With the first Oregon practice underway on Tuesday, April 29th it's time to turn our attention back to Ducks football.
What to watch for?
QB Battle. This one goes without saying as the Ducks are in limbo yet again as to who the starting quarterback will be. This position is certainly Prukop's to lose and he holds to advantage over last year's Vernon Adams Jr. who didn't join the team until weeks in to fall camp. With Prukop all but assured to have the top position, the battle for backup will be the key one. As we saw last year, when the Ducks didn't have an effective backup, things went south in a hurry. The battle will compose of returners Jeff Lockie, and Taylor Alie while incoming Terry Wilson and the previous redshirted Travis Jonsen join as well. For what it's worth, my money is on Jonsen to surprise a few and claim the backup position. If Jonsen comes back healthy after his injury last season he is the perfect combination of size, speed and arm strength to lead to Oregon offense.
Transition to a 4-3. In case you forgot during basketball season, the Ducks welcomed a new defensive coordinator in Brady Hoke. Hoke brings with him a transition from a 3-4 defense based on linebacker speed to a 4-3 defense based on clogging up the line with four big guys. This transition will be interesting to watch in the early going as we see what combination of players Hoke looks to use. Torrodney Prevot, Jalen Jelks, and Henry Mondeaux seem like good fits for three of the spots. One guy I'm interested to watch is sophomore Canton Kaumatule. The Ducks are in need of another large man to fit the void on the line and the 6'7" 300 pound Kaumatule fits that billing. Coming in as a five star recruit last year, the Hawaiian was thrust into the rotation often playing injured. I look for him to have a much better season this time around.
Dakota Prukop. No doubt the early enrollee to watch is graduate transfer Dakota Prukop. The transfer from Montana State marks the second year in a row that a Big Sky quarterback could be leading the way. With a spring camp to get in sync with his wide receivers and running backs, Ducks fan can hope that Prukop is the real deal.
Dillon Mitchell. Mitchell comes in to add to the already talented receiving group of the Ducks. One of the more heavily recruited WR’s in the last cycle, the 6’1" 190 pound freshman is a speed burner who will add yet another dangerous weapon to the Oregon offense.
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Player position changes
Charles Nelson- listed on spring roster as WR. The saga continues as Charles Nelson has begun spring ball listed as a wide receiver. We've seen this before, but I'm sure this time around the Oregon coaches would love to keep him on one side of the ball. Listing him as a wide receiver to open camp at least shows that the staff has confidence in the secondary this time around. Hopefully the battle wounds suffered last year will create a strong secondary with Ugo Amadi, Arrion Springs, Tyree Robinson, Chris Seisay, and Reggie Daniels all returning. For what it's worth, I think Nelson's NFL future lies on defense.
Elijah George- moving to DL from OL. Another victim of the transition to the 4-3 defense is the redshirt junior. While it appeared that George could compete for a spot on the offensive line he has instead been transitioned to the defensive line where he will compete at the defensive tackle position.
Torrodney Prevot- Moving to DL from LB. As part of the new Hoke defense, Prevot has been listed as a defensive lineman instead of a linebacker. The Ducks must feel comfortable in the incoming freshmen linebackers to provide depth. As mentioned, the Ducks are a little thin on the defensive line with the transition to the new defense. I see the transition to the line helping Prevot this year. Many times last year at linebacker, Prevot found himself in no mans land on blown coverage. Now he no longer has to worry about those responsibilities and can focus on putting his hand in the grass and speed rushing the passer.