Oregon Football: 10 Future Stars to Watch in the Ducks Spring Game
A receiver with 4.24 speed. The next Dennis Dixon. Scout.com's top-rated big man from the 2012 class. On April 28, Oregon fans will be seeing their first real dose of several future superstars when their Ducks take the field for the spring game.
Year after year, Ducks fans have been impressed by young talent, as Chip Kelly is not afraid to plug his young studs into the lineup. We've seen this recently with players like De'Anthony Thomas, Josh Huff and Colt Lyerla, who have all impressed as freshmen.
Oregon lacks experience at several different positions, including wide receiver, quarterback and defensive back. Therefore, the Ducks faithful can count on seeing plenty of new faces in the starting lineup in 2012.
With that being said, the spring game is a great time to get an idea of what to expect from these future stars. The following 10 players will likely impress with increased playing time in 2012.
Some are new freshmen looking to make an instant impact. Others are sophomores and juniors that have been waiting a long time to prove what they can do.
Either way, these players are future studs whose names we should remember.
Any player who weighs 151 pounds and can get a 4-star rating out of Rivals must be really, really fast. That is certainly the case with Tacoi Sumler.
Sumler was the fastest high school player in the entire 2011 recruiting class. He made up for his lack of size with a blazing 4.24 40-yard dash. Sumler, a track star in high school, also ran a 10.49 in the 100 meters.
As a junior, Sumler had 54 catches for 994 yards and 17 touchdowns. He is a true receiver who runs great routes, cuts on a dime and catches the ball at the highest point. In fact, his leaping ability is quite remarkable, and something he prides himself on.
"I’m not 6-foot-3, but I play like it," he said. "I go up and fight for every ball."
Sumler's small frame won't hurt him too much as he'll likely spend most of his time in the slot where defensive backs won't be able to jam him easily.
Look for Sumler's electrifying speed and quickness on April 28.
Oregon is returning three starting linebackers in Michael Clay, Kiko Alonso and Boseko Lokombo. However, behind those three, the Ducks are pretty thin.
Defensive coordinator Nick Allioti is always rotating fresh legs into his front seven. Wallace will likely be the first linebacker off the bench in 2012. In 2011, he saw very limited playing time as a true freshman but still managed to record eight total tackles.
Wallace is a quiet, modest player with a great work ethic. He delivers crushing hits and exhibits perfect tackling technique. Not only can he come downhill, Wallace also does well dropping into coverage.
The sophomore has great athleticism, including 4.6 speed. Look for Wallace to impress in the spring game next week.
Armstead is the best defensive lineman recruit the Ducks have scored since Haloti Ngata. The towering 6'8" and 297-pound lineman was Scout's second-ranked player in the entire 2012 recruiting class behind Dorial Green-Beckham.
The incoming freshman was dominant in high school on both sides of the ball. With the loss of Terrell Turner, the Ducks have a hole ready to be filled at strong side defensive end. Armstead seems to be one of the prime candidates for that position.
He is extremely powerful on the defensive line due to his sheer size and strength. However, Armstead is also very quick, athletic and effective at shedding blocks.
Watch for Armstead to make a case for a starting job during the spring game.
The Ducks have a lot of question marks at wide receiver in 2012. Josh Huff is the only real veteran out wide, and his recent off-the-field issues may force Oregon to start the season without him.
Luckily, Devon Blackmon has the potential to be the Ducks' go-to guy.
Blackmon was the 5th ranked receiver by Rivals in the 2011 recruiting class. Like Huff, he played quarterback, running back, and wide receiver in high school. This all-purpose talent has decent size at 6'1" and 194 pounds and great 4.4 speed.
Blackmon redshirted last season and is eager to prove himself. He feels he's developed a good connection with both Bryan Bennett and Marcus Mariota so far this spring.
The redshirt freshman has a great charismatic personality and a lot of confidence, something the Ducks could definitely use on the perimeter. Look for Blackmon to catch a lot of balls during the spring game.
OK, this one is pretty obvious. Mariota will be hard to miss in Oregon's spring game. Even so, I am really excited about this kid.
At 6'4" and 200 pounds, Mariota has a similar build to former Oregon quarterback Dennis Dixon. What's even more impressive is that he runs as well as Dixon did with excellent 4.5 speed.
