Oregon Football: 5 Players Who Should See Their Roles Expand in 2014
A new season always means new players taking on added responsibilities as upperclassmen and early NFL draft entries depart college football programs. Despite welcoming back a solid veteran corps for 2014, Oregon has holes to fill.
First- and second-year players who were previously learning the ropes will be called upon to take over positions of leadership.
Likewise, there are returning starters with an opportunity to play a more prominent role in the coming season. Along with some promising youngsters, Oregon has its share of seasoned veterans ready to break out on both sides of the ball.
DE Arik Armstead
Arik Armstead was one of the most highly coveted prospects of the 2012 recruiting class, a 5-star blue chipper from Pleasant Grove high school of Elk Grove (Calif.). Armstead showed flashes of the superior talent that made him a top-tier target in high school, but they were just that: Flashes.
Entering his third season, Armstead will be more prominent. That much is certain. Less certain is where he'll make his impact in his third year at Oregon. The departure of Taylor Hart means an opening on the defensive line, but plenty of chatter about Armstead moving to the offensive line has persisted in recent months.
Head coach Mark Helfrich told The Oregonian that Armstead will get looks on both sides of the ball in the spring.
"He’s definitely a guy who has a prototype of that position (offensive tackle) but he’s also a guy who, at times, has been dominant defensively," Helfrich said. "He’s got to get better at what he’s doing but we’ll see where that takes him."
No matter where the offseason takes him, expect to see much more of Armstead in 2014.
TE Pharaoh Brown
Expect to see a heavy dose of the tight ends from Oregon's offense in 2014. Second-year tight end Johnny Mundt is perhaps the single biggest X-factor next season, but teammate Pharaoh Brown should also play an integral role.
Brown was held out until October with a leg injury, but began to establish himself as a red-zone threat for quarterback Marcus Mariota late in the season.
He scored touchdowns in Weeks 10 and 12, and had three consecutive multiple-reception games from Week 9 to Week 11. He returns this spring from a suspension that held him out of the Ducks' Alamo Bowl rout of Texas.
At 6'6" with leaping ability, expect to see Brown get plenty of opportunities in goal-line situations next season.
S Erick Dargan
Erick Dargan played a prominent reserve role in the Ducks secondary last season, intercepting a pass and breaking up another four. He was a leader of Oregon's special teams, earning All-Conference recognition in that phase of the game.
The departure of starting safety Avery Patterson means a more active role in the defense in Dargan's fifth year in the program.
He won't be out of place in the starting rotation however, as Dargan filled in as the Ducks' first-string safety down the stretch in 2012. He culminated that stretch with a standout performance in the Fiesta Bowl, where he made eight tackles and two interceptions.
The Oregon secondary is typically among the Pac-12's, if not the nation's, best, and Dargan is primed to emerge as the unit's next breakout star.
WR Keanon Lowe
Lightning-quick Keanon Lowe enters his fifth year in the program and has an opportunity to make a big splash in his final campaign.
Leading wide receiver Josh Huff is gone, taking with him a 62-reception, 1,140-yard workload. Bralon Addison is likely to become the No. 1 target next season, but Lowe will be an invaluable weapon in the Ducks' spread attack because of his versatility.
He's a capable pass-catcher, sure. He has three touchdowns in each of the last two seasons. But according to GoDucks.com editor Rob Moseley, Lowe's "maturity and work ethic are without match," which makes him a cornerstone of leadership for next season.
Lowe is also a solid blocker, as evidenced with one he leveled on Washington State All-American defensive back Deone Bucannon last October.
LB Torrodney Prevot
Torrodney Prevot scratched the surface of what he can contribute as a true freshman. With outside linebacker Boseko Lokombo headed to the NFL, Prevot should begin meeting his lofty potential as a sophomore.
Prevot is reminiscent of fellow Ducks linebacker Tony Washington, who had a breakthrough 2013 with team highs in tackles for loss and sacks. Both are lengthy and fast, a combination that spells trouble for would-be blockers and opposing quarterbacks.
Prevot could also be a presence on the outside similar to former Duck and No. 3 overall NFL draft pick Dion Jordan, capable of bringing pressure on blitzes but also dropping back into pass coverage as needed.