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2012 Position Preview: Wide Receiver

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I've heard from a few people, whose information I trust deeply, that this upcoming season Oregon is going to be throwing a lot more. The receivers at times last year were incredibly frustrating, which is really a new trend in Oregon football. I expect the receivers this year to bounce back in a big way.

The recruiting trend over the last few years was to get big, physical receivers to block. You hear coaches again and again say that the first role of the receivers is to block. If they can't block, they don't play.

Last year the receivers surely fit the bill of big and good blockers, but they had issues gaining separation from defensive backs. In the LSU game most notably LSU could go man to man coverage almost the whole time, allowing them to put an extra safety in the box for run support.

This year’s receiving corps is made up of starters Josh Huff and most likely Rahsaan Vaughn with De’Anthony fulfilling a TZR role inside. Key departures from last year include David Paulson, who only has a name in he catches first downs and touchdowns, and Lavasier Tuinei, who will be forever known for his dominant performance in the Rose Bowl. Tacoi Sumler, a player who I was excited about after he ran a 4.24 40 in high school (I timed the video of it myself many times), transferred and I wish him the best in his athletic pursuits. Justin Hoffman, who last year had 10 catches for 133 yards, has had to retire due to concussions and will take some form of a coaching position.

Colt Lyerla will hopefully fill the void Paulson left. This means catching close to everything as Paulson only made big catches. Paulson was never interested in four-yard gains, unless it was for a first down or touch down. Lyerla, who is somewhat of a hybrid player as he is probably fast enough to be a receiver but also big enough to block, causes lots of mismatches, not to the same effect but similarly to how De’Anthony Thomas creates mismatches. Also at tight end will be Evan Baylis, Brian Teague, and Pharoah Brown.

De’Anthony Thomas I’m outlining as a receiver because he is the leading receiver from last season. With LaMichael James having gone to the NFL De’Anthony Thomas will get a lot more carries in the backfield but I see him mostly playing in a TZR role, something Huff did as a sophomore. The pitchman on triple options, jet sweeps, things like that. But Thomas will also be in on all types of screens on the outside, what Bellotti used to call "glorified running plays" as well as standard quick routes. True freshman Bralon Addison, who also played quarterback his senior year of high school, could also fill the TZR role. After watching his high school tape it is clear that Addison is very elusive in traffic and has great cutback vision.

As I stated earlier, I think Vaughn will start opposite Huff as Vaughn is more of a true receiver and has size at 6-3, 195. I really like Hawkins though, he has shown that he is fast enough to get separation and is big enough to also block. Eric Dungy is in a similar role as he has speed but is best known for being able to come down with jump balls.

Josh Huff has fully recovered after his junior season was hampered with them and I’m hoping for a big bounce back. Huff had a huge play against Stanford this past year and a player of his speed could be the vertical stretch that Oregon has been missing for a while.

Also providing excitement for the upcoming season are the redshirted freshmen, Devon Blackmon and BJ Kelley. BJ Kelley is the fastest player on the football team, and that says a lot. He could stretch the field vertically with Huff. Devon Blackmon was a highly touted receiver coming out of high school and after taking a year to redshirt; hopefully he has enough knowledge to excel the in offense this year.

Last season there were some drops and issues with getting separation. The one thing that receivers do consistently well is block. The receivers had no issue either stretching the field horizontally using constraint plays such as bubble screens. Now the real test that will put the offense in to a level that hasn’t been seen is the vertical stretch. It pulls safeties out of the box and opens up the linebackers more allowing for a better running game. The next wave of Oregon receivers is here, they are big, they are fast, and they are very, very good.

What are your thoughts? Who will be the leading receiver this year? What were some of the issues last year and do you think they will be fixed this upcoming year?