KPart of what's kept the Ducks so competitive over the past few years has been solid work on the recruiting side of things. Bringing in a talented class of freshmen year after year has keep the program running at top shape.
Their 2015 class is no different, ranked No. 16 in the country (via 247Sports). More and more across the college football landscape, we see true freshmen making huge impacts on elite programs, and Oregon has been among that group. Last year saw running back Royce Freeman kick the doors down in his first year as a Duck, as he racked up 1,356 rushing yards with 18 touchdowns.
So, with the start of the 2015 season just right around the corner, let's take a peek at a few players who could have Freeman-like production in their introductory seasons.
Kirk Merritt, WR:
Arguably the most impressive offensive weapon in the 2015 class, the running back-turned-wide receiver looks like he could be seeing some playing time after an impressive camp. Merritt landed a spot on the two-deep depth chart as a wide receiver.
Out of high school, Merritt was ranked as the No. 5 all-purpose back in the nation, and will bring a litany of skills to the table. At 5-11, he's got decent height, which helped justify his transition to wide receiver. He's also an exceptional blocking skills, and if he can keep that up on the field, he'll land on the coach's' good side in no time.
He broke off for a 4.6 40-yard dash time at the 2014 SPARQ National Championship, but he's been knocked for not having elite "straight line" speed in the past.
He'll be fighting for playing time behind the likes of Bralon Addison, Charles Nelson and Byron Marshall, but if injury strikes OR if he makes good on the field time he sees, we could see Merritt develop into one of Vernon Adams' favorite targets.
The Ducks have had luck in the past turning running backs into wide receivers (Byron Marshall) so there's no reason why doing the same with Merritt shouldn't work.
Canton Kaumatule, DE:
Kaumatule's playing time may all depend on the health/performance of the guys ahead of him on the depth chart, but his skill alone deserves a spot on this list.
In high school, the 6-7 five-star was the No. 16 player nation-wide. He's also from Hawaii, a place where the Ducks have struck gold before (see: Mariota, Marcus).
At 6-7, 295, Kaumatule is a physical freak who won't ever have to worry about his size holding him back. He's got the big intangible that everyone looks for - a good motor. Regardless of which side a runner goes to, Kaumatule will find his way to the ball.
He's not exactly explosive, but he has good speed for someone with the body of an NBA power forward. He's the type of player that if he's playing 100%, running backs wont be getting by him.
But here comes the kicker: he's the third string strong-side defensive end, behind DeForrest Buckner and T.J Daniels. Despite his talent level, snaps are going to be hard to come by. But if he finds his way into a blowout game, he could potentially show his worth and earn some more time.
Ugo Amadi, CB:
Ugo Amadi wasn't highlighting many recruiting lists last year. A three-star recruit, the Nashville, Tennessee product was the No. 39 cornerback in the class of 2015.
But, with Ifo Expre Olomu off to the NFL, the Ducks are looking for someone to take his place. On the week one depth chart, Amadi is listed as the backup cornerback behind sophomore Arrion Springs. The other two cornerbacks listed on the two-deep depth chart? Sophomores Chris Seisay and Ty Griffin. Why does that matter? Neither of those three have much starting tenure, and their leashes may be short if they falter early on.
If Amadi can be a steady performer in the backup role, he won't have much problem seeing some snaps on the defensive side of the ball. In fact, he may be an injury/bad performance away from a starting gig.
On paper, he's the eighth best freshman (if you're going by recruiting rankings) but circumstances could land him some playing time.
Zach Okun, OG
Taj Griffin, RB (when fully healthy)
Alex Ofodile, WR