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. 6: Sophomore linebacker La'Mar Winston Jr.
The Ducks need a young linebacker other than Troy Dye to emerge and Winston could very well be that guy.
Dye has been moved to inside linebacker in new defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt's 3-4 scheme after last season being that side of the ball's only impact player while operating at outside linebacker in the 4-3.
Dye's move inside likely means that senior Jimmie Swain will move outside while fellow senior A.J. Hotchkins remains inside. That still leaves one outside linebacker spot unaccounted for and Winston, a four-star recruit in 2016, could be the guy to fill that role.
Winston, out of Portland's Central Catholic High School, appeared in 11 games last year, mostly on special teams, and had five tackles. Even if he doesn't become a starter in 2017, the Ducks could certainly benefit from him developing into a quality backup capable of starting in the future.
There is some urgency for Winston to develop rapidly or potentially get left behind. The Ducks have signed some quality linebacker recruits and have received commitments from potential stars at the position for the 2018 class.
Winston is every bit as talented as those on their way to Eugene. Rivals.com rated him in 2016 as the No. 8 athlete in the nation, which should foreshadow success. The time for that to happen is now.
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.