December 23rd, 2009 | by HANK STERN News | Posted In: CLEAN UP, Sports, Sports, Sports, CLEAN UP

Rose Bowl: Everything Ohio State Wants To Know About Oregon, We're Going To Answer

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Whilst we digest Oregon State's bowl debacle last night in Las Vegas (which called to mind a similar laydown performance three years ago by Oregon in very comparable circumstances against BYU), we look ahead to the Jan. 1 Rose Bowl in this ongoing Q & A with Buckeyes fanatic Noah Litton.

Noah's question today:

Ohio State's rushing offense has been much more consistent over the last month and a half. And some players have hinted at adding a few wrinkles to the scheme...namely, the deep-ball which quarterback Terrelle Pryor has had some success at this year. Can you give me a run-down of the Ducks' secondary and what we can expect if Ohio State does look to go deep?

The numbers show Oregon in the upper third in pass defense this year, certainly an improvement over years past when third-and-long was the Ducks defense's biggest nightmare.

I ascribe much of this year's gains to a more aggressive defensive philosophy overall under head coach Chip Kelly. That approach has the Ducks blitzing more often and not just sitting back rushing three guys, leaving the secondary to defend receivers for five and six seconds.

In a season that was pretty injury-free for Oregon, the secondary was an unfortunate exception. First, cornerback Walter Thurmond III, a senior co-captain, went down. (The absence of Thurmond, also a punt returner, also made the Ducks' punt returns much weaker.)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=erVnQ8kMiBg&feature=related[/youtube]

Then, solid backup corner Willie Glasper suffered a season-ending injury and panic set in.

Yet, the Ducks held their own after the losses of Thurmond and Glasper in the secondary. One big exception was the Stanford loss when Cardinal quarterback Andrew Luck had a huge day, especially with play-action passes deep set up by running back Toby Gerhart's success on the ground. Also worth noting is that play-action was a huge problem when Oregon lost in 2008 at home to Boise State.

So how'd the secondary succeed this year? As Oregon TV broadcaster Anthony Newman (himself a former defensive back for Oregon and in the NFL) often puts it, the group isn't afraid to make plays. He's right, though there are some things that cause me some worry.

Safety T.J. Ward —who also had early-season injuries— is one of those huge playmakers. He's a hard-hitting safety who's the backbone much like Patrick Chung was last season.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mc8-gJqzWws[/youtube]

John Boyett is a Ward clone and played so well when Ward was out that there was even some debate about him keeping Ward out of the lineup when Ward returned.

Corner Talmadge Jackson III (yes, it's weird to have another III in the secondary) is solid and is capable of making a big play, as he did against UCLA when he went pick-six with a pass. But Jackson also can give up a big play because he has an annoying knack of not turning his head to make a play when he sees a receiver's hands come up for the ball or the receiver's eyes get big (other Ducks fans in the comments on this post say I'm nuts on this criticism.)

Corner Javes Lewis is less likely to make a huge play but also seems less likely to give up one.

And freshman corner Cliff Harris has played up to all his hype since injuries forced him into the lineup, though his small 160-pound frame always gives me agita when he goes up against a receiver with any size.

My bet is Pryor gets at least one bomb completed against this group.
 
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