Oregon Loses De'Anthony Thomas to the NFL, but Ifo Ekpre-Olomu to Stay on Campus

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Oregon Loses De'Anthony Thomas to the NFL, but Ifo Ekpre-Olomu to Stay on Campus
Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports
Oregon lost one of the most electrifying players in school history on Sunday, but received some very good news on Monday.

Although they weren't in action on the day many thought the Oregon Ducks would be playing for a national championship, there was plenty of news coming from the Oregon football program.

Two of the Ducks' top players announced long-awaited decisions regarding their futures. There was good and bad news for the Ducks, as running back De'Anthony Thomas and cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu announced their plans for 2014.

On Monday, Thomas announced he will forgo his senior season and begin workouts in anticipation of the NFL draft. That same day,  Ekpre-Olomu surprised many and disappointed Pac-12 opponents and NFL general managers alike by announcing that he will remain with the Ducks for his senior season.

Losing Thomas, one of the most dynamic playmakers in program history is obviously a blow to the program, but if there is one area where Oregon can afford to lose someone, it is at the offensive skill positions.

As dangerous as Thomas was for the Ducks, Oregon's cupboard is far from bare when it comes to weapons to take his place. Even after Thomas returned from an ankle injury late in the season, his production was limited, as the pair of Byron Marshall and Thomas Tyner had become the lead option for the Oregon running game. 

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Receiver Bralon Addison should be the Ducks' top weapon in 2014.

In addition to Marshall and Tyner, the Ducks have two talented high school recruits verbally committed in the class of 2014. With two established players on the verge of stardom already on the roster and two potential stars on the way, the Ducks will likely be even better at running back in 2014.

Led by wide receiver Bralon Addison, who took over the punt-return duties from Thomas in 2013, the deep and talented roster has future stars in the making at all of the offensive skill and kick return positions.

Much as he will be missed, the Ducks won't miss Thomas nearly as much as they would have missed some of their other stars who had been considering making the jump to the NFL. 

Aside from getting word that Marcus Mariota, their record-breaking quarterback, would return, the Ducks could not have received better news than they heard in Ekpre-Olomu's announcement.

The All-American cornerback's decision became even more vital when his counterpart, Terrance Mitchell, announced last week that he is leaving school to pursue his NFL dreams.

Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu (14) announced that he will return in 2014 to lead a young, but talented Oregon defense.

Keeping one of the best defensive backs in school history around is a big deal for a number of reasons, but the fact that the Ducks must replace the other three pieces of their secondary is the biggest of all.

If a program has just one piece to build around, it might as well be the best guy they've got. Ekpre-Olomu will be the unquestioned leader of a young, but talented defense in 2014. He will pair with safety Erick Dargan to lead the Oregon secondary against pass-happy Pac 12 opponents.

When a program has the kind of success that Oregon has enjoyed in recent years, losing players early to the NFL is inevitable. Losing a handful of players at once can be a major setback for a program. But if a couple of the elite players at the most important positions decide to stay, it says a lot about the continuity of a program.

Considering that the Ducks were facing the real possibility of losing quarterback Marcus Mariota, center Hroniss Grasu, Ekpre-Olomu, Thomas and Mitchell, the Ducks made out pretty well by keeping three of them for another year.

2003 is the only other time in which the Ducks lost multiple players to the NFL by way of early entry. That year it was running back Onterrio Smith and tight end George Wrighster. 2013 brought a number of players who could have made it a mass defection, but the Ducks managed to keep the core of their leadership together heading into 2014.

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