It wasn't a secret this Oregon football team was going to be young. It also wasn't a secret the Ducks were going to need that youth to grow up quickly and become key players for the Ducks if Oregon was going to win their third straight league title.
Colt Lyerla has had to step up for the Ducks despite his youth.
Oregon has leaned on guys like true freshman De'Anthony Thomas, Colt Lyerla, and Jake Fisher on offense. The defense has needed true freshman Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Rodney Hardrick, redshirt freshman Terrance Mitchell and Troy Hill just to name a few.
After three games the young Ducklings are growing up.
"We've gained a lot," said Oregon's offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich on what Oregon's gained over the last two games. "Some of our young guys have gained some confidence. I think we've gained our mojo back in terms of how we go about things."
After a shell-shocking experience on offense that was baptism by fire against LSU the Ducks will head south for a road game against Arizona that will present Oregon with a hostile crowd and a team that has given the Ducks fits the last four seasons.
"Just make sure we are prepared and be ready to go because it is going to be a great atmosphere," says junior quarterback Darron Thomas on what he needs to do. "I am very excited to play in Arizona."
The Wildcats are already looking at the season tipping to the breaking point heading into Saturday's game.
After a convincing victory over FCS opponent Northern Arizona the Wildcats have been blown out back two top 10 teams in Oklahoma State and Stanford by a combined score of 74-24.
Enter Oregon and the Wildcats' third straight Top 10 opponent and the pressure on the Wildcats to win now to save their season.
"It's going to be a competitive game," says Thomas. "They lost last week so I know they are going to come out and compete."
If Oregon is going to get a victory come Saturday the Ducks will likely have to draw up multiple plays that ask Oregon's youth to make plays and come through for Oregon in a hostile environment.
"The last three games we have gained a lot of confidence from guys who we have inserted this year and I think they are ready to go," says Thomas.
Oregon junior running back LaMichael James says its not just confidence in knowing what you can do but also the team starting to gel and develop chemistry.
"I think my confidence is most definitely where it needs to be right now. That takes time; we've been struggling a little bit because of chemistry," says James. "It takes time to get that game experience and after playing three games now we're starting to understand reps and we're taking great strides."
Thomas says he has put his trust into his new receivers and says he hopes they can take that confidence and make plays Saturday.
"Trusting the receivers to catch it and they did a great job," says Thomas about Oregon's air attack against Missouri State. "Hopefully it starts more confidence in them to go get more balls."
For one of those newcomers, Rahsaan Vaughn, he thinks his best ball is still ahead of him and improvements can be made.
"I have come through and made the bigger plays that I am asked to do, so for that I am happy, but like I said earlier to become as dangerous as I know I can be, I have a lot of work left to do," said Vaughn.
For Vaughn and plenty of other young players littered across Oregon's depth chart the Ducks will need them to continue to grow and grow quickly.
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