Not 30 minutes after the Oregon Ducks completed an absolutely embarrassing collapse against the Oregon State Beavers in which they blew a 17-point fourth-quarter lead, the news came out that offensive coordinator Kenny Dillingham is reportedly finalizing a deal to become the next head coach for the Arizona State Sun Devils.
This is not a huge surprise, since Dillingham has been rumored to be attached to that coaching vacancy all season as a former alum from ASU. The magnificent first year of playcalling that Dillingham had at Oregon only strengthened his resume.
While it will be great to see Dillingham land in a nice position with a chance to grow Dan Lanning’s coaching tree, the departure leaves a lot of unanswered questions for the Ducks. Where do they go from here? What are the ramifications of the move? How will this impact recruiting?
Let’s try our best to answer some of those questions.
How will this impact recruiting?
The more important question is how will the loss of Kenny Dillingham impact the commitment from 5-star quarterback Dante Moore?
Moore, one of the top-rated quarterbacks in the nation, has been committed to the Ducks since July, and he is just weeks away from signing his national letter of intent with Oregon. One of his main recruiters has been Dillingham, who has developed a close relationship with him over the past couple of years.
Does Dillingham’s decision to head to ASU make it so that Moore waivers on his commitment to Oregon? Obviously, we can’t know for sure, but it will be interesting to watch in the coming days.
More than just the QB, will there be other players who are committed to Oregon that will re-open their recruitment now that the OC is out the door? You can hope that Dan Lanning is a good enough recruiter and coach that he will be able to keep most of the players locked in with the Ducks, but having such a big piece of your coaching staff take off is never easy to cope with.
Does this change Bo Nix's decision to stay in Eugene or go to the NFL?
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The million-dollar question in Eugene all year has been about whether or not Bo Nix would choose to utilize his final year of collegiate eligibility and stick around with the Ducks for one more season in 2023, or if he would go to the NFL and test out his draft status.
With Dillingham, the man who brought Nix from Auburn to Oregon, now out the door to Tempe, it seems less likely that Nix will decide to come back for one more go-around with the Ducks. You have to consider the relationship between those two. After Dillingham was the OC for Auburn during Nix’s freshman season, the two produced an SEC Freshman of the Year season. Nix struggled to reach the same heights once Dillingham left the Tigers, but he was able to find that success once again after the two reunited in Eugene.
Does another year of college without Dillingham as his play-caller seem appealing to Nix?
I can’t pretend to know the thinking of No. 10, but if I was originally considering a final collegiate season, I might be rethinking that now that I know I would be playing under a new coordinator.
How soon will Dillingham leave?
We know for sure that Dillingham is gone. However, we don’t exactly know when he’s going to leave. The Ducks still potentially have a Pac-12 Championship game to play for, depending on the outcome of the Apple Cup on Saturday night, and beyond that, they are guaranteed a spot in a bowl game at the end of the season. Will Dillingham stick around for either of those two games?
If he did, it would be a massive win for the Ducks, since it’s been made clear that he is a highly-successful play-caller who gets the best out of Oregon’s offensive players. The Sun Devils are not bowl-eligible this season, so it’s not like he has anywhere to be, either, unless he wants to try and get a jump-start on the 2023 season.
I’ll be interested to see when he packs his bags and takes off from Eugene.
Who is the next OC in Eugene?
I’m writing this directly after the press conferences with Oregon players following the Oregon State game, so forgive me for not having a fleshed out list of OC candidates. I hope to have one up either late on Saturday night, or potentially early on Sunday morning.
However, if I’m going to look in-house for the Ducks, it’s hard not to consider WR coach Junior Adams or TE coach Drew Mehringer as great candidates. Both Oregon’s WR group and TE groups took off this season under the new offense, and while a lot of that has to do with the scheme that Dillingham put into place, you have to give credit to those two position coaches for holding up their end of the bargain. You could also look to OL coach Adrian Klemm, as well, though I see him staying more as the run-game coordinator than the overall play-caller.
Over the coming days, a ton of names for potential candidates are going to come to the surface, but those are two early names that I am thinking of right now.
Did the ASU rumors have an impact on Oregon's loss to Oregon State?
As much as we have loved to prop up Dillingham this season, it’s okay to admit that Saturday was not his best performance as a play-caller for the Ducks. Oregon built up a 21-point lead in the second half, a 17-point lead in the fourth quarter, and lost the game. Did they get complacent? Did they become too predictable? It’s possible. But in the end, you could tell it wasn’t the best performance from the OC.
That started to make sense a bit once the news of Dillingham leaving came out after the game.
I’m not saying that the rumors surrounding his potential departure this week were the reason that the Ducks lost this game, but I know that when there is outside noise of that magnitude circling your program, the impact can be massive. I just have to wonder if things would have been different had these rumors not been swirling all week.