Oregon Ducks

Oregon Ducks

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. 8: Wide receivers Alex Ofodile, Malik Lovette and Darrian McNeal.

The status of senior wide receiver Darren Carrington Jr. remains unclear. Oregon coach Willie Taggart suspended Carrington - easily the team's best wide receiver - indefinitely following his DUII arrest late last month. 

Let's assume for now that Carrington will play this season giving the Ducks a legitimate No. 1 receiver to play alongside senior Charles Nelson, one of the best slot receivers in the Pac-12, if not the nation. That still leaves the Ducks in need of sophomore Dillon Mitchell to emerge in order to give UO three legitimate starters for its three-receiver offense. That's why Mitchell checked in at No. 2 on this list. 

Even if Mitchell delivers the Ducks will undoubtedly need more than three capable receivers to survive the season, especially given the fast pace of the offense and the injury factor. Oregon, over the last few years, lost Bralon Addison, Devon Allen, Byron Marshall and Dwayne Stanford to injury, and Carrington to a suspension. If not for the Ducks' depth at the position, UO would have been sunk on offense.  Oregon must uncover similar depth for this season.

 

The 6-foot-3 Ofodile, a redshirt sophomore and former four-star recruit, has yet to live up to his potential and was slowed by a foot injury during spring drills. He, however, remains a candidate to emerge as a reliable target in his third year at Oregon. 

Lovette, the former receiver turned defensive back turned receiver again, opened some eyes during spring drills and is virtual shoe-in to contribute this season.

"He can help us," Taggart said of the redshirt sophomore. 

Then there is McNeal, a poor man's version of former UO star De'Anthony Thomas whose love for the game, Taggart said, is matched only by the 5-foot-9, 160-pound ankle-breaker's play-making abilities. 

The last time UO needed this much new help at wide receiver was 2014 when the Ducks returned just one receiver of consequence, Keanon Lowe. That situation turned out just fine with the emergence of Carrington, Nelson, Allen and Stanford, and Marshall shifting from running back to receiver.

Oregon doesn't need quite as much help this time around with Nelson and Carrington returning, but also the Ducks still need capable bodies for quarterback Justin Herbert to target. But what if Carrington does not return...

Taggart would be more than justified to cut Carrington loose if he truly was guilty of DUII given his past transgressions. In that scenario, the Ducks would be in huge trouble because not only would depth be a concern but the team would be minus a legitimate lead receiver to lean on. 

At the end of the day, it's logical to assume that Taggart will find enough receivers to get the job done to a certain extent. But in order for the Ducks to score enough on offense to compensate for what will likely still be at best a mediocre defense, the receiving corps had better find some competent new faces in a hurry. 

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