Mykael Wright

Oregon Ducks aren't content, ready to "empty the tank"

Oregon Ducks aren't content, ready to "empty the tank"

Oregon’s coaches and players walked out of Autzen Stadium for the final time in 2019 with a win, but without satisfying smiles.

The No. 14 Oregon Ducks (10-2, 8-1 Pac-12) defeated Oregon State 24-10, in front of a sellout crowd of 56,243 fans at Autzen Stadium on a below freezing afternoon.

You’d think the Ducks would be more upbeat after achieving their first 10-win season since 2014, finishing Pac-12 Conference play undefeated at home and spoiling their rival’s bowl game chances.

But Oregon’s victory left plenty to be desired... Plus, plenty to look forward to.

We had moments and opportunities to separate and take control of the game In rivalry games especially, if you don’t do that, you make yourself uncomfortable. -- Mario Cristobal

With a sophomore quarterback in his first career start, Oregon State outgained Oregon, 380 yards to 365 yards. Quarterback Justin Herbert threw for 174 yards against a Beavers defense that allows an average of 286 yards per game. It was hardly the senior day performance that Ducks fans had hoped for from the Eugene, Oregon-native.

The defense did enough to win, but without spectacular special teams performances, Oregon may not have escaped the Civil War as victors.

We aren’t playing to our best right now, I think we can play a lot better. But, there was flashes of it… It’s a good feeling to have that next game. -- Wide receiver Johnny Johnson III.

Alas, the Ducks found a way to win and have an opportunity to demonstrate their best play yet in the Pac-12 Championship game.

The Ducks have six days “to get back to their style of offense” according to Cristobal. In order to take the crown and the conference’s bid to the Rose Bowl, it’s going to take a much more in sync offense against the Pac-12 South Division winner Utah. And hopefully some more electrifying moments to look forward to. 

It’s a great opportunity for us, especially after going 4-8 our freshman year, to play in the Pac-12 Championship. It’s been a great ride.” -- Justin Herbert

The conference championship is looming and Oregon feels it has enough in the tank to compete and win its first title since 2014. And maybe, a hard fought victory on Friday will garner a fulfilling smile from the Ducks as they leave Levi’s Stadium.
As Cristobal said in the locker room after the game, “it’s time to empty the tank.”

Mario Cristobal’s ear catching comments on expanding Mykael Wright’s role

Mario Cristobal’s ear catching comments on expanding Mykael Wright’s role

Oregon true freshman Mykael Wright has earned the nickname “silent assassin” from his teammates. His quiet demeanor, number two jersey and superstar type skills draw the comparison to NBA star Kawhi Leonard. The cornerback lived up to that label in the No. 7 Ducks’ win over USC when he killed USC's momentum and returned a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown with 20 seconds remaining in the first half.

The speedy freshman had only regularly began working as a kick returner earlier that week. However, Oregon coach Mario Cristobal was not shocked when Wright completely transformed the energy of the game. The top-ranked cornerback in the nation (ESPN, 2019) returned punts in high school and provided tape highlights, which Cristobal often refers to. Cristobal instantly noticed Wright’s natural instincts as a returner.

“Naturally, when the ball is in the air, he knows how to get to it,” Cristobal said. "He knows how to handle receivers and handle guys who show late hands. When he’s had the ball in his hands in practice when he gets a pick or something of that nature, he just has a natural feel for following his blockers or setting up his blocks.”

His versatility has provided a solid foundation and a major strength for Oregon. During his two seasons at Valencia high school in California, Wright had nine interceptions and 25 tackles on defense. On offense, he picked up 1,986 receiving yards in addition to 26 touchdowns.

Entering this season, junior starting cornerback Thomas Graham Jr. tabbed Wright as a future freshman All-American. Now, Cristobal is game planning an increased role for Wright.

“Without question, he’s an electrifying player back there,” Cristobal said. “I think the more he does it, the better and better he’ll get. We don’t want to extend him too much because he’s got a lot going on with special teams and playing corner for us, but his role on teams is going to expand.”

The natural playmaker’s next opportunity will come this Saturday night, as Oregon looks to beat Arizona to officially punch its ticket to the Pac-12 Conference title game.

