Ring the alarm bells, warm up the searchlight, the hunt is on for Oregon’s next leading receiver. Quarterback Justin Herbert has lost his most reliable target for 2019.
Coming off of one of the best seasons a Duck has ever had, Dillon Mitchell will not return to Oregon for his senior season and has declared for the 2019 NFL Draft.
Mitchell’s parting moment following Oregon’s victory over Michigan State in the Redbox Bowl was touching. After setting a new program single-season receiving record with 1,184 yards (breaking Josh Huff’s 1,140 record set in 2013) and catching the game-winning touchdown pass, he was awarded offensive MVP during the on stage trophy presentation… Which he then gave to his dad in the stands.
"It has been great living a childhood dream these last three years. Ever since 7th grade, I wanted to be an Oregon Duck. I fell in love with the uniforms, the players, the fast spread offense, and the Nike brand,” Mitchell said in an announcement on his Twitter account. “I will always cherish my time here and know that I am an Oregon Duck for life.”
Mitchell, the Pac-12 leader in receiving yards this season, had 75 receptions for 1,184 yards and 10 touchdowns, both ranking as third-most in a season in program history. He became quarterback Justin Herbert’s go-to receiver, and in a season plagued with dropped passes, his most reliable target. Herbert was even criticized for throwing to Mitchell too often.
Oregon's receiving corps will severely miss Mitchell. UO's second returning receiver, sophomore Jaylon Redd, has less than half of Mitchell's receptions and yards with 368 yards on 31 catches.
The Ducks will return all 10 of their other starters on the offensive side of the football for the 2019 season including; Herbert and offensive linemen Calvin Throckmorton, Shane Lemieux, and Jake Hanson. But is there a reliable pass-catcher on the roster who can be an offensive weapon?
The pool is large for Oregon’s next No. 1 receiver, with new names added to the list that could make an impact immediately.
Redd, a junior next season, is an option. He finished second on the team in receptions (38), yards (433) and touchdowns (5). He’s listed as 5-foot-8, 178-pounds, but his smaller stature doesn’t stop him from getting physical. His blocking ability has impressed his coaches and teammates. He gives Oregon a speed option in the slot.
Also returning is Brenden Schooler and Johnny Johnson. Neither had much production in 2018, dropping key passes, and would need to greatly improve to become a go to target for Herbert.
The jury is still out for Bryan Addison and Isaah Crocker, who both redshirted this season. Addison, the 6-foot-5 former Top 100 recruit, played in four games and caught one pass for 12 yards. Addison made huge strides as a redshirt, according to offensive coordinator Marcus Arroyo. At 6-foot-1,175-pounds, the former four-star recruit, Crocker, has the tools to also make an impact in 2019.
The Ducks needed talented pass catchers in the 2019 class and they signed four, four-star receivers and one underrated three-star athlete during the early signing period. There are at least two commits that could conceivably make an impact as soon as next season.
Mycah Pittman, remember that name. Pittman is the third-highest rated wide receiver to ever sign with the Ducks. The 5-foot-11, 200-pounder is the type of talent that could step in from the start. Pittman has strong hands, a running back body and excels at getting separation. He also could make an impact on special teams. Cristobal called him, "an explosive and strong route runner.”
The lone in-state prospect, four-star tight end Patrick Herbert, also could contribute right away. He is the fourth highest-ranked tight end prospect to ever sign with Oregon and the little brother of quarterback Justin Herbert. At 6-foot-5, 225-pounds, Herbert’s strength is catching the ball in traffic.
Oregon also adds four-star athletes Lance Wilhoite and Josh Delgado, two of the 10 highest-ranked wide receivers to ever sign with Oregon, to its roster.
The opportunity for playing time is plentiful. Can Oregon’s young talent make the transition to college football, impact the 2019 season and live up to expectations? Will the returning Ducks find a way to increase production from 2018?
Hopefully the answer to those two questions is yes, otherwise Herbert and Oregon’s offense could be in trouble.