Which of These Storm Troopers Will Play on Sundays?
The 2012 version of the Quack Attack is surrounded by more questions than the Zapruder film. How hard will the NCAA come down on Oregon for the Willie Lyles controversy?
Will the running game suffer with Tra Carson's transfer decision? Is Bryan Bennett ready to fill Darron Thomas' shoes? And most importantly, will Chip Kelly and Erin Andrews finally get together?
All these concerns will be addressed in good time. Meanwhile, why not speculate about which current Oregon players are most likely to exchange their text books for playbooks and join the big boys in the NFL?
With a top-20 recruiting class and an abundance of four and five star players, plenty of Ducks have the potential to one day fly up to the next level and play on Sundays. These 7 players look like the surest bets to join the pros.
Can Can, Can You Do the Can Can?
About the only time that punters get recognized is when they make a tackle as the last line of defense on a kick return; which happens as often as a Hale-Bopp sighting.
A solid punter can be a great weapon in the pros, though. The 49ers' Andy Lee and the Raiders' Shane Lechler have the ability to completely dismantle a team's offensive strategy with one booming kick.
When it comes to these undervalued special teamers, Jackson Rice is one of the best in the business. On most draft boards, Rice is ranked as one of the top three prospects in the country.
In the Rose Bowl he averaged 46 yards per punt and twice kicked 60-plus yarders during the season. A finalist for the Ray Guy award, Rice is a sure bet to make an NFL roster.
Colt hungry for more playing time.
A name like Colt already gets you halfway into the NFL. The other half is being 6'4", 238 lbs. and being able to run a 4.5, 40.
In only six appearances this season and very limited playing time, Lyerla scored five touchdowns and had 147 yards receiving. A homegrown Oregon boy and a five-star recruit, Lyerla will be the Ducks' go-to option at tight end with the departure of David Paulson.
With much more playing time in the upcoming season, Lyerla will have the opportunity to show scouts his arsenal of power and speed. All signs point to a player who will take his career to the next level.
Not only a talented football player, York is quite the opera singer as well.
Carson York is known for two things, his brain and his first-class blocking. Not only was York named to the academic All-America 2nd team last year, he also made pancakes out of defensive lineman like a chef at IHOP.
York, a four-star recruit out of Idaho, has only gotten better throughout his college career. One of the big worries for the Ducks last year was the weakness of the offensive line. With York as an anchor, the line quietly provided ample protection for Lamichael James and Darron Thomas throughout the season.
Ranked as one of the 10 best offensive lineman on many draft boards, York will no doubt save the Tom Bradys and Eli Mannings of the world from eating turf some day soon.
We have yet to see Blackmon's blazing speed and juketastic moves on an Oregon football field. If his high school career is any indication, Blackmon is more than ready to step up and become the go-to receiver—something the Ducks sorely lacked last year.
Originally recruited as a quarterback by Nevada, Blackmon only made the transition to wide receiver in the last few games of his high school career.
His high school coach, Tony Barile, says that Blackmon's experience at quarterback has made him a lethal receiver due to his Manning-esque ability to read defenses.
A four-star recruit and jewel of Oregon's 2011 recruiting class, everything you need to know about Blackmon can be summed up by Barile.
“If you’re not getting him the ball as much as you can, you’re crazy.”
A well deserved snack.
Oregon's leading tackler and defensive anchor, Boyett is currently ranked as one of the top defensive backs in the country on many draft boards.
The ferocious free safety, injected with a healthy dose of little man syndrome, has one more year to show scouts that despite his 5'10" stature he is one of the most aggressive and intelligent defensive players available.
For his career, Boyett has 183 solo tackles and 9 interceptions. Those are the kind of numbers that get scouts' attention.
A little dose of confidence helps as well.
"I'm not just going to say I feel like I'm the best safety because it's me. I'm a realist," he told ESPN's Ted Miller. "But I really do feel I'm the best safety in the country. I probably wouldn't believe that if [secondary coach John Neal and defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti] hadn't told me the same thing."
Ducks really can fly!
Kenjon Barner has quietly played the Samwise to Lamichael James' Frodo for three years now. With James' departure for the NFL—and now Tra Carson's transfer decision—the stage is entirely his for 2012.
Barner could have followed his running back buddy into the pros, but by moving up to No. 1 on the depth chart, Barner's opportunity to have a banner year was too much to turn down.
Last year, Barner had the kind of numbers that most first string running backs would die for: 939 yards and 11 touchdowns. He's currently ranked as the No. 6 running back in the country by nfldraftscout.com and can only improve his stock for the upcoming season.
Now that he has Autzen's astroturf all to himself, who knows what kind of numbers this California kid will put up? Barner can show scouts that he's no one's sidekick and truly one of the elite running talents in next year's draft class.
I'm the King of the World!
We now come to the miniature cheetah in cleats that NFL scouts have been salivating over since his high school days. De'Anthony Thomas in the NFL is a surer bet than a Meryl Streep Oscar nomination.
The fabulous freshman delighted the college football world last season with his jaw dropping speed, awe-inducing jukes and penchant for breaking 60-yard runs at any time. In just 55 attempts, Thomas rushed for 595 yards and seven touchdowns while receiving for 605 yards and nine touchdowns.
Those kind of numbers are virtually unheard of for a freshman. Thomas' hybrid offensive skills make him a prime target for a team looking for their own Wes Welker or Darren Sproles.
Currently ranked as the No. 2 running back (if you can call him that) for the 2015 draft class by nfldraftscout.com, you can count on Thomas making the most of his mighty mouse powers and taking the NFL by storm in a couple years.