Why Oregon's highest-rated recruiting class is impressing and concerning

Why Oregon's highest-rated recruiting class is impressing and concerning

Oregon’s highest-ever rated recruiting class didn’t just make history, it filled position needs with top talent with lofty expectations of making an immediate impact.  Some of those expectations are being exceeded and some are not.

Whether it be sacks, interceptions, catches, kicks, sharing reps, asking the right questions or pushing veterans, the young Ducks have already began their impact on the 2019 Oregon football team. 

 “I’m very impressed by how smart this freshmen class is as a whole in the game of football,” said junior cornerback Thomas Graham Jr. “Their football IQ is very, very high.”

Oregon Coach Mario Cristobal literally brought out a paper list after the first fall camp practice of freshmen capable of making an impact in their first season. Cristobal’s list included Kayvon Thibodeaux, Mase Funa, Josh Delgado, Mykael Wright, DJ James, Jamal Hill, Sean Dollars, Trikweze Bridges, Isaac Townsend, Brandon Dorlus, Kristian Williams, Patrick Herbert and Mycah Pittman.

In the first four games, which of those true freshmen have transitioned smoothly and lived up to the high expectations?

IMPRESSING

The highest ranked linebacker recruit in school history, Funa is already making an impact and providing highlights for Oregon. The Mater Dei High School alum is the only freshman to have two sacks in a game this season in the FBS, leading the Ducks and nation’s freshmen in sacks (three) and tackles for loss (five).

He’s comfortable in Andy Avalos’ STUD position because it is a similar position to what he played in high school. Although, Funa played at 245 pounds in high school and is currently at 268 pounds after missing his senior season with an injury. His goal is to get closer to 255 pounds, which the 6-foot-2 freshman feels most natural at.

"He's got a lot pent up now," Cristobal said. "He missed his entire senior season due to injury. This is his first action in over a year. It's impressive to see what he's done so far, but again, his best football is ahead of him."

Already totaling nine tackles, I believe Funa will continue to have success this season in the hybrid linebacker/defensive end position backing up senior Bryson Young.

Wright, 2019’s top-ranked cornerback in the nation by ESPN, has earned the nickname “silent assassin” on the Oregon football team. The 5-foot-11, 185-pound cornerback doesn’t talk much but humble confidence has turned heads and earned the respect from his teammates.

“Mykael Wright, he’s been pushing me for reps,” said junior cornerback Thomas Graham Jr. “And I want him to do that, I want him to get reps because at the end of the day I want him to get in games. I feel he will be a freshman All-American.”

Backing up Graham Jr., Wright’s limited reps have been impressive. His potential shined against Montana when he picked off his first career pass, made three tackles and two pass break ups.

Delgado has been apart of Oregon's regular wide receiver rotation this season with the mounting injuries at the position. The former four-star recruit is the only true freshman who earned a start in the season opener vs. Auburn and has proven to be reliable. He’s caught a pass in every game so far this season, totaling seven receptions for 86 yards.

PENDING

Realistically, while a few freshmen have emerged ready from the start, others will take a little more time to adjust to the college pace.

Cristobal named Thibodeaux a “game changer” from the moment he committed to the Ducks. ESPN's No. 1 recruit in the 2019 class set a goal of 10 sacks every season. After completing non-conference play without a sack, he notched his first (assisted) sack on Saturday against Stanford.

Thibodeaux has appeared in all four games and is seeing his role increase each week. At 6-foot-5, 240 pounds, he’s an elite pass rusher with explosiveness, scary speed and agility that creates major chaos… it feels like his breakout game is coming.

Pittman, who was expected to contribute or possibly start this season, has been sidelined with a shoulder injury for the beginning of the season. Before the injury, he was turning heads and splitting first team reps at slot receiver. Pittman has strong hands, a running back body and excels at getting separation

The initial 6-8 weeks projection would mark Pittman healthy as early as Oregon’s game against Cal on Saturday, Oct. 5.

Dollars and Patrick Herbert were both named by Cristobal as Ducks who broke loose in practice and in the mix to get in the rotations at running back and tight end, respectively.

