‘I’ve always wanted to play quarterback at Auburn’: Bo Nix named Tigers’ starting QB
Auburn kicks off its 2019 season against the Oregon Ducks in Arlington, Texas (7:30 p.m., ABC), in just a few days.
The Tigers will start true freshman Bo Nix. The Ducks will counter with senior Justin Herbert, a projected first-round NFL Draft pick.
Joining the Ledger-Enquirer today (via email) is James Crepea of The Oregonian. Below, we discuss all things Auburn-Oregon.
JM: Oregon enters 2019 off a Redbox Bowl victory and returns quarterback Justin Herbert. What are the realistic expectations for the Ducks this season?
JC: Oregon is expected to contend for a Pac-12 Championship. If the Ducks win this opener, and then beat Stanford in three weeks, the talk of being a playoff contender will ratchet up in a huge way. That’s not unrealistic for a team with one of the best quarterbacks in the sport, a great offensive line, a 1,000-yard and nearly 800-yard rusher and several major players on defense.
JM: What does Herbert bring to the table, and what makes him such a dangerous quarterback?
JC: Herbert is probably the most prototypical NFL quarterback in college football in terms of build. He hasn’t done much under center, which he actually worked on with Peyton Manning this summer, and terminology at the next level will be a learning experience but he’s got all the tools. He’s 6-6 and mobile enough to avoid pressure or run for necessary yards. He’s got perhaps the strongest arm in the country and can be lethally accurate. He’s also a humble guy, quiet and never makes anything about himself — and that’s not just for show for the media.
JM: Who are some lesser-known players (offense or defense) that could make an impact on this game?
JC: For some reason CJ Verdell doesn’t get a lot of national attention but he was one of two FBS players with 1,000 yards rushing and 300 yards receiving last season. Jaylon Redd is their best returning receiver and could see action in the return game. Freshman Kayvon Thibodeaux could be a major factor in pass rush. Linebacker Troy Dye has led the Ducks in tackles for 3 years but I’m sure nobody in SEC country knows enough about him. Cornerback Thomas Graham Jr. and safety Jevon Holland are Oregon’s best two DBs.
JM: What are some areas of concern for the Ducks? Which areas could Auburn try to exploit on Saturday night?
JC: Areas of concern are the receiving corps, which is down three players due to injury. The Ducks led the country with 52 drops last season and lost program-record holder Dillon Mitchell to the NFL. It’s a position going through an overhaul and some of the pieces that were going to be asked to do that are on the mend. Defensively, the front seven lost two of its better players and while there is still talent, Oregon was inconsistent at stopping the run in particular and the pass defense was not in line with the secondary’s talent at all. Most pin that on scheme and Jim Leavitt. We’ll see if that holds true under Andy Avalos.
JM: I won’t ask for a prediction, but what are your keys to the game for the Ducks? What must they do to be successful, on both sides of the ball?
JC: Oregon has to keep Justin Herbert from being hit. He’s going to be pressured, but as long as he stays upright that’s what’s important. If Auburn gets more than three sacks I don’t see Oregon having a great chance of success. Regardless of actual score I think the Ducks need to play from ahead as much as possible throughout the game. It’ll fuel their confidence and ratchet up the pressure on Auburn’s true freshman quarterback.