The Oregon Ducks, under head coach Chip Kelly, have reached a point where they don't have "rebuilding" years. Like other national programs with storied traditions and great coaching, they "reload" instead.
With 14 returning starters in 2012, and quality sophomores, juniors and redshirts behind them on the depth chart, there won't be much room this fall for freshmen, no matter how talented, to break through to the starting lineup.
Here are my picks for three freshmen who might get a chance.
Tight end Evan Baylis from Colorado will see action this fall. The 6'6", 220-lb freshman from Colorado has the size the Ducks like in this position.
Conventional wisdom says that Colt Lyerla has this position all locked up. I don't believe it, and neither should you. I loved Lyerla last year and I hope he comes into fall camp strong and ready to compete. If he doesn't, expect Baylis to play, perhaps even start against Arkansas State.
Both coaches and his teammates alike raved about Baylis in spring drills. He has talent, a good work ethic and a good attitude. Plus, the Ducks don't have much depth at tight end to replace David Paulson.
Baylis will get a shot sooner rather than later.
The Ducks' only 5-star recruit in 2012, defensive lineman Arik Armstead is the biggest player on Oregon's roster at 6'8", 297 lbs. And that was back in March; the kid's probably even bigger by now.
Just for that reason alone, I would give Armstead a chance in the starting lineup.
But he's not just big—there is much more to like about Armstead. He's very athletic and can move for someone his size. Although the scouts loved him as an offensive tackle, Armstead likes playing defense and sacking quarterbacks.
With the loss of Terrell Turner and Brandon Hanna, and with the Ducks' penchant for rotating DLs, Armstead will probably get a starting nod at some point.
I can hardly wait for the first time Armstead breaks a block and levels a QB in Autzen Stadium—the place will go nuts.
It might happen on September 1.
Kenjon Barner is the starting running back for the Oregon Ducks in 2012. Everyone knows that. The senior has earned his chance to take over the star mantle from LaMichael James.
However, when you hear Chip Kelly say that "Byron Marshall is one of the fastest kids in the country," you just know that Duck fans will be treated to Marshall at some point during his freshman campaign.
My hunch is that you will see Kelly take Marshall under his wing in fall camp, much like he did with De'Anthony Thomas last year. That one-on-one coaching from the master is one reason why Thomas was so successful so early.
That, and the fact that Thomas has more talent in his little finger than most guys have in their whole body. Does Marshall have that kind of talent? Possibly.
Marshall will get a chance to spell Barner when he needs a break, and if Barner gets banged up as the season progresses, expect to hear Byron Marshall's name called in the starting lineup.