Dollars is the highest rated running back on Oregon's 2019 roster and the nation's No.1 all-purpose back, per 247sports. While the Ducks have a plethora of options at the position, UO has struggled to successfully run the ball, leaving Dollars with little contributions and opportunity so far. Dollars has only played in two games, against Nevada and Montana and totaled 81 rushing yards on seven carries with two receptions. Will he get more reps or will he burn his redshirt?

Patrick Herbert has only appeared in the Nevada game and has not caught a pass from brother, senior quarterback Justin Herbert. Will the two connect as Ducks before Justin Herbert moves on to the NFL? To be determined…

CONCERNING

The Ducks have yet to score a field goal in their first four games. Former five-star prospect Lewis is 0-for-2 on both attempts that were less than 30-yards out: missing against Auburn and Stanford. The second missed kick was caused from a bad snap.

Oregon is utilizing Lewis for kickoffs, point-after attempts, and field goals. He’s nailed all his extra points but it’s less than ideal that Lewis hasn’t seen the ball go through the uprights for a field goal through the first four games. Lewis is the only remaining scholarship placekicker for the Ducks after Adam Stack elected to transfer. 

 

By the way, eight true freshmen have played in all four games and would burn their redshirt if they appear in the Ducks’ upcoming game against No. 15 California at 5 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 5 in Autzen Stadium. After a peek into Oregon’s not-so-far-off future, are you impressed with the 2019 class?

How Oregon’s highest-rated recruiting class is making an impact through four games

How Oregon’s highest-rated recruiting class is making an impact through four games

Oregon’s highest-ever rated recruiting class didn’t just make history, it filled position needs with top talent with lofty expectations of making an immediate impact.  Some of those expectations are being exceeded and some are yet to be determined.

In Oregon Coach Mario Cristobal’s two seasons as head coach, the Ducks have signed 21 ESPN300 recruits, which is the same total as the previous five years (2013-17) combined. The 2019 class finished No. 7 by 247Sports, the highest in program history.

Cristobal’s recruiting prowess is evident but have the Ducks reaped the benefits yet? After Oregon’s first four games, let’s check in on the true freshmen. The Ducks have played sixteen members of the 23 true freshmen the Ducks signed in the 2019 recruiting class. Are they living up to the lofty expectations? Does the future of the program look to be in capable hands?

REDSHIRT STATUS

If you aren’t familiar with the new redshirt rule established in 2018 by the NCAA, college football players can play up to four games in a season and still redshirt without burning a year of eligibility. College football players are granted five years to complete four seasons of eligibility.

Eight true freshmen have played in all four games and would burn their redshirt if they appear in the Ducks’ upcoming game against No. 15 California at 5 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 5 in Autzen Stadium.

  • Wide receiver Josh Delgado (one start vs. Auburn)
  • Outside linebacker Mase Funa (one start vs. Montana)
  • Cornerback Mykael Wright
  • Defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux
  • Kicker Camden Lewis
  • Cornerback DJ James
  • Safety Jamal Hill
  • Inside linebacker Ge’Mon Eaford

I would expect each of the eight Ducks listed to play and burn their redshirt this season. Funa, Wright, Thibodeaux, James, Hill and Eaford have stepped into defensive roles to bolster the depth while also making crucial plays. With multiple injuries at wide receiver, Delgado is the only true freshman who earned a start in the season opener vs. Auburn and has proven to be reliable. Lewis is the only remaining scholarship placekicker for the Ducks after Adam Stack elected to transfer.

(More on the most concerning and impressive true freshmen)

ROUNDING OUT THE REST OF THE CLASS

Played in three games:

  • Defensive tackle Keyon Ware-Hudson (Nevada, Montana, Stanford)
  • Defensive tackle Brandon Dorlus (Nevada, Montana, Stanford)

Played in two games:

  • Running back Sean Dollars (Nevada, Montana)
  • Defensive tackle Kristian Williams (Nevada, Montana)

Played in one game:

  • Cornerback Trikweze Bridges (Montana)
  • Offensive lineman Jonah Tauanu’u (Montana)
  • Tight end Patrick Herbert (Nevada)
  • Defensive tackle Sua’ava Poti (Nevada)

TO BE DETERMINED

Freshmen who have yet to play:

  • Wide receiver Mycah Pittman (shoulder injury, could return for Cal game)
  • Wide receiver Lance Wilhoite (hamstring injury)
  • Wide receiver JR Waters (season ending injury, will redshirt)
  • Quarterback Cale Millen
  • Running back Jayvaun Wilson
  • Running back Cross Patton
  • Safety Max Wysocki
  • Outside linebacker Treven Ma’ae
  • Tight end Tyler Nanney
  • Offensive lineman Cole Young
  • Outside linebacker Isaac Townsend

 

NEXT: Most concerning and impressive true freshmen

Mailbag: Which true freshman has been most impressive through two games?

