EUGENE The Oregon Ducks have some concerns about the Alamo Bowl, primarily how the Texas Longhorns might rally around departing coach Mack Brown and play their best game of the year.
More specifically, the Ducks' offensive coaches and players have their eyes set on how to contain defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat, the 6-5, 245-pound senior son of former NFL player Jim Jeffcoat and Hendricks Award winner and first-team All-American. Jeffcoat had a team-leading 80 tackles with 21 tackles-for-loss, 12 sacks and 18 quarterback hurries during the regular season.
The Longhorns have some other formidable players on defense, but the Ducks' plan will be to not let Jeffcoat beat them.
"He's more of a four-down defensive end, but they move him around, similar to how UCLA plays (Anthony) Barr," UO offensive coordinator Scott Frost says. "They've done some different things with him. He's a dynamic pass rusher, really fast in space."
Says QB Marcus Mariota: "He's a little like Barr. They try to find ways to use his abilities in the best way they can. He's a special player. He's going to make plays. He's a force."
Frost says the Longhorns have some athletic defensive linemen with Jeffcoat and Cedric Reed (75 tackles, 18 TFLs, nine sacks, 16 QB hurries) and others "it's as good of a D-line as we'll face," he says.
It'll be interesting to see how UO tackles Jake Fisher and Tyler Johnstone perform and how well tight ends and running backs block.
Frost says the Longhorns also have solid tacklers at linebacker and a secondary that features safety Adrian Phillips.
Texas gave up 25.5 points and 402.1 yards offense per game in the regular season, which included 180.3 yards per game rushing (4.3 per carry).
Clearly, the Longhorns can get after the quarterback. Can Mariota and receivers Bralon Addison and Josh Huff make them pay? Can the Ducks' running game continue the momentum established in the Civil War game? The Ducks rushed for 283 yards (6.3 per carry), led by Thomas Tyner's 140 yards on 22 carries.
Mariota and Huff both point to the offensive line and blocking as improving before, during and after the Civil War.
"Up front, we went back to fundamentals, worked on blocking," Mariota says. "That's helped us a lot. As long as we push up front, it'll open up the passing game as well."
Says Huff: "We took a tough stretch in November, lost some of our physicality. We ended up losing two games. But, before the Oregon State game, we focused more on fundamentals, got our physicality back. Our defense is helping us with that by being physical, too. It's a team deal, makes us each and every one of us better. i can't wait to see (the offense) be unleashed Dec. 30."
Alamo Bowl details: Oregon (10-2) vs. Texas (8-4), 3:45 p.m. PT Monday, Dec. 30, Alamodome, San Antonio, Texas. ESPN's announcing team: Brad Nessler, Todd Blackledge and Holly Rowe. Oregon will be the visiting team.
Frost says several Big 12 teams Baylor, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Kansas State feature similar offenses to Oregon's.
"We definitely had some tape to look at," he says, regarding how Texas' defense performed against those teams.
Frost interviewed to be head coach at Boise State, but he opted not to talk much about the interview as the Ducks prepared for the Alamo Bowl.
"I'm happy to be here," he says. "My heart was here anyway."