Oregon's quest to improve greatly over last season's 4-8 record will depend on the rapid development of several young and/or previously little-used players. Here is a look at ten most likely to rise to the occasion in 2017.
No. 2: Sophomore wide receiver Dillon Mitchell.
Late last season when Mitchell returned a punt 45 yards against Utah he demonstrated the speed and athleticism that have made him such an intriguing prospect since he signed as a four-star recruit in 2016. The Ducks will need to see many more examples of his talent in 2017.
Mitchell came to Oregon as the No. 17-rated wide receiver in the nation but ended up catching just two passes for nine yards while getting lost in a crowded depth chart at receiver.
Injuries to Devon Allen and Dwayne Stanford thinned out that depth a bit but not enough to for Mitchell to become a major contributor. Now the depth at receiver is so thin that Mitchell will be needed to deliver in order for the passing game to reach its potential under sophomore quarterback Justin Herbert. All signs point to Mitchell being ready to make an impact.
The Ducks will return just two proven pass catchers in senior wide receivers Darren Carrington II and Charles Nelson. Mitchell will enter fall camp as the No. 3 receiver in an offense that starts three receivers.
Redshirt sophomore Alex Ofodile, injured all spring, was a four-star recruit in 2015. He will have a chance to compete for playing time. Freshman Darrian McNeal could be in the mix after a solid spring. So to could former cornerback Malik Lovette. Each presents some intriguing abilities but none are as complete as Mitchell could possibly be.
Oregon coach Willie Taggart entered spring drills hoping to see Mitchell demonstrate play-making ability to match the hype. Taggart says he has been pleased with what he saw from Mitchell and expects him to be in the mix this fall and receive a chance to thrive.
But it's up to Mitchell to seize the moment. How well he performs could be the difference in a game or two for the Ducks, who will likely need to play great on offense to overcome what figures to still be a mediocre defense.
The working list
No. 1: Cornerback Thomas Graham Jr.
No. 2: Wide receiver Dillon Mitchell.
No. 3: Nose tackle Jordon Scott.
No. 4: Freshman quarterback Braxton Burmeister.
No. 5: Sophomore tight end Jacob Breeland.
No. 6: Sophomore linebacker La'Mar Winston.
No. 7: Redshirt sophomore nose tackle Gary Baker.
No. 8: Wide receivers Ofodile, Lovette and McNeal.
No. 9: Safeties Brady Breeze and Billy Gibson.
No. 10: Several freshman must deliver.