Mailbag: Which true freshman has been most impressive through two games?

Oregon's final non-conference game is this Saturday, which provides the opportunity to learn a lot about the entire Ducks roster. This week's mailbag focuses on true freshmen, season predictions, and injuries to the wide receiver position. 

Which true freshman has been most impressive through two games?

Mase Funa.

The highest ranked linebacker recruit in school history, Funa is already making an impact and providing highlights for Oregon. The Mater Dei High School alum is the only freshman to have two sacks in a game this season in the FBS. Funa’s four tackles for loss currently lead the Pac-12 Conference.

He’s comfortable in Andy Avalos’ STUD position because it is a similar position to what he played in high school. Although, Funa played at 245 pounds in high school and is currently at 268 pounds after missing his senior season with an injury. His goal is to get closer to 255 pounds, which the 6-foot-2 freshman feels most natural at.

"He's got a lot pent up now," Oregon Coach Mario Cristobal said. "He missed his entire senior season due to injury. This is his first action in over a year. It's impressive to see what he's done so far, but again, his best football is ahead of him."

I believe Funa will continue to have success this season in the hybrid linebacker/defensive end position backing up senior Bryson Young.

Who/what are you watching for in another non-conference should-be blowout?

The obvious answer here is backup quarterback Tyler Shough. Non-conference games are a great way to gauge the redshirt freshman’s development and command of the game. In last week’s 77-6 beat down of Nevada, Shough found success and gave fans a little insight into the future as Herbert’s heir. In the most substantial playing time of his career, Shough threw his first college pass and finished 8-of-9 for 92 yards and two touchdowns.

I’m watching to see if he will build off his performance. He made solid decisions and showed his accurate arm. Now, it’s time to see his sneaky fast wheels he’s been working on and if he can top his longest pass of 21 yards. If he gets in the game with starters, what will the chemistry be like?

I’m excited to watch two true freshmen in particular: corner back Mykael Wright and running back Sean Dollars. Both received a lot of praise coming out of fall camp and Saturday is likely their best chance for some serious playing time.

Will the offense evolve when the receiving core is healthy?

Oregon offensive coordinator Marcus Arroyo laments not attempting more downfield passes to Oregon’s inexperienced receivers in the Ducks’ loss to Auburn.

Of course, hind sight is 20-20. In week two, quarterback Justin Herbert racked up 310 passing yards and five touchdowns. However, the Nevada defense paled in comparison to Auburn’s. This Saturday against Montana, expect the Ducks to go long again.

This time last season, 12 different Ducks had scored touchdowns before Herbert narrowed in on favorite target Dillon Mitchell. 

Elevn Ducks have currently caught a touchdown pass, but don't expect that to be the norm after non-conference play ends. When healthy, senior Brenden Schooler, graduate transfer Juwan Johnson and freshman Mycah Pittman will be excellent targets for Herbert. However, Cristobal is not going to move away from his run-first, win the battle in the trenches, physical offense.

Thoughts on if I will cash in on the Ducks winning the Pac-12 and winning over 8.5 games?

The latest odds are in your favor.

Oregon’s current win-loss total projection is 9.9 wins. Oregon opened 2019 with a 35.2 percent chance of winning the Pac-12 North and conference title, according to ESPN’s football power index. Following week two, Oregon's likelihood to win the division and the title have surged to 52.4 percent. Utah is second with a 19.7 percent projection to win the conference championship game.

We are entering week three so a lot can change but I predict Oregon will win 10 games and play for the conference championship. If I were you, the sneaky game I would be concerned about is vs. Washington State. I'm impressed with what Anthony Gordon has done in two games leading the Cougar offense. He’s another perfect fit for Mike Leach’s offense.

