The Oregon Ducks are ridiculously loaded with talent at the wide receiver position in 2013. With all the returning receivers, plus a couple of potentially big-play 4-star recruits arriving in the fall, who will win the coveted starting wide receiver positions?
Last year's leading receiver, Josh Huff, was extremely smart to return to Oregon for his senior season, and he will be rewarded with a starting role again in 2013. But beyond Huff, are there any "sure things" at WR? Will the new kids jump the learning curve in fall camp? Is there a budding Jeff Maehl who just needs some reps and a chance?
For the sake of this article, we are not considering De'Anthony Thomas as a wide receiver. He will, however, be the leading receiver for the Ducks in 2013...you heard it here first. Not talking about tight end Colt Lyerla either, even though he will likely be the third leading receiver behind Thomas and Huff.
Do you imagine that, just for a nanosecond, Josh Huff considered taking his talents to the NFL instead of returning to the Ducks for his senior season?
Lots of Oregon fans breathed a sigh of relief once the deadline for underclassmen going out early had passed and Huff's name was not on that list. It crossed his mind, you know it did. Perhaps Darron Thomas' experience was a bucket of cold water in the face to any Duck considering bailing out after his junior campaign.
Duck fans are happy you stayed, Mr. Huff, and are looking forward to a truly breakout season for you.
Wide receiver position No. 1 is yours.
One of the projected possibilities to back up Huff on one side will be a player who Huff only wishes he was as tall as—6'5" Dwayne Stanford.
Stanford, who will be a sophomore this year, had only 11 receptions for 106 yards in 2012. But the former 4-star recruit, who was recruited by new offensive coordinator Scott Frost, did look very promising whenever he lined up.
Stanford had a team-high five catches for 41 yards in the Arizona game, his best outing. You must love a 6'5" receiver, but if Stanford isn't on the 2-deep behind Huff, who might be?
Objective or not, I'm partial to Bralon Addison. And not just because I walked with his family one game over the Autzen footbridge and they were charming.
Addison was also a 4-star recruit in the same class as Stanford, and he, too, will be a sophomore. But Addison did something in 2012 that Stanford did not do—he scored three touchdowns as a freshman.
Don't you just love freshmen who score touchdowns?
Addison was the sixth-leading receiver for the Ducks this year, and Stanford (wish he had a different last name!) came in at No. 9. One of them will get the nod to backup Huff, but both of them will see considerable playing time this year.
The conventional wisdom is that junior Keanon Lowe will start on the other side of the field from Josh Huff. And he probably deserves the starting nod if only because of his performance against the Stanford Cardinal in 2012, when he was one of the few Ducks to have a good game.
Lowe was the fifth-leading receiver last year, and the second best among true wide receivers behind Huff. At times during 2012 it seemed as if Lowe had the best rapport with quarterback Marcus Mariota. That's a hard-to-quantify intangible, but it can also be really important.
Lowe (5'9", 181 lbs) is smart and fast; I just wish he were taller.
Daryle Hawkins will be a senior this year and you should look for him to improve upon last year's production of 25 catches and 202 yards.
Hawkins also has a nose for the end zone (as pictured here against the USC Trojans in the Coliseum last November), and scored three times last season.
At 6'4", 202 lbs, Hawkins is a big target with good hands. He can cause trouble anytime he's on the field, especially if the opponent keys in on Huff and plays a step or two off Hawkins.
Sometimes one just has a feeling about certain players; Hawkins may surprise everyone and have a giant year.
Sophomore B.J. Kelley, and juniors Eric Dungy and Blake Stanton will also be in the mix at wide receiver.
Kelley showed flashes of brilliance his freshman year, hauling in six catches for 103 yards—a gaudy 17.71 average per catch. He also scored two touchdowns, for which he gets an A+ for his frosh year.
Dungy and Stanton were used sparingly in 2012, but both will see more action this year with the departures of Will Murphy and Rahsaan Vaughn.
Oregon landed two 4-star wide receivers in the 2013 recruiting class—Darren Carrington and Devon Allen.
Both Allen and Carrington are potentially big-play receivers. Both are fast with good hands.
Allen is expected to compete for the Oregon track team as well as his football gig. Carrington's dad played for the NFL's San Diego Chargers, so he knows the game.
It's too soon to know if Carrington and Allen will break through in their freshman year, but be on the lookout for these two.
Offensive lineman Jake Fisher
In conclusion, let's go way out on a limb and project that offensive lineman Jake Fisher will somehow (probably illegally) have one reception for a touchdown in 2013.
It will make his fumble recovery in the end zone in last year's win against Tennessee Tech seem boring.
Kay Jennings is a member of the Football Writers Association of America.