It starts with the obvious: Oregon has a new quarterback this season in Dakota Prukop.
But there’s lots of newness around the No. 24 Ducks, from a crew of assistant coaches to a redone defense and a high-tech sports performance center.
Prukop will be the face of the new-look Oregon on Saturday when the team hosts UC Davis in the season opener. New quarterbacks coach David Yost has likened seeing Prukop in a game at Autzen to Christmas and wanting to open presents.
“We want to get him in position where he’s not too excited and understands there’s still 10 other guys on offense that have to do their job, and all he has to do is his job,” Yost told reporters in Eugene.
A graduate transfer from Montana State, Prukop passed for 3,025 yards and 28 touchdowns with 10 interceptions last season. He also rushed for 774 yards and 11 touchdowns for the Big Sky team that finished 5-6.
Prukop follows in the footsteps of Vernon Adams, a graduate transfer from Eastern Washington who started for the Ducks at the start of last season but was hampered by injuries.
Freshman Justin Herbert, a local prospect out of Sheldon High School in Eugene, was listed as Prukop’s backup for the opener following a competition with Terry Wilson and Travis Jonsen during fall camp.
Prukop’s development in the role has been natural, Helfrich said.
“I think just efficiency and kind of realizing that he doesn’t have to make spectacular plays. We always try to talk about the simple play, the layup, handing the ball to Royce Freeman or throwing a hitch to so-and-and so — that’s a spectacular play when those guys get the ball in their hands,” Helfrich said. “As camp went along, he was much more patient, but still aggressive. Whereas in the spring he was always trying to win the job with every throw.”
Some of the other things that are new at Oregon this season:
THE D: It’s no secret Oregon’s bend-don’t-break defense faltered last year. While the Ducks’ speedy offense led the Pac-12 with 43 points per game, the defense ranked last in the league in allowing 37.5 points per game. Defensive lapses included a 62-20 loss to Utah at Autzen, and of course the disastrous Alamo Bowl loss.
Don Pellum, who was promoted to defensive coordinator last season after Nick Aliotti retired, returned to his previous post as linebackers coach when Oregon brought in Brady Hoke, the former Michigan head coach.
Hoke is installing a new 4-3 defense and trying to bring cohesiveness to a group that lost veteran leader DeForest Buckner to the NFL.
But Hoke has said the process isn’t coming along as well as he’d hoped: “We’ve got a long way to go to be a defense that’s going to be effective in this league,” he said.
OTHER RECENT HIRES: In addition to Hoke, Yost is also new to the Ducks, having coached receivers the past three seasons under Mike Leach at Washington State.
Matt Lubick is taking over for Scott Frost as the Ducks’ offensive coordinator. Lubick was promoted from receivers coach and passing game coordinator just before last season’s Alamo Bowl. Frost became head coach at Central Florida.
NEW DIGS: Oregon recently opened the Marcus Mariota Sports Performance Center, a $19 million addition to the ever-growing list of facilities for student-athletes at Oregon.
The center , on the ground floor of the Cassanova Center adjacent to Autzen, is designed to maximize athletic performance using technology, while also addressing wellness and sports medicine. Oregon director of athletic medicine Dr. Greg Skaggs visited NASA during the center’s design process.
There are even student “sleeping pods,” because of course there are.
WHAT ABOUT THE UNIFORMS? The question that pops up this time every year is: What will the Ducks be wearing? Nothing has been revealed yet, but it’s coming. “I will not tease you. Yes, there are uniform changes. Yes, there’s some that are expansive, some that are not,” coach Mark Helfrich said during Pac-12 football media day. “They’re all very cool.”
The Ducks did tease some gray uniforms during a photo shoot with Olympian Devon Allen before the start of fall camp.