 

Mykael Wright: "Silent assassin" true freshman pushing Oregon's secondary

Mykael Wright: "Silent assassin" true freshman pushing Oregon's secondary

While it’s highly unlikely true freshman Mykael Wright will usurp a starting role, his undeniable talent and drive is pushing Oregon’s aggressive secondary to a new depth from the inside.

2019’s top-ranked cornerback in the nation by ESPN has earned the nickname “silent assassin” on the Oregon football team. His quiet demeanor and superstar type skills are drawing comparisons to Kawhi Leonard (also both wear the number two) from fellow cornerback teammate Verone McKinley III. More on that later.

Wright enrolled at Oregon early to get a jump-start on adjusting to defensive coordinator Andy Avalos’ defense. He’s gained 10 pounds from weight room offseason workouts, doesn’t shy away from contact and excels at stripping the ball. UO’s spring game offered a perfect display of his strengths; he shined with five tackles, three pass breakups and an interception. 

“Mykael Wright, he’s been pushing me for reps,” said junior cornerback Thomas Graham Jr. “And I want him to do that, I want him to get reps because at the end of the day I want him to get in games. I feel he will be a freshman All-American.”
Entering their third seasons, starting cornerbacks Graham Jr. and Deommodore Lenoir emote confidence and swagger with a desire to prove that they are the best in the nation.

The tandem had a break out game against Arizona State's passing attack last season. Graham Jr. covered one of the best wide receivers in the nation, ASU’s N'Keal Harry, most of the night and recorded a career-high six pass breakups. Lenoir also had three pass breakups, two of which came while defending the New England Patiort’s first round 2019 draft selection.

Last season, Graham’s 18 pass breakups finished second in the Pac-12 Conference and tied for third nationally. Lenoir had three interceptions and finished second on the team with nine pass breakups.

Safe to say, Wright has an opportunity to learn from two highly- skilled cornerbacks.

Contrary to most players who play in the secondary, “silent assassin” Wright doesn’t talk much. The 5-foot-11, 185-pound cornerback’s humble confidence has turned heads and earned the respect from his teammates. He is noticeably pushing himself in the weight room, asking questions at practice and taking mental reps when another group is in.

“One thing I’ve noticed is he’s not really vocal, he likes to put his head down and work,” said junior defensive tackle Austin Faoliu. “He shows up through his actions and I really like that about him… He’s going to be one of the great ones.”

Oregon star linebacker and “quarterback of the defense” Troy Dye picked Wright as a Duck that will surprise fans this season. He described the California-native as intelligent, hard working, quiet and “a dog”.

Wright is also making an impression from the other side of the ball.

“I’ve studied him a lot,” true freshman wide receiver Mycah Pittman said. “I see that he likes to sit and when you weave inside, he moves with you. He’s not a guy who jumps, he’s patient. I think he will be a factor now. He will be able to play now.”

Pittman also highlighted Wright’s offensive background and catching ability as a strength that helps him come down with 50-50 balls. 

At his two seasons at Valencia high school in California, Wright had nine interceptions and 25 tackles on defense. On offense, he picked up 1,986 receiving yards in addition to 26 touchdowns.

“He’s running faster, he’s more explosive and more comfortable with the scheme,” Oregon coach Mario Cristobal said. “We see a huge future for Mykael and a tremendously impactful season out of him as well.”

Having Wright No.3 on the outside is already elevating the play of Graham Jr. and Lenoir while also providing an opportunity for more rest for the juniors this season.

Wright’s part in the 2019 season may not be starter but it is certainly going to be significant.

[READ: Veteran Ducks impressed by “how smart the freshman class is”]

Oregon football; Defensive Back University?

Oregon football; Defensive Back University?

Oregon football, also known as; Nike University, Running Back University and Defensive Back University?

The Ducks’ highest-rated recruiting class in program history received another major addition; the highest-rated defensive back commitment in program history, Chris Steele.

Steele, the nation’s No. 3 cornerback and No. 19 overall prospect in the class of 2019, transferred from Florida after spring football.

