Oregon Football: 5 Ducks Who Must Step Up with WR Bralon Addison Injured
The injury Oregon wide receiver Bralon Addison sustained last week could hold the talented junior out of action for the duration of the 2014 season.
With the Ducks already losing Josh Huff and De'Anthony Thomas from the 2013 lineup, the Oregon offense must address some uncertainty—primarily, who will contribute the game-changing plays and serve as the foundation of the teams' passing attack?
Oregon features a number of proven ball-carriers in running backs Byron Marshall and Thomas Tyner, and quarterback Marcus Mariota. Ballyhooed recruit Royce Freeman adds further intrigue to the Ducks' ground game. All that talent in the backfield and the question marks in the receiving corps might have some thinking wishbone offense, as 247Sports.com's Matt Prehm tweeted.
But don't expect to see the Ducks take the air out of the ball just yet. Though Oregon's roster is light on players with gaudy statistics in seasons past, the Ducks certainly are not lacking for talent.
Any number of candidates could emerge as the standouts of Oregon's aerial assault in 2014. For the Ducks to truly thrive in that facet, there are five names to follow.
WR Keanon Lowe
Keanon Lowe begins his fifth year in the Oregon program with a golden opportunity to break out, and the redshirt senior wide receiver told Andrew Greif of The Oregonian he is ready to seize the moment.
It’s my last year of football and I’ve been putting everything I have, every ounce of energy into this outside of practice or extra work. I’m definitely excited and definitely be ready to step up as the guy.
Quarterback Marcus Mariota certainly sees the potential, as he told Steve Mims of The Register-Guard.
"He’s huge out there. He’s that steady factor for guys outside," Mariota said. "No matter what, younger guys look up to him. He is an awesome role model. He will teach those guys the right way to do it."
Lowe is the most productive, returning wide receiver coming off a 2013 of 18 receptions for 233 and three touchdowns. He may not match the lofty numbers Josh Huff registered a season ago—1,140 yards on 62 receptions with 12 touchdowns—but Lowe appears to be next in line as the Ducks' primary option.
TE Johnny Mundt
With Addison out, tight end Johnny Mundt leads all returning Ducks in 2013 receiving yards, with 281. He did the majority of his damage against Tennessee, Washington and Washington State, catching 10 of his 18 passes on the year in those three contests.
The rout of Tennessee was particularly memorable—Mundt caught five passes for 121 yards and two touchdowns. He told Tyson Alger of The Oregonian matching that production was a challenge.
I set that bar pretty high. I had a lot of friends telling me, 'Good luck meeting that next game.' It definitely became a grind. We were down to two tight ends at one point. It was a struggle.
Though Mundt's role in the passing game was spotty as a freshman, past Oregon teams have made frequent use of tight ends as wide receivers. With a bulkier frame—247Sports.com reports Mundt showed up to spring practice with an additional 20 pounds of muscle—Mundt will be a sizable target.
WR Darren Carrington
Wide receiver Darren Carrington injured his wrist the day prior to Addison sustaining his knee injury, but the redshirt freshman is anticipating he will be prepared by the start of the season. According to head coach Mark Helfrich, Carrington could even be back by the end of spring practices, which culminate May 3 with the team's intrasquad scrimmage.
Carrington appeared in pads at practice earlier this week, per The Register-Guard.
And that's good news for the Oregon offense, of which Carrington could be a primary contributor as Mariota told The Oregonian.
"When he comes back healthy we’re looking forward to seeing big things from him," Mariota said.
A 4-star prospect in Oregon's 2013 signing class, Carrington is a promising talent. He's one of the taller targets in the Ducks receiving corps, standing 6'2", per GoDucks.com. That size, combined with his celebrated ball-control ability, could make Carrington an invaluable possession receiver in the Oregon offense.
RB Thomas Tyner
Running back Thomas Tyner lived up to his 5-star billing in Oregon's 2013 recruiting class, debuting with 711 yards rushing as a freshman. Tyner also showed off some playmaking ability as a pass-catching threat.
Tyner finished 2013 with 14 receptions for 134 yards—altogether, not an eye-popping output. But in a rout of Washington State, he snared three grabs for 42 yards, which earned the praise of Mariota. The quarterback said that facet of Tyner's game made him a valuable member of the Ducks offense, per GoDucks.com.
He made an unbelievably catch on the goal line there, to be able to see that out of a young guy like him is pretty special. I mean he is still trying to learn the offense. He is able to catch out of the backfield and make plays. He’s a huge asset for our offense. He is going to be special.
Mariota's favorite target in 2012 was running back De'Anthony Thomas, so the quarterback has a demonstrated ability to work well with pass-catchers coming out of the backfield.
ESPN.com reports Tyner could be integral in that role in 2014, both as a receiver and blocker.
QB Marcus Mariota
Mariota passed the status of exciting and promising youngster. He is one of the premier quarterbacks in college football, a likely first-round NFL draft pick in 2015 and favorite for the 2014 Heisman Trophy.
In his third year captaining the Oregon offense, Mariota will demonstrate the veteran savvy he's cultivated since coming into the program in 2011.
Mariota has stockpiled impressive individual statistics in his first two seasons. However, elevating the performance of those around him as the team's leader just may prove to be Mariota's Heisman-defining quality in 2014.