EUGENE, Ore. (AP) Receiver Josh Huff hopes to remake his legacy in his final season at Oregon.
Huff has had a rocky career for the Ducks. He's been dogged by injuries. He's been in an offense that puts more emphasis on the run than the pass. And he still worries that an arrest that resulted in a full acquittal may have nonetheless tarnished his reputation.
"Everything that has happened, it has made me tougher. It has made me a stronger person," Huff said. "I'm more focused on the task at hand. I try to stay away from the negatives now."
Last season Huff had a career-best 32 catches for 493 yards and seven touchdowns. He averaged 15.4 yards per catch. His numbers likely would have been better had he not been slowed down by a left knee injury early in the team's second game against Fresno State that kept him out the next two games.
His sophomore year, Huff missed a pair of games because of a stress fracture in his left leg that gave him trouble throughout the season. He finished with 31 catches for 430 yards and two scores.
Huff says he's optimistic for this season, which opens on Saturday when the No. 3 Ducks host Nicholls State.
"Injuries are going to come with the game of football. It's just unfortunate they came to me," he said. "It doesn't define the player that I am."
There is talk that Oregon may pass more often, now that Mark Helfrich has taken over as head coach and sophomore quarterback Marcus Mariota has a year of experience.
The Ducks went 12-1 last season and defeated Kansas State in the Fiesta Bowl. Soon thereafter, coach Chip Kelly left Oregon for the NFL's Philadelphia Eagles. Helfrich, the former offensive coordinator, has said he won't change much but many players are hinting about new wrinkles in the team's breakneck spread option.
Huff wasn't giving anything away.
"Whatever helps the team win," he said. "Whether that means me getting the ball more, so be it. If it doesn't, so be it. I'm just here to do what I can do to help the Ducks win a national championship."
Scott Frost, who was promoted to offensive coordinator, said Huff will play an important role in whatever the Ducks roll out.
"I'm excited about Josh," Frost said. "Josh had a great freshman year then he kind of battled through little unfortunate injuries his sophomore and junior years. He was primed and ready to have a great season last year and then he got hurt on a punt return in the second game and missed a few games. Then he had a couple of injuries that were kind of related to the original one. I think he's set to have a great year. Overall, I feel as good about this receiver corps as any since I've been here."
Huff played quarterback, receiver, running back and cornerback at Nimitz High School in Houston. He was a four-star prospect and considered one of the top recruits at his position out of Texas. He played right away at Oregon, becoming the only freshman his year to appear in all 13 of Oregon's games.
He'd always been considered a good kid, so it was a surprise to many when he was arrested for speeding and driving under the influence of marijuana last year.
Only Huff wasn't under the influence of anything. He was completely sober.
"Just being in that situation - I saw my career flash before my eyes. I love football more than anything. I knew that I was innocent, but I felt my reputation was being ruined," he said.
So he pleaded not guilty and took the case to trial. In January he was acquitted of both the DUII and an accompanying speeding charge.
"It was one of those trials and tribulations that I had to go through. I didn't have my parents out here to walk me through it. I had to do everything myself," he said. "Just doing that, it made me a better person, made me see things clearer and showed me how much I'd grown since I got here."
Huff has already graduated - a year ahead of schedule. He has a degree in sociology, and hopes to someday be involved in social work.
The immediate goal for Huff is to prove he can be a "true No. 1 receiver" in his senior year.
"I feel like every year I've been on the cusp of making a statement. Just, unfortunately for me, there's been injuries in my way," he said. "I've got to do things to stay away from those injuries, continue to play my hardest. As long as I'm doing that, hopefully this year is a statement year, not only for myself but for my teammates."