According to the Gainesville Sun, in late January, Steele asked the Florida coaching staff for new roommate assignment, away from quarterback Jalon Jones, expressing concerns about Jones' behavior. In April, Jones was accused of sexual battery by two Florida students. The Florida Staff declined to act and postponed his request until summer and Steele decided to enter the transfer portal.

The 6-foot, 175-pound athlete, out of St. John Bosco High School (Bellflower, California) returned to the west coast via Oregon.

"Coach Donte. Our relationship is known." Steele told 247sports of Oregon coach Donte Williams. "Me and that dude, he’s like a big brother to me. The opportunity to play for somebody who is going to care about me off the field but at the same time is going to develop me better than other people, it’s a win-win situation." 

Had Steele signed with Oregon before National Signing Day, the Ducks’ 2019 class would have been ranked at No. 5 overall, their first top five finish ever. Oregon finished No. 7 without the signing of Steele. 

A few notes on what adding another five-star piece means…

Can Steele play next season?

Steele enrolled at Florida, so it's unclear if he will be eligible for the 2019 season, but he can apply for a waiver to play immediately.

Oregon’s 2019 secondary is locked and loaded with talent.

Juniors Thomas Graham Jr. and Deommodore Lenoir have depth and talent behind them. If Steele is granted a waiver to play immediately, Oregon will have two star freshmen cornerbacks in Steele and Mykael Wright, plus redshirt freshman safety Steve Stephens. The pair of safeties, Nick Pickett and Jevon Holland, will also return. 

Lenoir often tweets "TMC," which stands for "The Marathon Continues." It's a reference to the sixth official mixtape by American rapper Nipsey Hussle, but it means something more to the Ducks secondary. "This journey has only begun to become the best secondary," said Lenoir. "It's a marathon not a race. We will prove a lot this year."

The #CaliFlock is real.

The Ducks scored three of the top six ranked players in the state of California in the 2019 class. All three are defensive players; including Steele (No. 5), Wright (No. 4) and Kayvon Thibodeaux (No. 1). A total of seven of California’s top 21 2019 prospects are at Oregon.

The veterans are hyped.

When Steele transferred from Florida, a few Gator wide receivers tweeted pictures of themselves making catches over Steele. When Steele joined the Ducks, he was met with a different feeling on Twitter from Oregon football.

The ripple effect.

Now the defensive backs are rolling in. Four-star safety Jared Greenfield (class of 2020) has included Oregon in his final five. The coveted 6-foot, 180-pound defensive back out of Narbonne High School (Harbor City, California), is expected to having Oregon as his heavy favorite.

Beyond the rankings; Oregon football fills needs with historical 2019 recruiting class

Beyond the rankings; Oregon football fills needs with historical 2019 recruiting class

Oregon’s 2019 highest-rated recruiting class didn’t just make history; it filled position needs with top talent that could make an impact as early as next season.

The Ducks' recruiting class is ranked fifth in the country and for the first time ever, holds a firm grip on the Pac-12 Conference's top football recruiting class. As Oregon coach Mario Cristobal said, it’s an “awesome day to be a Duck.”

You knew that though.

[RELATED: Oregon football's best recruiting weapon: Mario Cristobal's authenticity]

It’s incredible that Oregon collected a pool of talent of 22 new Ducks, including the program's highest-rated recruit in program history and 11 four-star athletes, after a predictable 8-4 season. Cristobal expects 12 or 13 to enroll early and be on campus for spring football practices. Most impressively, the 2019 class is full of athletes that are seriously needed when looking at the roster for next season.

NEEDS

Let’s start with the quarterback.

Justin Herbert’s decision to turn professional or not most likely won’t be known until after Oregon’s bowl game. Regardless if Herbert stays for his senior season or not, the Ducks needed to secure a quality 2019 quarterback and Cale Millen was the their answer.

6-foot-4, 200-pound Millen competed in the Elite-11, a quarterback-focused camp held by Nike, and led the state of Washington with 4,260 total yards as a senior. His size and arm should excite Duck fans. He completed 75.9 percent of his passes for 3,807 yards with 51 touchdowns and seven interceptions as a senior. 

Oregon’s current backup quarterbacks were underwhelming this season. If Herbert forgoes his senior year, then Millen would be part of a three-player position battle starting next fall with Tyler Shough and Braxton Burmeister.

