2011 was a special year for Oregon true freshmen. De'Anthony Thomas was the star, setting a bunch of records and establishing himself as the most dangerous offensive playmaker in the Pac-12, if not the entire country. Colt Lyerla flashed his brilliance, hauling in five touchdown passes; Tra Carson was the team's fourth-leading rusher with 254 yards; Jake Fisher appeared in twelve games on the offensive line; and Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Anthony Wallace, and Rodney Hardrick also contributed for the Ducks. While it would be awesome to expect a similar performance from this year's class, it also would be highly unlikely. True freshman like DAT or Colt do not come along every year. Let's take a look back at past freshman classes, and their contributions.
- 2010 - Josh Huff (1,086 all-purpose yards, Oregon's leading kickoff returner), Ricky Heimuli (5 tackles, 1 for loss), Drew Howell (long snapper), Alejandro Maldonado (punter, two games), Eric Solis (kicker, one game) Besides Huff, not a ton of production.
- 2009 - Jackson Rice (punter, awesome), Cliff Harris (19 tackles, one Jake Locker pick), Michael Clay (32 tackles, plus long snapping every punt) That's a quality threesome.
- 2008 - Darron Thomas (one almost-comeback, plus garbage time), Chris Harper (led winning drive against Purdue, threw ran and caught a TD), Garrett Embry (9 tackles on special teams), Josh Kaddu (5 tackles on special teams), Dewitt Stuckey (special teams, no recorded stats) DT and Harper are the only significant contributors, and were forced into the action that they saw.
- 2007 - Aaron Pflugrad (168 yards receiving and a score), Kenny Rowe (13 tackles, five sacks), Jeff Maehl (119 yards receiving and a score, plus 14 tackles), Casey Matthews (14 tackles and a sack), DJ Davis (three catches, one for a score), Tonio Celotto (seven tackles, two for loss), Malachi Lewis (three catches for 26 yards), Daniel Padilla (3-4 on field goals, 7-7 on PATs), Talmadge Jackson III (nine tackles), Anthony Gildon (special teams, one tackle) An Oregon record 10 freshman, putting up typical freshman numbers. I'd forgotten Kenny Rowe had five sacks. Man, he was fun to watch.
First, regarding the JC signings:
Junior college guys are always more likely to play right away; they have less eligibility, and they're older and more college football-ready. Chip Kelly has already stated that punter Dylan Ausherman will redshirt, but I would expect both DL Stetzon Bair and OL
Jake Kyle Long to see action next fall. On to the freshman!
ATH Bralon Addison - Addison enters as a bit of a wild-card; a HS quarterback, he projects as a natural fit for Oregon's TZR position. He has the talent to play right away, but can he pick up the playbook and the feel for the offense like Josh Huff and DAT did? Considering our depth, albiet unproven depth, at WR, I think Addison will redshirt, but he has the skills to force his way onto the field.
WR Chance Allen and Dwayne Stanford- The 6'3" Allen and the 6'5" Stanford bring much needed height to the Oregon wide receiver corps. The Oregon coaching staff has shown the tendency under Chip Kelly to work wide receivers in slowly, and with four touted receivers from the 2010 class coming off redshirts, expect both Allen and Stanford to redshirt.
QB Jake Rodrigues and Jeff Lockie - Duck fans are all aflutter about Rodrigues' prospects, but don't sleep on Lockie, who has great mechanics and a big arm, along with capable wheels. Rodrigues will be a Duck for spring practice, and could push Marcus Mariota for the #2 QB slot. Still, I expect 2012 to be the Bennett & Mariota show, with J-Rod and J-Lock running the scout team and holding up playcards.
RB Byron Marshall - Here's my first bold and unfounded prediction of 2012: Byron Marshall will definitely play next fall, and "Marshall vs. Carson" for the #2 RB spot (DAT isn't a RB; he's his own position) will be a more heated debate than the "Bennett vs. Mariota" starting QB race. Also, I keep getting the urge to nickname Marshall, "Booger". I don't have a reason for this, it just seems right. There's time to figure it out, just think on it.
TE Pharoah Brown and Evan Baylis - The Oregon tight ends have the tall order of replicating the production of David Paulson. Colt Lyerla is the presumed #1 option, but not much is known of the rest of the group. Of the two freshmen, Brown is the more likely candidate to play right away. Baylis is a dangerous pass catcher, but could benefit from a redshirt season to bulk up and improve his blocking.
ATH Terrence Daniel - Daniel played both tight end and defensive end at Bishop O'Dowd HS in Oakland, CA. Tall and fast, he reminds me, and many other Duck fans, of Dion Jordan. Expect him to pick a side of the ball, and redshirt.
DE Arik Armstead, Alex Balducci, DeForest Buckner, and Cody Carriger - With the departure of Terrell Turner and Brandon Hanna, the Ducks will need someone new to join Dion Jordan at defensive end. Armstead is the most highly touted member of this group, but I wouldn't be surprised if Buckner or Balducci gets playing time next year as well.
LB Brett Bafaro - The Liberty HS product has a lot of potential, but Oregon is deep enough at LB to give Bafaro the opportunity to redshirt.
DB Eric and Stephen Amoako, Reggie Daniels, and Oshay Dunmore - All four players have the versatility to play corner or safety, and the biggest need in the secondary is replacing Eddie Pleasant. My gut reaction after watching very little film and reading very few scouting reports? Eric Amoako and Daniels play next year, with Stephen Amoako and Dunmore redshirting.
Post your predictions for who you think will play in 2012 in the comments section!