Oregon Football: Ranking the 5 Best Offensive Weapons for Ducks
The words "underrated" and "overlooked" are used often in conversation about the Oregon defense. That's not the case with the Ducks' high-flying offense, which grabs the headlines each week and is feared throughout college football.
Every year some will ponder whether the Ducks can continue to move the ball so effectively, and with the team transitioning to a new head coach in Mark Helfrich, those questions will become even more common as the 2013 season approaches.
But to answer that question, all you really need to do is look at the talent Oregon returns for next season, which includes a variety of all-conference players and NFL-caliber talent.
But which guys are the ones causing defensive coordinators to put the extra hours in? Which ones are highlighted in every single meeting opposing defenses have leading up to the game?
We're taking a look now at the top five offensive weapons for the Ducks, and yes, these guys better start working on those touchdown dances.
5. WR Bralon Addison
Most of the names on this list will come as little surprise, though I'll understand the initial skepticism at putting Bralon Addison in the No. 5 spot.
I'll be honest, this has a lot to do with his breakout performance in the spring game. He truly looked like the best player on the field at times, and he appeared to be a hundred times more confident in himself.
He seemed to get more playing time as the 2012 season progressed, and I'll be surprised if he isn't starting after the first few games.
Addison has speed to burn and consistent hands, but he also has the benefit of learning to block behind guys like Josh Huff and Keanon Lowe, two of the best blocking receivers in the conference.
This pick is mostly a projection of how Addison will perform this season, but after seeing his growth in the offseason, it's easy to see how he'll be one of the most dangerous offensive weapons on the team.
4. TE Colt Lyerla
Colt Lyerla makes this list for equal parts proven production and future potential.
He made a huge jump from year one to year two, catching just seven passes as a freshman and 25 as a sophomore. It takes multiple defenders to bring down Lyerla, and his speed in the open field is remarkable for someone with so much power.
Last season we also saw him being used as a running back in a package that was wildly successful at first but shelved later on. He's also improving as a blocker, leaving fans with the question, "What can he get better at?"
Well, the production, for one. Despite his NFL prospects, Lyerla hasn't dominated as many games as you might think. Then again, in an offense averaging 50 points per game, is there really room for more touchdowns?
With Kenjon Barner having graduated and Marcus Mariota improving as a passer, it's likely we'll see Lyerla even more next season. And should he continue to improve and fulfill his enormous potential, Lyerla could also be in the hunt for several postseason awards.
3. WR Josh Huff
Experience? Check. Leadership? Check. Playmaking ability? Ask first-round draft pick Desmond Trufant, who was on the receiving end of a Josh Huff stiff-arm before Huff danced into the end zone. Check.
Senior wide receiver Josh Huff has all of the tools to be one of the best receivers in the game. Whether his body holds up is another question, but there's no questioning Huff's toughness. After battling through injuries sophomore season, Huff was once again faced with nagging ailments as a junior.
Nevertheless, he continued to show why he may be the best blocking receiver in all of college football. And when he was feeling healthy, well, ask USC or Cal what he was like to defend. In that two-game stretch, Huff totaled 234 yards on just 11 catches to go along with five touchdowns.
As is the case with many skill players in Oregon's offense, Huff also has the ability to run the ball out of the backfield or return kickoffs.
He's a do-everything talent, and while we may have only seen flashes of his ability here and there, he'll be Mariota's go-to guy next season, which makes him one of the Ducks' most dangerous offensive weapons.
2. QB Marcus Mariota
On most teams, Marcus Mariota would be the No. 1 offensive weapon without question, and you could probably make a good case for him being just that for Oregon as well.
But I'm not here to defend putting him in the No. 2 spot (you'll see why in the next slide), but rather, to talk about just how special Mariota is to Oregon football.
We saw it in the spring game as he showed excellent decision-making and elite accuracy with his passes. His arm strength has improved from a year ago, and his ability to move the ball with his legs makes him one of the best quarterbacks in the game. And he's only a sophomore!
Any training wheels that were left on Oregon's dual-threat wonder will surely be off when the 2013 season rolls around, and given the quality of opponents the first few weeks of the schedule will provide, we may not see Mariota too often. But when he is out there, fans can expect near-perfect play from the quarterback.
The ability to beat teams with his arms, his legs and his mind is what makes Marcus Mariota the second-most dangerous weapon on the Ducks.
1. RB/WR De'Anthony Thomas
The most exciting player in college football gets the top spot on this list.
De'Anthony Thomas, the Black Mamba, or simply DAT is the most dangerous weapon for the Ducks because he can hurt defenses in so many different ways.
There's the kick return (ask Kansas State). There's the punt return (ask Colorado). There's the receiving touchdown (ask USC, Kansas State or Arkansas State). And finally, you have your basic rushing touchdown (ask Oregon State, or simply look at the box score to see DAT's three rushing touchdowns from the game).
But it's not just the fact that De'Anthony Thomas can score from anywhere, it's how he does it. He has world-class speed, but so do a host of other players. But his ability to stop on a dime and continue full-speed in another direction is simply unparalleled.
DAT and Mariota are basically 1a and 1b in this debate, but for me, it came down to this: Marcus is an outstanding quarterback, but you always know where he's going to line up. De'Anthony moves around the entire field, plays special teams and is more elusive with the football.
Both players are really special and are two of the best Oregon has ever had. But De'Anthony Thomas is truly the Ducks' most dangerous offensive weapon.