Sophomore Dillon Mitchell will start at wide receiver for Oregon this fall. He showed signs of life last season as a freshman, earning his snaps on special teams.
We are just 22 days away from Oregon’s first game against Southern Utah on Saturday, September 2 at Autzen Stadium.
If you missed any of my 11-part series projecting the defense, you can find it at ATQ. Now, it’s time for the offensive starter projections for Willie Taggart’s 2017-18 team.
WILLIE TAGGART’S 11
QUARTERBACK - Justin Herbert (Tuesday)
RUNNING BACK - Royce Freeman (Wednesday)
WIDE RECEIVER - Charles Nelson (Thursday)
STARTING WIDE RECEIVER, DILLON MITCHELL
As a true freshman in 2016, Mitchell opened eyes at the 2016 Spring Game. During his first game-type scenario with the program, the receiver snagged seven catches for 104 yards and two touchdowns at Autzen Stadium.
His hard work and commitment on special teams earned him snaps at wide receiver. Overall, he caught two balls for nine yards in the offense.
On special teams, he registered a few jaw-dropping punt returns, including two vs Washington. Mitchell returned seven punts for 26 yards (3.7) last season. Meanwhile, he returned three kicks for a total of 49 yards (16.3).
This season, Mitchell’s role should expand exponentially with head coach Willie Taggart. Following the dismissal of Darren Carrington, Mitchell has been toying with the No. 2 receiver spot. However, he still has a long way to go to start for Taggart.
Brenden Schooler made the transition from safety to wide receiver last week, which is sure to shake things up a bit. Taggart loves creating competition and that is exactly what he did with his pass-catchers.
And we can’t forget the emerging freshman Jaylon Redd. He’s been playing well on both sides of the ball through nine days of camp.
Regardless, Mitchell has his work cut out for him. He is a quick, skillful player but his physicality scares me. Do I think he can play a full season as a No. 2 wide receiver in college football? I’m skeptical. The talent is there, but the strength is not. He will find himself on the outside which highlights his speed, but he will also find top-notch cornerbacks out there too.
With Taggart behind him, Mitchell will not be allowed to fail. If he can add some weight before the start of the season, that would go a long way. After missing a third of camp thus far with an illness, his durability will need to be exhibited more consistently.
“I think Dillon is growing up,” said Taggart. “He’s learning to trust the coaches more now. When we first got here, you could tell he wasn’t too sure. As time has gone by, he’s opened up a bit. We’ve seen a lot more this training camp. He’s talking more. He’s smiling more. He’s having fun and making plays for us. This football team is going to lean on him.”
THE FINAL VERDICT
The Memphis product will record 33 catches for 497 yards and three touchdowns during his sophomore campaign. He will return one kick for a score. Additionally, he will provide solid punt return numbers without losing a fumble on special teams. His offensive numbers won’t blow anyone away in 2017, but his progression and maturity hopefully will. After Charles Nelson graduates, Mitchell will be primed for a breakout performance in 2018.
Part 5 of Willie Taggart’s Starting 11 series will continue on Saturday.