Not having to face Josh Doctson in Alamo Bowl on Saturday, Oregon can breathe a little bit easier about the stress the TCU offense will put on its defense.
But not much — not with a healthy Trevone Boykin in the picture, the Ducks are saying.
“There’s not really anyone like him in the Pac-12 this year,” Oregon coach Mark Helfrich said. “He’s not a huge guy in stature as a passer and what they do, but then he can really throw it and really run. He’s an elite passer, an elite runner, and they have a great system.”
Boykin is expected to be in his best health since an ankle injury on the first series against Kansas on Nov. 14. The senior quarterback played the rest of the first quarter, but left the game after that and missed the next week at Oklahoma. He played at 75 percent, according to coach Gary Patterson, in the season finale Nov. 27 against Baylor.
“He’s going to be one of the best quarterbacks we go against this whole season,” said Oregon defensive end DeForest Buckner, the Pac-12 defensive player of the year after recording 9.5 sacks this season. “He’s a good dual-threat quarterback. He can hurt us with his feet. They’ve got designed running plays just for him, and he can hurt us with his arm, too, with the athletes he’s got around him.”
Cornerback Arrion Springs, who led Oregon in passes defensed, said the Ducks can’t allow Boykin to extend plays.
“We’ve got to stay in coverage a little longer, maybe drop someone out of coverage to spy him a little bit and make sure he doesn’t just take off,” he said.
Oregon secondary coach John Neal, a 33-year college coaching veteran, said Boykin is “as close to Michael Vick as I’ve seen in a while, just in terms of his body movement, speed and the arm he’s got. ... You can play perfect coverage, everything’s great, and he runs 30 yards because he’s that talented.”
But Boykin won’t have his No. 1 receiver to throw to.
Doctson, the Horned Frogs’ senior receiver and Biletnikoff Award finalist, led the country in receiving yards when he suffered a wrist injury in the second quarter at Oklahoma State on Nov. 7. He left the game, came back the next week with the wrist heavily protected and caught one pass, but has not played since. He was ruled out of the Alamo Bowl last week.
“Not too much,” Helfrich said, asked how Doctson’s absence changes Oregon’s plan. “He’s a dynamic, dynamic player, but we’re focused on oursevles. There’s certain things they do and that he does that are unique challenges, but we have to defend their team. Obviously, Boykin presents a tremendous amount of problems himself.”
Oregon ranked 11th in the Pac-12 in pass defense, allowing 301.2 yards per game, 33 touchdown passes and a 62.6 completion percentage. The Ducks got 12 interceptions (compared to TCU’s seven).
“He’s definitely a huge weapon for them,” Buckner said of Doctson. “It’ll ease up the pressure on teh secondary and the whole defense in general, so it’s a benefit for us, and we just have to take advantage of something like that.”
The Ducks can see TCU’s receiver depth. But there is only one Josh Doctson.
“They got a whole bunch of them, but when you take one of the five best wide receivers in the country out of the game plan, yeah, there’s a little bit of relief,” Neal said. “But they’ll just replace him with somebody. They got a lot of production on that team and a lot of great speed. It’s a tough break for them, but it doesn’t really change anything for us. We got to figure out how to stop everybody else. We have to stop the run, too.”