Surprisingly enough, in an offense praised for rushing totals and All-American running back Lamichael James, the Rose Bowl MVP went to a senior wide receiver who was a formerly low rated junior college player. In addition to losing Lavasier Tuinei the Ducks may suffer a couple more losses at wide receiver. Blake Cantu has had to leave the team due to injuries and there’s been speculation as to whether Justin Hoffman will return after dealing with concussions. The wide receiver position will also be huge given that the Ducks will have a new starting quarterback coming in.
Oregon does have a hype filled freshman/redshirt freshman class going into next season however, with several former four star recruits, Devon Blackmon, Tacoi Sumler, and Bralon Addison, and a couple of exciting three star guys in BJ Kelly, Dwayne Stanford, and Chance Allen. From that group I would expect Allen to redshirt, and even though they’ll have a chance to compete for a spot, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Addison and Stanford redshirt as well (with Stanford being maybe a bit more likely to play due to his size).
Devon Blackmon, Tacoi Sumler, and BJ Kelly will all be pushing for serious playing time though. Blackmon, the most heralded recruit of the three, seems like he might be slightly behind the other two based on who suited up most last year and their performances last fall camp (although he certainly has the athleticism to beat just about anyone out).
As far as the returners go, Josh Huff also had lingering issues last season that seemed to really lower his production. Duck fans should definitely be excited to see what Josh Huff can do in the Oregon offense with two years of experience if he can manage to stay healthy. DeAnthony Thomas was also a huge contributor when lining up out wide, and will likely continue in that role this season. The superstar athlete was one of Oregon’s leading receivers despite being listed at running back.
Oregon will definitely look for a few guys to step up and have big years though. At this point there are several wild card players who will now have to step into meaningful minutes and really prove themselves.
Rahsaan Vaughn is definitely a guy who will be going all out this year, being that it’s his 2nd and final season, so he’s definitely a guy I’ll be watching to be a huge contributor. Vaughn’s also a guy who’s got a ton of talent, seems to have a good attitude from what I’ve seen, and will be much better off with a year in the offense.
The two other names that pop into my head for guys that may have a breakout year are Keanon Lowe and Eric Dungy. Lowe finally found himself getting into some games last year and with Tacoi Sumler - a similar style player – returning, Lowe may be pushed by the competition. Dungy is a guy that I’ve always been really high on and I could see developing into a very similar player as Jeff Maehl. With some of the other talent on this team, I’m not expecting either of these guys to be superstars, but I think either one could become solid contributors who set themselves up for big things their Junior and Senior seasons.
Ultimately, I think the Ducks receiving corps should be improved this year. They should have much more raw talent, and that could translate into scary stat sheets if the experience and leadership comes along. Oregon will definitely be much better suited in terms of deep threats, and could air the ball out deep quite a bit more this year. If Bennett (or Mariota) and this younger group of receivers can play to their potential it could also really open up the run game. Spring camp and fall camp will be huge to develop that chemistry and see whether the passing game will be improved, or take a step back from last year.