Oregon wide receiver’s and tight end’s have always been a huge asset to the high powered Duck offense that revolutionized the game of football. Watch any National Football League game, stop by a high school on a Friday night; everywhere we look now-a-days, we see a spread offense with more moving parts than players on the field, working at an exponentially fast rate, scoring almost at will. You can thank the Oregon Ducks for that.
When Oregon begins their 2016 season, they will do so with a new quarterback under center. Therefore, the pass-catchers and lead blockers downfield have never been more important to a team in Eugene.
In the past, the Ducks could rely on a steadfast decision maker at quarterback to lead the charge. Oregon has always had an elite running game, but how good would those running backs be without some talent at the wide receiver and tight end positions blocking for them and drawing attention away from the defense?
Suiting up for the Oregon Ducks means understanding the rich history of their illustrious program. Especially if you’re a wide receiver or tight end, it means understanding your roots and who came before you, baring the same green and gold you wear today. It means giving respect to those who did it when current players were still in diapers.
Samie Parker is considered the greatest Duck pass-catcher of all-time, check the numbers if you disagree. Yet, a strong list of great college players followed him through the Oregon ranks like Jeff Maehl, Keenan Howry, Demetrius Williams, Ed Dickson and Cristin McLemore just to name a few.
One thing is promised to you when you play for Oregon, you will be tested. Whether it is your coach testing your boundaries, a teammate testing your limits or an opposing defense testing your character and fortitude. It is part of the territory. At times, the biggest play of the game may not get your name in the stat book, but it could win your team the game.
The wide receivers and tight ends of the Ducks understand they will do more than just run routes and catch touchdowns. Oregon receivers and tight ends play a much more pivotal role than most realize. One can not excel in the running game like the Ducks have done for so long, without exceptional downfield blocking by everyone on offense, not just the offensive linemen. This is the legacy wide receivers/tight ends must carry with them as a Duck waddling forward.
ONE FOR THE MONEY:
The No. 1 wide receiver for the Oregon Ducks will be Darren Carrington. The 6-foot, 2-inch junior is searching to add to his promising sophomore season that saw him play just seven games due to suspension. Nevertheless, in those seven games Carrington exhibited the talent to play big time football.
Last season, Carrington hauled in 32 passes for 609 yards and six total touchdowns. Most incredibly, he led the team in yards per reception with an impressive 19.0 yards per catch. Averaging 87.0 receiving yards per game ranked Carrington third in the conference. He was also named 2nd Team All-Pac-12 Conference in 2015.
If last year was any indication of what kind of player Carrington is going to be, look no further than the Washington game at Husky Stadium on October 17. They say the best always shine when the lights are the brightest and that was no different for Carrington who grabbed five passes for 125 yards and two touchdowns, helping lift the Ducks to a, 26-20, victory. Look for the San Diego native to explode as the lead dog this season.
TWO FOR THE SHOW:
Charles Nelson was the most versatile athlete in the Pac-12 Conference in 2015. In fact, he was nominated for the Paul Hornung Award Watch List for being the Nation’s Most Versatile Player. He started the first three games of the season at the wide receiver position before starting the final eight games at safety, and also returned kicks.
In 2015, Nelson caught 17 passes for 270 yards and three touchdowns, while also recording two games with 12 tackles or more. When speaking of Nelson, do not refer to him as a wide receiver or even a safety. This man is a football player, plain and simple. He would also settle for being called a freak athlete.
There isn’t a player in the nation this writer enjoyed watching last season, more than Nelson. He is a throwback to the good ol’ days when a gridiron football player would play both offense and defense, never coming off the field for a single play. A simple term to define Nelson would be modern day two-way player, but that does little justice for him after playing three games last season with more than 100 snaps!
Entering the 2016 campaign, Nelson no longer has double-duty, as he will settle in to focus only on wide receiver....for now. If a few defensive backs go down due to unfortunate circumstances, the coaches may have no choice but to return the human engine back onto the defense.
THREE TO GET READY:
Dwayne Stanford stepped up for the Ducks in 2015, starting nine games in total. The senior is looking to take over the possession role left by Bralon Addison. Stanford inhaled 30 passes for 463 yards and five touchdowns last season, including a stellar 15.4 yard per catch average.
As the third receiver in the Ducks attack, he could prove to be a critical player that Dakota Prukop seeks out, especially on third downs. Alongside Carrington, Nelson and the quartet of talented running backs, Stanford will be a welcomed secondary option.
If the senior were to falter, a host of wide receivers waiting in the wings could ascend to the next level, such as Devon Allen who is busy with the 2016 Olympics currently. If Allen were to return for a final season in college before his endorsement career begins, he could really make this Ducks wide receiver group one of the deepest and most experienced in the nation.
Jalen Brown, Dillon Mitchell, Alex Ofodile and Tristen Wallace round out the extremely deep roster, as head coach Mark Hilfrich always looks forward to using six to eight receivers per game, especially with the number of plays Oregon’s offense produces.
Wallace is the big name newcomer out of Texas with sparkling accolades and elite athleticism. The 6-foot, 4-inch freshman was a highly touted quarterback out of high school, but has since focused on becoming an elite wide receiver. Wallace may be a huge piece of the puzzle in the second half of the season, assuming his growth remains on track.
AND FOUR TO GO:
Last but certainly not least is the ever-important tight end position in the Oregon offense. Pharaoh Brown is the main man entering the season, following his 2015 season that was negated due to injury. The rangy 6-foot, 6-inch monster with great hands has not played since 2014 when he hauled in 25 balls for 420 yards and six touchdowns, including a season-long 66-yard score.
A scout doesn’t need exceptional eye site to see how athletically gifted Brown is, alongside his underrated interior run blocking. In 2014, he exhibited his immense speed for a big man as he averaged 16.8 yards per catch alongside the aforementioned 66-yard touchdown run. How many tight ends can you name with a score of that distance? Exactly. Brown is the team’s x-factor entering 2016, should he remain healthy and on the field.
Oregon has a long history of discovering solid tight end’s and this year is no different. Seniors Evan Baylis, Taylor Stinson and Johnny Mundt lead the back-up’s. Watch out for true freshman Cam McCormick who enrolled in school early to get a slight head start over the other incoming freshman. He could be playing a crucial role by November.
LONG AND SHORT:
What might have been the biggest question mark heading into the 2015 season for the Oregon Ducks is now one of their biggest strengths entering the 2016 campaign. If you believe in depth by numbers, then the Ducks have it in waves. Not only can they play up to eight wide receivers deep, but these Ducks are athletes who can play anywhere on the field.
Oregon has running backs, quarterbacks and safeties at the wide receiver position. They have wide receivers at the running back position and freak athletes portraying tight ends. If you know who to stop or slow down on this offense, then you shouldn’t be reading this article, you should be on a Pac-12 opponents coaching staff.
For a team that has been referred to as the Pac-12 “underdog” entering the season, there is certainly nothing underdog about their offense. In fact, some would define the Oregon offense in 2016 as the favorite of the conference. Stanford may have the more complete team, but wouldn’t be in the AP Top 25 if it wasn’t for the name Christian McCaffrey.
If the Oregon defense returns to form this year and rights their mistakes of 2015, the Ducks will be in the National Championship conversation all season off the strength of their deep, experienced, electric offense. However, if that defense from 2015 rears its ugly head again in 2016, Duck fans should start looking forward to basketball season.