Oregon Football: Reasonable Expectations for Every Early Enrollee
Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich and his staff landed the nation's No. 21-ranked recruiting class for 2014, per 247Sports.com. Four newcomers from this group dive into action this week, the first of the Ducks' spring practice season.
Each early enrollee has an opportunity to make an immediate mark at positions either in need of new starters or seeking more depth, both on offense and defense.
For them, pursuit of a Pac-12 championship begins now.
WR Jalen Brown
Jalen Brown can make a splash at wide receiver, one of the more uncertain positions on the Oregon depth chart entering this spring.
The Ducks lose 1,140-yard receiver Josh Huff and return just two wideouts who caught 10 or more passes last season: Bralon Addison and Keanon Lowe.
Addison and Lowe are both smaller, faster receivers. At 6'2"—and rated 9-of-9 in ball skills by 247Sports.com—Brown is a potential possession-receiving complement to the fleet-of-foot burners Addison and Lowe, and he's already started making inroads to being a part of the offense in 2014.
"We've got a pretty good bond," Brown told GoDucks.com last month, referring to his relationship with starting quarterback Marcus Mariota. "He's a great person to work out with. We push each other."
CB Dominique Harrison
A 3-star transfer from Contra Costa College in San Pablo, Calif., Dominique Harrison should add depth to the Ducks secondary.
Defensive back play has been a consistently strong area for the Ducks in recent years, and Harrison can be the latest in the line of playmakers to thrive in that secondary.
"[Harrison is] a guy that has already made guys like [quarterback] Marcus [Mariota] come up to us and say, ‘Wait ’til you see this guy,’” Helfrich said.
With the early departure of cornerback Terrance Mitchell to the NFL draft, Oregon has a competition ahead in the offseason. The Ducks returns two veteran cornerbacks in Troy Hill and Dior Mathis, both of whom should compete for the vacated spot.
Harrison may not win that starting job, but expect him to work into the defensive back rotation and play a role similar to that of Mathis last season.
OL Haniteli Lousi
Offensive line depth was a late-season concern for the 2013 Ducks, but they may not have any such issue in 2014. College of San Mateo (Calif.) transfer Haniteli Lousi joins an experienced front five that could be one of the best in the conference.
Just because Oregon is experienced in the offensive line doesn't mean Lousi will have to wait to break into the rotation, though. Helfrich said, per the Daily Emerald, Lousi is "somebody who should come in spring practice...[and] put things in a highly competitive situation for a couple open spots."
Lousi earned a 4-star ranking from 247Sports.com while playing alongside Alabama recruit Dominick Jackson, so he has plenty of experience working well with other talented linemen.
DL Tui Talia
Diablo Valley College (San Ramon, Calif.) transfer Tui Talia addresses Oregon's most pressing need this offseason, which is depth on the defensive line. Talia, a defensive end, is already 6'5" and 265 pounds, but Helfrich told the Daily Emerald Talia "keeps growing and growing."
As he adds size in the offseason, Talia can develop into "a guy potentially serving as a defensive end or inside as nose tackle," Helfrich added.
Indeed, both Talia's growth and versatility are traits his junior college coach Mike Darr touted in an interview with Tyson Alger of The Oregonian last month:
He was 6-foot-4 coming out of high school but he was just a big skinny guy that loved to hit people...He's played in multiple-front defenses. He's played inside and outside. He's athletic and strong. Oregon is the place where he always wanted to be and he's their type of player.
Length and an ability to move from interior to outside are qualities Oregon loses in departing Taylor Hart. Talia's addition can go a long way both in providing the defensive line with sorely needed depth and replacing Hart's vital presence.