The beauty of college football is the fact that each and every year teams must replace players who have moved on. Every team deal with losses from the previous season, and every year teams find a new player ready to make an impact. This is true for the Oregon football team as they head into this upcoming season. While Oregon returns majority of starters from key units (offensive line, runningback, quarterback, and linebacker to name a few), there are still some positions that need solidifying before the season starts.
Positional Group #1 – Defensive tackle
Starters at defensive end Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner remain on the Oregon defensive front, but aside from them, there is not much depth on the line. The Ducks lost three starters, Taylor Hart, Ricky Havili-Heimuli and Wade Keliikipi, to graduation last year. The Ducks like to rotate bodies in at defensive line to stay fresh, so replacing the losses will be key for the Ducks defense headed into 2014.
Who will step in?
Sam Camp should be the starter at nose tackle in 2014. Camp recently made headlines by weighing in for that start of spring practices a staggering 29 pounds heavier than he was in 2013. He also played in several games last season alongside Alex Balducci, who should be Camp’s biggest competitor for the starting nose tackle spot. With Camp and Balducci being #1 and #2 respectively, reserves like redshirt sophomore Cody Carriger, redshirt junior Stetzon Bair, and junior college transfer Tui Talia to come off the bench in backup roles.
Positional Group #2 – Wide receiver
The Ducks already had a spot to fill with the graduation of four year starter Josh Huff, but now with starter Bralon Addison out with a torn ACL, the need for receiver is even greater. With Keanon Lowe, Dwayne Stanford, B.J. Kelly, and Eric Dungy all having seen game action in the past, one of them will surely be named the #1 receiver. However, talented redshirt freshman Darren Carrington and early freshman enrollee Jalon Brown will look to showcase their skills in the spring game to get a shot at the #1 or #2 spot on the depth chart.
How the depth chart will look.
Keanon Lowe should take over the #1 spot at wide receiver, due to the fact that he was #3 last season. With the top two receivers from last season gone for the Ducks in 2014, Lowe will have the opportunity to step up and become the #1 option. The #2 and #3 receiver spots will be harder to predict. Aside from Lowe, the remaining receivers (redshirt sophomore Dwayne Stanford, redshirt junior B.J. Kelly, redshirt senior Eric Dungy, redshirt freshman Darren Carrington and true freshman Jalon Brown) are unproven in big game situations. The Ducks will likely use all the names listed above throughout the year, but it wouldn’t surprise me if the give the younger and more explosive receivers Carrington and Brown get plenty of opportunities to take over the #2 and #3 spots.
Positional battle #3 – The secondary
Over the past few seasons, the Oregon secondary has been a strong point of the Ducks defense. With two year starters Avery Patterson and Brian Jackson preparing for hopeful NFL careers, who will be the next to fill their voids at the safety positions? Redshirt senior Erick Dargan will more than likely get a chance to start in 2014 as he has seen plenty of game action over the years, but that still leaves one position up for grabs. It looks like Dominique Harrison, Issac Dixon, Reggie Daniels, Tyree Robinson and Chris Seisay will all be fighting for that second starting safety position. As for the cornerback position, the Oregon defense got a major boost when All-American Ifo Ekpre-Olomu decided to return for 2014. However, there is still a need for #2 and #3 cornerbacks.
How it should shake out.
Redshirt senior Erick Dargan will more than likely get a chance to start at free safety in 2014, as he has seen plenty of game action over the years, but that still leaves one position up for grabs. It looks like junior Dominique Harrison, redshirt junior Issac Dixon, redshirt sophomore Reggie Daniels, sophomore Tyree Robinson and redshirt freshman Chris Seisay will all be fighting for that second starting safety position. Tyree Robinson caught the attention of coaches towards the end of last season as a true freshman. Robinson has the athletic ability and size to be a versatile safety for the Ducks, and should get the chance to start alongside Dargan. The other names mentioned should get plenty of reps and Oregon likes to play a variety of defensive backs.
The battle for the #2 cornerback spot will be interesting to watch. Both Troy Hill and Dior Mathis are redshirt seniors, and have enough game experience to start this upcoming season, but who will win the job is up in the air. The top three corners for the Ducks will be #1 Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, with Troy Hill and Dior Mathis battling for the #2 and #3 spot on the depth chart. The battle for second starting cornerback will most likely be settle late into the offseason, but look for the spring game to be a key moment in the decision making process.
In summary, the Oregon Ducks are in a position to make a run at a BCS playoff berth. The majority of the offense returns, and veteran leaders in key positions lead the defense, but there is always uncertainty when a new season is on the horizon. The Ducks will have to finalize the depth chart soon to ensure continuity leading into this upcoming season. Several positional battles will be held during the remainder of camp and the spring game will be a great opportunity for players to grab a coveted starting spot.