Oregon Football: 5 Players Who Have Surprised Us in 2013
There have been very few surprises thus far for the Ducks in 2013.
The team is scoring a ton of points, the defense has been flying around, and the scores have been extremely lopsided.
One surprise might be the growth of the linebacker unit, which looked a lot better against Tennessee than it did against Nicholls. Still, the group has a ways to go if it hopes to match the kind of success it had last year with guys like Kiko Alonso, Michael Clay and Dion Jordan.
But what about the players themselves? Who has stood out so far, and which guys who were previously off your radar are starting to make an impact?
Let’s take a look at five players who have surprised us so far in this young season.
All stats via cfbstats.com.
WR Bralon Addison
Fans speculated that Bralon Addison would show significant improvement in his sophomore season, but few realized how quickly he would become the second-best option at receiver.
The sophomore from Texas has already caught 11 passes for 174 yards and two scores. In addition, he has taken over the duties as a punt returner, and while not quite as explosive as De'Anthony Thomas, Addison still has the breakaway speed to make opponents pay should they not stay in their lanes.
One of the main reasons Addison makes this list is because he's become so dependable. Think back to the Tennessee game, when the Ducks were struggling to move the ball in the first quarter.
On a long third down, Marcus Mariota lobbed a pass down the sideline, where Addison had to make an awkward over-the-shoulder catch and get a foot down before running out of room.
The big play set up a score later in the drive, and the Ducks were off to the races. For such a young player, it's almost scary to think about how good he can be in the future.
LB Derrick Malone
Both Derrick Malone and Rodney Hardrick have fared well in their first three starts at linebacker.
But if we had to pick one, we're going with Malone as one of the pleasant surprises of the 2013 season thus far.
The junior already has 27 tackles, which puts him on pace for more than 100. Against Nicholls, he had 11, and then at Virginia, he topped that number with 12.
One of the most impressive things about Malone and the linebackers as a whole is that they've improved each week, which was one of the major question marks before the season began.
Before conference play, fans wanted to see enough out of the unit to feel confident before the tougher games arrived. While some of those questions still exist, it's clear this group is ready for more difficult opponents.
Malone has been a nice surprise so far, and it will be interesting to see how he fares against Cal's passing attack on Saturday.
TE Johnny Mundt
Mundt may have only made a major impact in one game this season, but boy, what a game it was.
The true freshman tight end caught five passes for 121 yards and a pair of scores against Tennessee, showing the strength of Colt Lyerla and the knowledge of David Paulson.
You rarely see true freshmen make so many big plays right away, but it's clear Oregon would be fine if Mundt were the only option at tight end. Instead, his breakout performance against the Volunteers gives the Ducks perhaps the deepest group in the country.
With both Colt Lyerla and Pharaoh Brown on the depth chart, it will be interesting to see how the coaching staff manages the position. All three guys are capable of playing, but it's Mundt who's surprised us the most in 2013.
LB Tony Washington
Tony Washington has done a little bit of everything this season.
The junior linebacker who has the tough task of replacing Dion Jordan has 14 tackles, 2.5 sacks and three tackles for loss.
He also has a pair of forced fumbles in the first three games.
Watching Washington, you can't help but think of Jordan with the way he can speed rush past tackles to harass the quarterback and then drop back into coverage on the next play.
His range and speed is exactly what Oregon is looking for on defense, and his height should allow him to bat down balls against strong passing attacks, such as the one Cal will bring to Autzen Stadium on Saturday.
We had a pretty good idea that Washington was going to be a good player, but he's playing just as well if not better than Jordan did last season, which bodes well for upcoming games against good offenses.
RB De'Anthony Thomas
Speaking of doing a little bit of everything, running back De'Anthony Thomas is off to a sizzling start in his junior season.
He has just 58 yards receiving on three grabs, but he's already piled up 338 rushing yards. Thomas has only had a chance to return four kickoffs, but he's gained an average of just over 22 yards on them.
So why is he on the list of surprises this season?
Because not many expected him to be carrying the ball so much. Despite being listed as the starting running back, most people still expected the do-everything dynamo to be utilized in a variety of ways.
While he's still a threat as a receiver, his toughness in running between the tackles has been incredible. We've seen drives where he'll get at least four or five carries, and oftentimes they go right up the middle. His diminutive stature isn't holding him back in the slightest.
If De'Anthony Thomas can continue to be the rock at running back, it will give Mark Helfrich so many options. He won't have to rely on Byron Marshall to be an every-down back and can continue to bring him along at his own pace, and freshman Thomas Tyner won't have the pressure of needing to contribute right away.
Seeing De'Anthony Thomas carry the ball so often and with great results has been one of the nice surprises of the season.