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Three offseason questions: Oregon Ducks

It’s a slow time of year in college football. Spring practices are over and the NFL draft has come and gone, leaving four long months before college football returns to our television screens. We’ll take a look at some questions facing each Pac-12 team over the next couple of weeks. Next up: Oregon.

Can defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt engineer an immediate turnaround?

At new coach Willie Taggart’s introductory news conference, Oregon president Michael Schill delivered a memorable line: “One bit of advice, which probably everybody in the state of Oregon can give him, is, ‘Go find a great defensive coordinator,’" he said. That’s exactly what Taggart did. Jim Leavitt, a finalist for the Broyles Award, given to the nation’s top assistant coach, was hired away from Colorado in a massive coup for the Ducks. Over the previous two seasons, the Ducks allowed a combined average of 39.4 points per game -- only two Power 5 programs, Texas Tech and Kansas, allowed more. In 2014, before Leavitt arrived in Boulder, the Buffaloes allowed 39 points per game. That number dropped to 27.5 in his first season and 21.7 in his second.

When will Justin Herbert officially be named the starting quarterback?

Taggart wasn’t ready to name rising sophomore Justin Herbert the Ducks’ starter following his impressive performance in the spring game, but it feels like only a matter of time before he confirms that will be the case. Spring games aren’t always the best indicator for who should start at quarterback, but this isn’t a matter of one player having a better day. Herbert already proved last year, when he became the first true freshman to start at quarterback for Oregon in over 30 years, that he has a bright future. His 19 touchdown passes and four interceptions may have come in a different system, but there’s nothing to indicate he won’t be a good fit for what Taggart plans to run.

What’s in store for Royce Freeman’s final year?

When healthy, he’s as good a running back as there is in college football, but injury issues limited his effectiveness in what many assumed would be his final season in a Ducks uniform. Even after rushing for just 945 yards as a junior -- down from 1,836 the year before -- Freeman still could have been one of the first backs off the board in the NFL draft, but he chose to return for his final year of eligibility. With 4,146 rushing yards, he ranks No. 1 among active college players and gives Taggart a key piece to rely on in his first year. All indications are that, if he’s not there already, Freeman will be back to full health by training camp.