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.
The safety position is going to be one of the most hotly contested this fall. As of now, it appears that redshirt senior Tyree Robinson and redshirt junior Khalil Oliver have the inside track to start. Robinson's days as a cornerback could be over with the emergence of freshman Thomas Graham, who could start opposite senior Arrion Springs while pushing junior Ugo Amadi to the No. 3 corner spot.
Safety isn't nearly as settled, however. Sophomore Brendan Schooler saw starts last year but missed all of spring with an injury and isn't being viewed as an obvious candidate to start moving forward.
That's where redshirt freshman Brady Breeze and freshman Billy Gibson come in. The Ducks need both to show something this fall to not only push the veterans but to provide depth and, maybe more importantly, create stability at the position entering 2018.
Breeze, a four-star recruit in 2016, has demonstrated great ability but is also very young and likely needs much more time before he becomes starting-caliber. Gibson, a three-star recruit signed last February, falls into the same category but, according to coaches, showed some strong signs during spring drills that he has enough athleticism to make an immediate impact if he picks up the defense.
Senior Juwaan Williams and junior Fotu T. Leiato II should also be in the mix. But for the present, and the future, it would benefit Oregon greatly if Breeze and Gibson could make a push up Oregon's depth chart.
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 Alex Ofodile, Malik Lovette and Darrian McNeal.
No. 9: Safeties Brady Breeze and Billy Gibson.
No. 10: Several freshman must deliver.