Though he is in the middle of a quarterback battle with Bryan Bennett, Mariota is a perfect fit for the Ducks' spread offense. He's got great touch and accuracy with his throws. Receiver Devon Blackmon even said that he preferred Mariota's passes to Bennet's because of his touch.
I've chosen not to include Bennett on this list simply because he showed us all what he is capable of last season in limited playing time.
Mariota has all the intangibles. In only one year as a starting quarterback in high school, he led his team to a state championship. Look for him to continue his success when he takes the field on Saturday.
The Ducks have found a near replica of David Paulson with Evan Baylis. Baylis has the outstanding blocking ability, intelligence and hands that Paulson had. However, he has even more athleticism.
At 6'6" and 232 pounds, Baylis could afford to put on a few more pounds. Even so, his great 4.7 speed and good height create huge matchup problems for defenses. He can outrun linebackers and go up and get the ball over defensive backs.
Baylis is a smart kid who held a 3.7 GPA in high school. On top of his excellence at tight end, he was a standout at linebacker, showing how physical he can be. As a blocker, Baylis is capable of driving defenders backwards to extend the play, something that Oregon's coaches really value in their receivers.
A perfect fit for Oregon, Baylis even claimed he "likes the rain." After enrolling early, look for Baylis to compete with Colt Lyerla for playing time this spring.
Like Armstead, Tony Washington will be fighting to replace Terrell Turner at strong side defensive end. After seeing limited playing time during his redshirt freshman season, Washington is eager to see more snaps in 2012.
In 2011, Washington recorded 18 tackles in limited playing time, but missed three games due to a dislocated elbow. This spring, he says he feels healthy and confident after spending a lot of time in the weight room.
Washington's hard work and desire to get on the field have been evident in spring practice. His increased strength and agility have allowed him to play with a lot more quickness and power. He hopes that this will allow him to move inside to tackle, making him more versatile and allowing him to see more snaps.
Watch for Washington to make his case for starting strong side defensive end during the spring game.
Brian Jackson is one of those players who has been waiting a long time for his chance to shine.
We've seen this kid in small doses over the past couple of years. He's made a couple great hits on defense and key blocks on special teams. In 2012, Jackson is looking to replace Eddie Pleasant at safety for a full starting job.
If there is one thing that has been evident about this junior safety, it is his ability to bring the wood. This is proven by the video above. I, of course, do not mean to celebrate the Missouri State player's injury. However, this hit gives us a sample of Jackson's power in the defensive backfield.
Oregon fans should be excited about Jackson. He seems to be a perfect candidate to fill the gap after a long line of hard hitting safeties such as Patrick Chung, T.J. Ward, and Eddie Pleasant.
He is competitive, confident and fierce. Look for Jackson to lay some big hits during the Ducks' spring game as he makes a case for the starting safety job.
B.J. Kelley is the third redshirt freshman receiver that I am expecting big things from in 2012.
Like Sumler and Blackmon, Kelley can flat-out run. He also runs track for the Ducks. Kelley has impressed with a 4.4 40-yard dash and a 10.84 in the 100 meters. Devon Blackmon has even said he thinks Kelley is the fastest of Oregon's receivers.
Kelley's 24 yard-per-catch average in high school is evidence of his electrifying speed. As a senior, he totaled 1,223 yards and 16 touchdowns.
The redshirt freshman could add some bulk to his 6'2" frame, as he now only weighs 179 pounds. This could help him become a more effective blocker on the perimeter.
Watch for Kelley's electrifying big-play ability in the spring game.
Though we saw Fisher in spurts in almost every game last season, he should be getting increased playing time in 2012 as he fights for the starting right tackle position.
Fisher was a steal for the Ducks in 2011, as Chip Kelly was able to swipe him out of Big Ten territory. The Michigan native is a huge 6'6" and 279 pounds. He played tight end in high school, showing his impressive agility and athleticism.
Fisher was a 4-star prospect according to Rivals, and greatly boosted Oregon's 2011 recruiting class. With veterans Darrion Weems and Mark Asper leaving, the Ducks will be counting on young guys like Fisher to step up.
He is a very strong blocker who plays with great intensity, always trying to bury his man. Fisher is also a great pass protector who does well against the bull rush. He's also got a lot of confidence, which the Ducks could really use up front.
Look for this big man to move some bodies during the spring game on Saturday.