Coming out of spring practices the bright spot for the Ducks appeared to be an improved and athletic defense that was hungry to grab some of the spotlight away from the high-powered Oregon offense.
However, just days following the spring game projected starting inside linebacker Kiko Alonso was arrested for trespassing during what appeared to be an attempted robbery. The incident came only 15 months after Alonso was suspended for the entire 2010 season for a DUI.
The trouble does not stop there for the Ducks defense concerning run-ins with the law. Just last week preseason All-American cornerback/kick returner Cliff Harris was arrested for driving a leisurely 118 mph on a suspended license. More trouble came for Harris when it was discovered that he has over $8,500 in outstanding fines dating back to his high school days in Fresno, CA, most of which he never appeared in court to address. As if that wasn’t enough the NCAA has started sniffing around because the car Harris was caught in was a rental car issued to a University employee, who Harris and other players apparently paid to borrow the vehicle.
Harris, who is considered the most electrifying and quotable player in the Pac-12, has been suspended for at least the LSU game while Head Coach Chip Kelly continues to gather information. Alonso has been suspended indefinitely as well while the investigation continues, but most expect Kelly to remove him from the team. However, since Alonso was not kicked off the team immediately there may still be an outside shot at redemption.
Both loses will be key when the Ducks take the field against the “Bayou Bengals” on September 3rd. Oregon is very thin at middle linebacker and may look to incoming freshman Anthony Wallace to join the rotation, while senior Dewitt Stuckey will likely slide into the starting spot.
Oregon is deep at cornerback, but none would be able to provide the game-changing ability of Harris. Redshirt freshmen Terrance Mitchell and Troy Hill are currently the front runners to start against LSU, but to have their first game in college be in the possible game of the regular season on national TV would be nerve-racking for the young men, not to mention Oregon fans.
Chip Kelly has always seemed to handle these situations with patience, class and a firm hand when necessary. It truly seems like he cares about his players and wants them to succeed off the field as much as he does on the field. Which is why it is so painful to see his players time and time again disrespect his authority and require him to make difficult decisions. Kelly has not hesitated to hand out severe punishment to star players before (Blount and Masoli), yet players do not seem to get the hint. Making mistakes are a part of growing up for college kids, but in these cases it seems extreme and idiotic.
Kelly will deliver the punishments when the time is right, but there are a lot of holes to fill on the field as a result of these incidents which will need most of his attention. Whatever results he comes up with will be tested immediately when LSU walks into Texas Stadium licking their lips, ready for a shot at an Oregon defense that needs every man they can to stop the SEC powerhouse.
About the Author
Written by Rob Parness
My name is Robbie Parness and I am a student at the University of Oregon. I'm a California native that loves to play, watch and talk about all kinds of sports. I would love to become a sports writer someday or work in sports in any capacity.