the press conference below:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NOH_DrkKJ-k

What can we take from this press conference?

1. The Ducks expect to be very good again this season

And with good reason. They have won three straight conference championships and lost just 10 seniors off of last year’s team. They aren’t too much older this season, with just 16 seniors. They are a program that is young and brimming with talent at nearly every skill position. They lose their top running back to the NFL, but replace with him with Barner, who is on pace to be one of the top-five rushers in the history of Oregon by the time the Ducks play USC November 3, and De’Anthony Thomas, who could go down as the most explosive player to ever play at Oregon (more on him later). They’ve reached that level of elite where the team doesn’t have to rebuild after a season, they just reload. But does this elevated status bring elevated pressure? Not according to Barner, who says “Pressure is what you feel when you don’t know what you’re doing,” and these Ducks have now been in this position at the top a few times now, so they just about have the hang of it.

2. De’Anthony Thomas is going to be special

Breaking out in the Ducks’ Rose Bowl victory last season against Wisconsin, Thomas may have only scratched the surface of his potential. Kelly confirmed that he and Barner would be the feature backs in the Ducks blur offense, which ranked fifth in the country last season in rushing yards per game. The Ducks will move Thomas around much more this season, looking to get the ball into his hands in different situations as often as possible, including an expanded role in the kick and punt return game. As Chip Kelly said, “the only thing we won’t do is let him throw,” but they probably have to save something for his junior season. The sophomore phenom, nicknamed “Black Mamba,” defies classification even by his own coach, who couldn’t say whether Thomas was more of a running back or receiver. “I don’t know what he is,” Kelly said. “He’s a special player.” Now that’s an understatement.

3. Yes, they’re probably definitely going to have uniform variations again this year

As the style leaders in college football, it wouldn’t be an Oregon media day if someone didn’t ask about the uniforms. The group came out looking stylish from the start, with Kelly and Barner in black pants to match the black polos, while Clay came out in white pants. The Nike testing ground at Autzen Stadium is sure to have plenty of surprises come Saturdays this fall, but for now, not even Barner knows what to expect. After all, “It’s Oregon,” as the running back notes, which sums the whole thing up quite nicely.

Oregon has surged to a place of national prominence, winning back-to-back-to-back conference titles and finally punched through in a big bowl game. Now, they’ve got to contend with a hungry USC finally off sanctions to try and keep their place atop the Pac-12. One thing we know for sure, they’re going to make a run to stay the champs, they’re going to be fast, and they’re going to look as good as possible while doing it.

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