Why We Watch: Josh Huff and Products of Environment

Jonathan Ferrey

Josh Huff plays the only position on the Oregon offense that doesn't seem to have many stars. But Huff is a star and through no fault of his own we haven't seen all he has. We're just waiting for the breakout and for maybe the system to change around him.

While Oregon's offense may be one of the most exciting and sexiest things in sports right now, there's one position that hasn't gotten a lot of love.  The running backs are the workhorses and the quarterback runs the offense making all the decisions, but the wide receivers really don't get the love they deserve.  Hopefully that'll change with a head coach I anticipate will pass more.  Of the players that I feel have been underused so far at Oregon Josh Huff has to be at the top.  Maybe underused isn't the right word.  Maybe "hasn't been featured enough to shine" is the right phrase.

The receiver position at Oregon isn't really that sexy out of design.  With the percentage of run plays to pass plays I often joke that wide receivers should be called wide blockers.  Oregon creates huge holes for running backs because it follows the rule of "spread em' to shred em.'" This is most evident in the receiver's statistics.

Josh Huff has been one of the more reliable receivers on a year-to-year basis and has been pegged as a talented football player.  He filled the role as the TZR (a sort of tight-end, z-slot receiver, and running back position) and pulled out a couple huge runs and catches.

Last year was Huff's most statistically productive with 32 receptions for 493 yards and 7 touchdowns.  For a player that is as good as Huff that leaves a lot to be desired.  I want to see more of Josh Huff but how can that be done without taking carries away from De'Anthony Thomas and the other receivers?  Even though Oregon runs some of the most plays per game in the country, there still aren't enough touches for everyone to get their fair share.

Perhaps on a different team Huff could be the star of an offense.  Even though no receiver has had statistics far superior to his own peers at Oregon, it seems that a player like Huff could really be leaned on.  The equality in statistics is not due to a parody in talent but rather the law of averages hasn't taken over on the limited number of passes thrown by Oregon quarterbacks.

Unfortunately, I'm not sure if we're going to ever be able to see the best that Huff has to give, and its not because Huff isn't doing anything right, that's sometimes just how things go.  Unlike when looking at actors, they are not limited to the role they play in a given movie, they get to play different roles with different directors, and even different mediums if they want.

Think about Morgan Freeman in Million Dollar Baby when he won best supporting actor portraying a janitor at a boxing gym.  He probably wasn't one of the two most compelling characters in that movie.  (The two main characters being Frankie Dunn portrayed by Clint Eastwood and Hilary Swank as Margaret Fitzgerald)  However, you've probably seen The Shawshank Redemption, Seven, Invictus, and Glory, which show off his full abilities where you can truly appreciate his acting.  Imagine though if Morgan Freeman could only play roles similar to the one in Million Dollar Baby.  You'd want more and you'd want to see better roles because you have an idea of what he can do.

With Huff I get the feeling that we won't ever know what he really could have done.  He hasn't really needed to up to this point, but this season creates an exciting opportunity.

I think Helfrich is going to pass more than Chip Kelly did.  Helfrich was a passing expert brought on to help complement Kelly's mastery of the running game.  With Marcus Mariota back Oregon has its best quarterback since the spread came to Eugene slinging the ball around.  There appears to be a greater chance of seeing Huff's full greatness because the offense will include him more.

People are often a product of their environment.  That's why people often go to their local state school and go to the same college their parents did.  Kids often have the political and religious views of their parents.  The agents of socialization, the process by which people learn the rules and proper behaviors of society, are parents, peer groups, and the schools.  Sometimes people can only go as far as their environments will let them and that's dependent on the systems and resources in place.  To put it in to football terms, the best pocket-passing quarterback in the world will not be featured and as successful as he can be if he runs the triple-option at Georgia Tech.

In The Departed Billy Costigan Jr., played by Leonardo DiCaprio is assigned as an undercover police officer for the Massachusetts State Police in the Frank Costello crime mob.  Why?  Because his family, more specifically his father, is already tied to organized crime.  It is more likely for a police officer to go undercover who is from south Boston and has ties to organized crime because being a criminal might be what is expected of a Southie who's parents were in organized crime.  It makes since he's a product of his environment.

I hope Josh Huff is able to take the Frank Costello viewpoint on his surroundings.  (Not the whole, doing illegal stuff and running organized crime and [SPOILER ALERT:] dying)  The movie opens with Costello saying, "I don't want to be a product of my environment.  I want my environment to be a product of me."  I don't believe that Huff has low statistics because he isn't good enough, isn't that much better than the other receivers, or anything like that.  I believe he has low statistics because he hasn't gotten enough touches over the course of a season.  I want to watch this football season and see a Huff so dynamic that he forces Scott Frost and Mark Helfrich to get him the ball more.  I don't want Huff's statistics and national attention, or lack thereof, to be a product of the Oregon football system.  I want to see Huff make the offense a product of him.  That is why we watch.

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