BearTerritory caught up with DuckSportsAuthority.com publisher A.J. Jacobson this week for a brief Q&A on Oregon.
BearTerritory: What does quarterback Darron Thomas bring to this offense that Jeremiah Masoli lacked?
A.J. Jacobson: The simple answer is height but it is also decision-making. The height helps Thomas be a better thrower than Masoli even though Masoli had a better arm. Thomas has more poise in the pocket as well, trusting the line in front of him far longer than Masoli before scrambling.
BT: Describe the frenetic pace of the Ducks' practices. How does all that chaos translate into such a well-oiled machine on game day?
AJ: The Ducks do like to get lots of snaps in at practice. It involves hustling back after plays, knowing your assignments, etc. Game speed is actually slower than practices for Oregon players because there are no referees to slow down the pace.
BT: Aside from the noted pace of Oregon's offense, what else is so innovative about Chip Kelley's scheme?
AJ: It's actually pretty simple with a relatively small playbook. He preaches precision and getting the plays they do run just right.
BT: How crucial has it been to have so many returners on offense?
AJ: It has helped especially on the offensive line, who have helped open holes for LaMichael James and keep Thomas healthy.
BT: Which newcomers have broken through or could break through on offense?
AJ: Obviously wide receiver Josh Huff is going to be a player and with the injury to Nate Costa, QB Bryan Bennett will run the second string. It would take injuries for additional freshman offensive players to be needed.
BT: With just one true tight end-David Paulson-getting time, does that hamper any part of the offensive game at all?
AJ: It hasn't seem to hamper the offense. His backup played about four weeks of the season with one of those clubs on his hand following an injury so that hurt his playing time a lot.
BT: So much has been made of the vaunted Ducks offense, but what can we expect to see out of the defense?
AJ: This year Oregon will rotate lots of players and blitz quite a bit. The rotation of players is what is a lot different from previous editions.
BT: What changes has Nick Aliotti implemented to get this unit to No. 29 in the country in total defense, No. 34 in rush defense and No. 13 in scoring defense?
AJ: What helped the most only graduating a couple players last year. The other difference is the addition of DL coach Jerry Azzinaro, who is quite a few steps up from the previous DL coach.
BT: If you were to pick a chink in the Ducks' armor, what would it be?
AJ: They can't have a bunch of three and outs early or the defense has to spend too much time on the field in the first half. That hasn't happened this year but hurt sometimes last year.
BT: Oregon has three of the conference's interceptions leaders in Cliff Harris, John Boyett and Casey Matthews. So, with that trio, why are the Ducks only the nation's No. 39 pass defense?
AJ: Their pass statistics aren't great because that's really the only thing left after teams aren't able to run on them.
BT: Talk about the emergence of freshman Cliff Harris, who, along with being the Pac-10 leader in picks, is also the conference's best punt returner.
AJ: He is a real talent but really it's a testament to how good the recruiting has gone the last few years for Oregon and the young depth they can field for all eleven guys on those units.
BT: Are there any injuries that could be problematic going into Saturday's game?
AJ: The Ducks appear relatively healthy aside from the career ending injury last week to Nate Costa.