Oregon's promising 2017 season ended with a wild two weeks that saw Willie Taggart depart for Florida State, coach Mario Cristobal take over the program, recruits decommit left and right and then the Ducks fall flat during a 38-28 loss to Boise State in the Las Vegas Bowl. Still, the 2018 season could see Oregon return to Pac-12 prominence. That is, if a lot of variables play out in the Ducks' favor. We will take a position-by-position look at the team to discuss what must happen in order for Oregon to rise again in 2018.
Today: The 2018 Ducks will contend if (Part 3)...: They find WR Mitchell some help.
Key departures: Charles Nelson moves on after a disappointing season that saw him hindered by an ankle injury and gaining just 404 yards on 32 receptions with one touchdown.
Projected 2017 TE starter: Jacob Breeland, RJr. (6-5, 241).
What we know: Mitchell could become a true No. 1 receiver. The type of target that requires extra attention in coverage. Mitchell showed flashes of being that guys last season when he led Oregon with 42 receptions and 517 receiving yards, and he should be expected to take the next step in 2018.
Breeland has also shown similar flashes. He led the team with five touchdowns on just 18 receptions for 320 yards.
The statistics for both were hurt by quarterback Justin Herbert's five-game absence.
What we don't know: Who is going to provide adequate help to keep defenses from ganging up on Mitchell and Breeland?
Johnson demonstrated a gift for making spectacular catches but also at times played like the freshman that he was. Schooler made a few big plays here and there but didn't really strike fear into opposing defenses. McCormick also showed promise.
Right now, Oregon has a group of largely adequate but hardly spectacular receivers. This group has a long ways to go to match the corps that helped Marcus Mariota and Vernon Adams Jr. torch the Pac-12 in 2014 and 2015, respectively.
What must happen for Oregon to contend: Aside from Mitchell and Breeland reaching the levels of Darren Carrington II and Colt Lyerla (minus the off-the-field troubles), the Ducks need two additional receivers to become strong targets along the lines of a Dwayne Stanford.
Schooler, after a full season and offseason under his belt since moving to receiver, has the tools to become a consistent threat if he can start to master the nuances of the position that largely escaped him in 2017.
Johnson has probably the highest ceiling on the roster next to Mitchell. How he performed as a true freshman with should offer encouragement that he is just scratching the surface of his potential. In a perfect world, he would have redshirted last season. But Johnson had to play because of a lack of proven targets on the roster. That year of experience could result in Johnson taking off next season.
McCormick should at least be solid enough as the backup tight end and Oregon typically has just one on the field.
So there keys here are Schooler and Johnson. If they don't deliver, the Ducks could hope that Ofodile finally blossoms, and/or that someone else surprises.
But the most likely scenario is that either Schooler or Johnson emerges or the Ducks will remain limited at receiver.
Next up: The 2018 Ducks will contend if (Part 4)...: LT Tyrell Crosby isn't missed.