Ducks defense in spotlight in 2012

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The Oregon Ducks shake-off distractions the way their playmakers elude defenders _ quickly and without looking back.

An NCAA investigation lurks, their head coach almost jumped to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and an ESPN The Magazine article suggested half the team smokes marijuana. The Rose Bowl-winning team also lost its starting quarterback and Heisman-finalist running back to the NFL draft.

Those events might signal a program in decline. But Oregon enters 2012 as a top-5 team in most polls, and a favorable schedule _ except for back-to-back road games against USC and California that loom in November _ could set up coach Chip Kelly and the Ducks for another run at the national championship.

The Ducks, with 65 freshmen and sophomores, might even have stronger squads in the years to come.

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