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Oregon Ducks Transition to B1G With Eyes on National Title

Oregon Ducks
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The last 365 days have been chaotic for the Oregon Ducks, but there is no shortage of excitement heading into the 2024 season.

After playing their final season as members of the Pac-12 Conference in 2023 and playing in the conference's final championship game, the Ducks will make the move to the Big Ten Conference in 2024 and will do so with a new quarterback under center.

To help transition to this new era in Oregon football, coach Dan Lanning has reeled in an elite recruiting class and has used the transfer portal to keep the Ducks in contention, not only in the Big Ten but in the College Football Playoff as well.

Oregon Ducks
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Eventful Offseason

While Oregon finished the 2023 season with a 12-2 overall record and notched a dominant win in the Fiesta Bowl, the Ducks will have to replace key players such as Bo Nix, Bucky Irving, Troy Franklin, Brandon Dorlus, Evan Williams, Khyree Jackson and Jackson Powers-Johnson.

Along with replacing NFL-bound players, all of Eugene held its breath as rumors began to swirl about Lanning leaving to coach Alabama after the retirement of Nick Saban. But Lanning didn't make Ducks' fans wait long for a collective sigh of relief by immediately squashing the rumors and using the attention as a savvy recruiting pitch. In a viral social media post addressing the situation and rumors he was "in Alabama" for an interview, Lanning included a message for any players wanting to join him at Oregon, "If you're scared your coach is leaving ... then come play for us."

What followed after that was serendipity. The class that Lanning brought in following the post could be one of the best in Oregon history.

Transfer Portal Nets Ducks Historic QB Duo

Lanning brought in quite the recruiting class for 2024, but made his biggest splashes with the transfer portal. Oregon's transfer class was among the top three in the country thanks to Lanning landing former Oklahoma quarterback Dillon Gabriel and former UCLA quarterback Dante Moore.

Although Nix was beloved at Oregon, Gabriel is no stranger to big-time college football. After an electric 2023 season with the Sooners in which he threw for more than 3,600 yards and 30 touchdowns, Gabriel announced in December via Instagram he was using his final year of eligibility to play for the Ducks in 2024.

Moore, a former five-star recruit who had originally committed to the Ducks before Nix announced he was returning for the 2023 season, announced he was leaving the Bruins to return to the school he first committed. Originally from the Detroit area, Moore won a Michigan state championship for Martin Luther King Senior High School. Last season at UCLA he threw for 1,610 yards, 11 touchdowns and 9 interceptions on 213 pass attempts.

While there may be a battle for the starting job in the spring, it's pretty clear that it's Gabriel's job to lose. Moore has signed up to come in and learn behind a veteran until ultimately taking over the offense after this season.

The Ducks brought in the top wide receiver in the portal when Evan Stewart announced he was leaving Texas A&M after a chaotic freshman season under Jimbo Fisher. Stewart was a five-star recruit out of Memphis, Tenn., and has exceptional footwork and route running ability. He is expected to touch the field often this season, however, we won't know much until spring competitions really begin in April.

Oregon also beefed up the offensive line in the portal by landing coveted Indiana transfer Matthew Bedford at guard.

The Ducks defense also benefitted from the portal after former Kansas State safety Kobe Savage decided to go to Oregon. One of the top safeties available, Savage had 38 tackles and 3 interceptions for the Wildcats last season and is expected to take over as the starter to replace Williams.

Coming in just behind Georgia and Alabama, the Ducks finished the 2024 recruiting cycle with the third-best in the country, according to 247Sports. Five-star recruits Elijah Rushing (Edge) and Gatlin Bair (WR) highlight Oregon's class of 2024 but Lanning also brought in 16 four-star recruits to join the Ducks.

Loaded Wide Receiver Room

Despite losing standout wide receiver Troy Franklin to the NFL, the Ducks receiving corps will still be one of the best in the nation. Along with bringing in Stewart via the portal, receivers Tez Johnson, Traeshon Holden and Jurrion Dickey will provide valuable targets for Dillon in the passing game.

Last year's No. 2 wide receiver, Johnson returns after registering 86 receptions for 1,182 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2023. Holden, who came to Oregon as an Alabama transfer in the summer of 2022, is slated to be a potential starter. The 6-foot-3 junior receiver began to shine late in the year for the Ducks and finished with 452 yards and 6 touchdowns.

Another name that shouldn't be forgotten is Dickey. The lone five-star recruit the Ducks landed in 2023, Dickey was the highest-rated wide receiver Oregon has signed out of high school since Cameron Colvin in 2004. He had a quiet freshman season in 2023 with just one catch in the Fiesta Bowl but he is poised for a bigger role in 2024.

Oregon offensive coordinator Will Stein said he is excited to see what Dickey can do in the offense.

"Now he's at a point, he gets lined up like that, he runs his route and now he looks like the player that we all anticipated he would look like," Stein said after the Ducks' initial spring practices. "And he's in shape. And he's healthy. I love that kid. He has worked his tail off to get in good shape, to go out and produce for us. The sky is the limit for Jurrion as we all know."

Oregon Ducks
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Wide receivers Kyler Kasper and Gary Bryant Jr. will also be names Duck fans will want to keep an eye out for.

Other Returning Ducks to Watch

Other key players returning for the Ducks this season include Ajani Cornelius (OL), Iapani Lalloulu (OL), Terrance Ferguson (TE), Noah Whittington (RB), Jordan James (RB), Jeffrey Bassa (LB), Jordan Burch (DE), Tysheem Johnson (DB) and Dontae Manning (DB).

Cornelius' return solidifies the edge along the offensive line while Lalloulu will fill the void at center left by the departing Powers-Johnson. Manning has the chance to see his NFL Draft stock skyrocket with an elevated role in Lanning's defense in 2024.

Ducks in a New Pond

Oregon will begin its new era in the Big Ten in 2024 along with fellow former Pac-12 foes Washington, UCLA and USC. The Ducks will open the season with two home games against Idaho and Boise State before traveling to Corvallis to take on in-state rival Oregon State on Sept. 14. Oregon will open Big Ten play at UCLA on Sept. 28.

The Ducks will welcome Michigan State, Ohio State, Illinois, Maryland and rival Washington to Eugene in 2024, and will travel to Purdue, Michigan and Wisconsin. Oregon's game against Ohio State on Oct. 12 is expected to be selected for ESPN's College Gameday.

Oregon should pose an instant threat as a juggernaut in the conference after amassing a 6-3 record against Big Ten opponents since 2010, headlined by an iconic 35-28 win at Ohio State in 2021.

Championship Window

This season might be the most important for the Ducks in the past few years due to the conference switch and the amount of talent Lanning has brought in. Lanning has an opportunity to make a statement in the Big Ten in year one by establishing immediate dominance and then maintaining that dominance.

Oregon Ducks
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With Gabriel starting this season, Moore potentially becoming a star in the future and a loaded roster the Ducks should be considered a national championship contender in 2024 and beyond.

Duck fans will get their first look at the 2024 team at the spring game, which is scheduled for April 27 at Autzen Stadium.


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