Thomas Tyner Networking With Chip Kelly
If you are a highly sought-after 2013 recruit of the Oregon Ducks, what are you thinking right now?
Do you care if Chip Kelly returns to Oregon as head coach or not?
With so much potential change in the air for the Ducks, looking further ahead than tomorrow is risky. But now that the terrific 2012 season was capped by an even-more-terrific Fiesta Bowl victory over the Kansas State Wildcats, it's fun to look ahead to the freshman newbies.
Unhappily for the rest of the Pac-12 Conference, the Ducks are still loaded at most positions. It will be difficult for the new kids to claw their way to a starting role. Oregon has always been a meritocracy, however, so there will be the opportunity for the incoming freshman to strut their stuff.
Here are four who might just make it early on in the 2013 campaign.
Why is one of the nation's leading kicker recruits (No. 2 on Rivals.com) likely to earn a starting role for Oregon?
Isn't that obvious, Duck fans?
Oregon would most likely have played in the last two BCS National Championship Games were it not for one wayward field goal in each of the past two seasons.
Junior placekicker Alejandro Maldonado will likely return for his senior season. While he redeemed himself somewhat by going 2-for-2 in the Fiesta Bowl—though his kicks came when the game's outcome was largely decided—Oregon fans don't believe Maldonado can be counted on.
The Ducks have junior Dylan Ausherman returning, but he is considered more of a punter than a placekicker or kickoff guy.
Wogan has one of the strongest legs in the country and is very athletic and mentally tough, according to kicking guru Chris Sailer.
This one's a no-brainer, folks.
With the departures of linebackers Kiko Alonso and Michael Clay, this position is one of the areas of greatest need for the Ducks.
Listed as a 2-star recruit out of Los Angeles Harbor Community College—please don't turn up your nose at a 2-star—linebacker Joe Walker is an intriguing get for the Ducks. He will transfer and be in Eugene for spring practice, which should give him a leg up on the competition.
The linebackers on Oregon's 2012 2-deep chart, except for returning starter Boseko Lokombo, are young: two redshirt freshmen (Rahim Cassell and Tyson Coleman), and a sophomore (Derrick Malone). These three have experience but so does Walker.
According to Scout.com, Walker is one of the top two LBs in the Los Angeles area and has a ton of upside. Expect him to compete for Alonso's middle linebacker position.
One of three Oregon kids in this year's recruiting class (defensive tackle Doug Brenner out of Portland's Jesuit High and running back Thomas Tyner from Beaverton's Aloha High are the others), offensive lineman Evan Voeller is a 4-star prospect recruited by O-line coach Steve Greatwood.
Listed by Scout.com as a tackle, Voeller has also played guard. This versatility, along with the ability to move well for his size (6'5", 285 lbs) will give Voeller a chance to work his way into the starting lineup.
The Ducks should be set with returning tackles Tyler Johnstone and Jake Fisher, though they lose both starting guards, Kyle Long and Ryan Clanton.
Don't be surprised to see Voeller at left guard midway through the season.
This is for all you Duck fans out there who are frothing at the mouth to see 5-star running back Thomas Tyner on the Autzen Stadium field on August 31. If he weren't included on this list, you would scream bloody murder.
And, you are probably correct. However, as good as Tyner looked his senior season at Aloha High School, it still remains to be seen if he can beat out 2012's backup, freshman Byron Marshall, not to mention hybrid De'Anthony Thomas.
Tyner also shone in last week's U.S. Army All-American Bowl, and he was the leading rusher on an anemic West team. The East team won 15-8 in a defensive battle.
Tyner may very well turn out to be the best running back in this year's fine crop of RBs. But that position at Oregon is extremely competitive. May I remind you that Kenjon Barner was a backup for two years before getting his chance to star.
Tyner may get a chance in 2013, but it is by no means a sure thing in the Ducks' high-powered offense.
What about 4-star twins Tyree and Tyrell Robinson, you are thinking? Aren't they too good to ride the bench?
Perhaps. But in a recent interview with Scout.com's recruiting analyst Greg Biggins, Tyree indicated that the brothers were paying attention to the Chip Kelly-leaving buzz. The Robinsons appear to be OK with Kelly's departure as long as he doesn't raid the current Oregon staff, but they are somewhat uneasy with the current situation.
Other schools are still calling the two-sport twins, and why wouldn't they?
Please consider their commitment to Oregon a "soft verbal" until the coaching turmoil settles.
Kay Jennings is a member of the Football Writers Association of America.