Should Herbert return for his senior year, Millen would be a lock to redshirt in 2019 and then compete to be Oregon’s starting quarterback in 2020.

“I felt that I was needed more at Oregon rather than just kind of being another guy filling a spot,” Millen told the Register Guard. "At other schools it was kind of, ‘Oh, we need a quarterback for the class, let’s take him.’ At Oregon, I felt like it wasn’t just filling a position. It was, ‘We need you here.’"

Receivers

2018 was the Dillon Mitchell show, and the junior wide receiver is considering striking while the iron is hot and declaring for the NFL. Should he choose to declare, Oregon's receiving corps would 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 needed talented pass catchers in the 2019 class and they signed four, four-star receivers and one underrated three-star athlete. There are at least two commits that could conceivably make an impact as soon as next season. 

Four-star wide receiver Mycah Pittman is the third-highest rated wide receiver to ever sign with the Ducks. 5-foot-11, 200-pound Pittman 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.

Running back

Speaking of offensive weapons, 2018 saw the emergence of Ducks duo CJ Verdell and Travis Dye, who will be excellent for years to come. But beyond those two freshmen, Oregon’s depth is very limited at the running back position.

Enter Sean Dollars. “You name it, he can do it,” Cristobal said.

Dollars, 247Sports’ top ranked all-purpose running back, has an opportunity to make an instant impact. The four-star out of Mater Dei High School is a workhorse, every-down type of back that can also catch the ball out of the backfield. Look for Dollars to enter the rotation as a freshman.

Linemen

“We’re going to keep investing in the trenches,” said Cristobal. And he wasn’t kidding.

The Ducks are set to return all five starters from this year's offensive line for next season, but bolstered their roster with the nation's best junior college offensive lineman, Malaesala Aumavae-Laulu. He's the fifth-highest rated offensive lineman to ever sign with Oregon. At 6-foot-7, 345 pounds, Aumavae-Laulu will push competition for a starting position, and at the very least, see minutes in rotation. 

Oregon’s pass rush will lose two leaders in Justin Hollins and Jalen Jelks to graduation. But no fear, Kayvon Thibodeaux, the top-rated high school player in the country is here! Thibodeaux will compete for a starting job from day one and should be an immediate impact player. Oregon recruited him to play defensive end. Listed at 6-foot-5, 234 pounds, he’s an elite pass rusher with scary speed and agility that creates major issues for offensive lines.

Inside Linebacker

At inside linebacker, Oregon loses senior Kaulana Apelu and possibly junior Troy Dye, if he elects to go to the NFL. The Ducks signed a four-star linebacker that could jump in right away at the rather thin position. 

Mase Funa is the highest-rated linebacker to sign with the Ducks in program history. Cristobal referred to Funa as "hands down the best linebacker out there." Funa’s strength and great instincts could make an impact right away for the Ducks.

Kicker

Oregon did not have a reliable option when it came to field goals last season. Sophomore Adam Stack struggled, finishing 6-of-10 from 40 yards-or-more this season.

Oregon’s first national letter of intent came from three-star place kicker Camden Lewis. Lewis has elite leg strength and performs under pressure. Scouting reports say Lewis is college ready. Cristobal says he will “elevate competition” at kicker. It’s extremely possible that Lewis is Oregon’s answer to its field goal problem. 

AREA OF CONCERN

Safety 

Oregon will need to replace major playmaker senior Ugo Amadi at safety in 2019. Who will step up? This has yet to be determined, but the Ducks signed only one safety during the early signing period. Oregon wanted to sign three prospects but whiffed on Jeremiah Criddell, who switched his commitment from Oregon to Oklahoma, and junior college safety Quandre Mosely, who was considering Oregon, but later signed with Kentucky. 

Between now and February’s Signing Day, Oregon will have to re-evaluate their options at safety for the 2019 class.

BONUS!

Cornerback

Oregon’s Deommodore Lenoir and Thomas Graham were impressive in 2018. The duo returns and will be pushed by the highest-rated cornerback to sign with Oregon in history, Mykael Wright. Wright is extremely physical and excels in open field tackling. Look for the four star to make an impact in the rotation as a freshman.

Which new Duck do you think will make the biggest impact for Oregon next season?