UO is picked to win the North Division in the Pac-12 preseason media poll
LOS ANGELES — There are no surprises on the Ducks’ 2019 roster.
And in the era of the NCAA transfer portal and the never-ending coaching carousel, that is quite surprising.
According to Oregon, the 118 players who were expected to remain on or be added to the team since the end of spring football practice are all expected to report when fall camp opens Aug. 2.
At Wednesday’s Pac-12 media day event inside the ballroom of a Hollywood hotel, Oregon coach Mario Cristobal said only one player — walk-on wide receiver Justin Collins — is not ready to practice due to injury.
“Everybody else is good to go,” Cristobal said. “We've been very fortunate. Strong offseason, really strong offseason. Our strength and conditioning numbers have gone up.
“But this is the year that you've been really working towards, right?”
The lofty expectations and stability for the Ducks — who had three head coaches in as many seasons from 2016-18 — begins with the return of quarterback Justin Herbert, linebacker Troy Dye and a list of other seniors who will try to lead the program back to national prominence.
Oregon was narrowly picked to finish first in the North Division with 17 first-place votes and 190 points in the poll. Rival Washington also received 17 first-place votes but is second in the pecking order with 189 points.
Utah was voted to repeat as South Division champions and received 12 votes to win the Pac-12 championship game. Oregon (11), Washington (9), USC (2) and Washington State also received votes to win the conference title.
“I think the expectations inside never really change. You always acknowledge what the noise is on the outside,” said Cristobal, who added that he’s appreciative that the media thinks so highly of his team. “I think the guys have understood pretty clearly when we prepare well and we focus on what we're doing, we're pretty good. And when we don't, we don't play very good.”
The Ducks finished 9-4 last season, which was highlighted by the dramatic 30-27 overtime victory over the eventual Pac-12 champion Huskies.
Oregon settled for a fourth-place finish in the North due to a fourth-quarter collapse against Stanford and rough road trips to Pullman, Tucson and Salt Lake City.
With a conference-best 13 players on the preseason all-Pac-12 teams, the Ducks are being talked about as a possible College Football Playoff participant.
“I think of it as a goal,” Herbert said of trying to get Oregon in the playoff five years after Marcus Mariota led the program to the national title game. “But I think it’s also a byproduct of all your hard work and doing the right things all year. If you take care of business throughout the year, I think that’s something the comes with it.”
Right tackle Calvin Throckmorton and left guard Shane Lemieux join Herbert and Dye on the all-conference first team.
Herbert, a projected NFL first-round pick, was on 31 of the 33 first-team ballots. Stanford’s K.J. Costello is the second-team quarterback.
“I’m really looking forward to the season because (Herbert) has grown a lot this offseason,” said Dye, who has led the team in tackles three consecutive seasons. “I think everybody’s really excited to see what he can do.”
Sophomore left tackle Penei Sewell, junior cornerback Thomas Graham and junior nose tackle Jordon Scott are on the all-Pac-12 second team.
Running back CJ Verdell, tight end Jacob Breeland, offensive lineman Jake Hanson, offensive lineman Dallas Warmack, safety Jevon Holland and all-purpose Brenden Schooler received honorable mention.
Stanford was picked third in the North ahead of Washington State, California and Oregon State. The Beavers received the fewest votes (38) in the poll.
USC was tabbed second in the South with two first-place votes. Arizona State and UCLA were tied for third with Arizona fifth and Colorado last in the division.
The Ducks will be in the spotlight in the opener against Auburn on Aug. 31 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas (4:30 p.m., ABC).
The road to the Pac-12 championship game on Dec. 6 at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., includes visits to Stanford, Washington, USC and Arizona State.
“We have a challenging schedule and we have a lot of challenges on the road, and it's something that we know we have to improve upon because we haven't done a very good job,” Cristobal said. “And it starts with me. It starts with coaching. We've got to make sure that we are prepared mentally and have a mindset that's a different level. …
“(Being picked to win the North) is always a compliment and we respect the fact and appreciate that fact. It doesn't factor into our preparation.”