Oregon Football: Projecting Post-Spring 2-Deep Depth Chart
Spring workouts at Oregon were about one thing above all else: improvement. Head coach Mark Helfrich said the Ducks made progress to that end, per Stephen Alexander of the Portland Tribune: "Overall, we got better. Through 14 practices, we really got better, and we’re really pleased with where we are."
The conclusion of spring practice turns attention to Aug. 30, the date of Oregon's 2014 season opener against South Dakota.
With the groundwork laid, Helfrich and his staff must now begin shaping the Ducks lineup. Some spots in the rotation are easily tabbed—the Ducks return All-Conference and All-America honorees on both sides of the ball.
Other positions feature internal competitions that will rage into preseason camp. Still, the spring provides some clarity into just what the Oregon lineup will resemble come Week 1.
1. Marcus Mariota, Redshirt Junior
2. Jeff Lockie, Redshirt Sophomore
or Jake Rodrigues, Redshirt Sophomore
Marcus Mariota's pursuit of his first Pac-12 Conference championship is afoot, and the redshirt junior enters the 2014 season a front-runner for the Heisman Trophy.
Behind Mariota, the competition that persisted throughout the spring appears no closer to a resolution. Neither was particularly impressive on Saturday.
"I thought a couple times both of them absolutely forced it," Helfrich told Andrew Greif of The Oregonian. "That’s again human nature to try to win the job with one throw and that’s the quickest, fastest way to lose it."
Rodrigues threw an interception and no touchdowns in the spring game, but he scrambled for a few long runs. Lockie took a while to settle in but found the end zone in the second half.
Running Backs Two-Deep
1. Byron Marshall, Junior
or Thomas Tyner, Sophomore
2. Kani Benoit, Redshirt Freshman
or Ayele Forde, Redshirt Senior
or Kenny Bassett, Redshirt Senior
or Royce Freeman, Freshman
There may not be a better collection of running backs anywhere in college football than at Oregon. The question for offensive coordinator Scott Frost isn't who can carry the workload, but how to distribute touches among a talented corps.
Byron Marshall was the Ducks' No. 1 last season, but Thomas Tyner saw plenty of opportunities in his debut campaign. Tyner filled in capably while Marshall nursed a late-season injury, and Tyner stole the show at Saturday's spring game.
The duo of Marshall and Tyner could conceivably double up to split somewhere in the neighborhood of 300 carries, with a reserve handling spot duty.
Redshirt freshman Kani Benoit made his case for that role this spring, capping a promising series of practices with a standout effort of 44 yards on five carries in the spring game.
Wide Receiver Two-Deep
1. Keanon Lowe, Redshirt Senior
2. B.J. Kelley, Redshirt Junior
1. Dwayne Stanford, Redshirt Sophomore
2. Chance Allen, Redshirt Sophomore
1. Devon Allen, Redshirt Freshman
2. Darren Carrington, Redshirt Freshman
Losing leading wide receiver Josh Huff and his 1,140 yards and 12 touchdowns of production was difficult. Losing Huff, then losing Bralon Addison to a knee injury cast an ominous cloud over the 2014 Ducks' receiving corps.
Still, the Ducks' receiving corps has enough potential to weather the storm. Devon Allen was a gem in the spring game and may have earned his way into the starting lineup. Fellow redshirt freshman Darren Carrington also had flashes of brilliance despite playing with a protective wrap on his hand.
Dwayne Stanford's length at 6'5" gives Mariota a rangy target, and fifth-year senior Keanon Lowe is embracing his role as the unit's veteran leader.
Mariota certainly looked comfortable working with the new crop of receivers in the spring game, and the Ducks have a positive note on which to proceed for the season.
"Moving forward through these next few months, it's going to be pivotal to build that chemistry and get on the same page," Mariota said, per GoDucks.com editor Rob Moseley.
Tight Ends Two-Deep
1. Johnny Mundt, Sophomore
or Pharaoh Brown, Junior
2. Evan Baylis, Redshirt Sophomore
Injuries, inexperience and the dismissal of veteran Colt Lyerla rendered Oregon inconsistent at tight end a season ago. But the Ducks have promising options for a position that has long been one of the program's least heralded, yet most important.
Johnny Mundt showed flashes of excellence in his debut season and was a top target in Saturday's scrimmage. He caught for 22 yards on three receptions, tied for a game high with wide receiver Stanford.
When healthy, Pharaoh Brown is a dangerous red-zone threat. Brown is likely to press Mundt for the No. 1 spot on the depth chart in preseason camp.
Offensive Line Two-Deep
1. Tyler Johnstone, Redshirt Junior
2. Andre Yruretagoyena, Redshirt Junior
or Matt Pierson, Redshirt Junior
1. Hamani Stevens, Redshirt Senior
2. Haniteli Lousi, Junior
1. Hroniss Grasu, Redshirt Senior
2. Doug Brenner, Redshirt Freshman
1. Cameron Hunt, Sophomore
2. Jake Pisarcik, Redshirt Freshman
1. Jake Fisher, Senior
2. Matthew McFadden, Redshirt Sophomore
Offensive line play should be a decided strength for the Ducks in 2014. Center Hroniss Grasu opted to return for his redshirt senior season and will serve as anchor for the one of the Pac-12's most experienced and deepest units.
Grasu explained the Ducks' depth up front to Ryan Thorburn of The Register-Guard:
Every year that I’ve been here we’ve had such a big rotation, where it’s like a seven- or eight-man rotation. So even if we lose someone, we’ll always have someone back with experience. Luckily, we’ve got all five guys coming back and we’re going to build some depth with the second unit.
Grasu and guard Hamani Stevens are a formidable tandem on the interior.
One question mark is the health of tackle Tyler Johnstone, who is recovering from an ACL injury suffered in the Alamo Bowl. Johnstone told Andrew Greif of The Oregonian he is working toward a Week-1 return: "With what happened…I thought it was going to be a lot worse, it’s fine."
In the meantime, Andre Yruretagoyena and Matt Pierson give offensive line coach Steve Greatwood options. And their current competition translates to experience, and thus depth later in the year. Such was the case for guard Cameron Hunt, who stepped into the lineup because of injury a season ago and will be a leader this year.
Defensive Line Two-Deep
1. Arik Armstead, Junior
2. T.J. Daniel, Redshirt Sophomore
1. Alex Balducci, Junior
2. Stetzon Bair, Redshirt Junior
1. DeForest Buckner, Junior
2. Sam Kamp, Redshirt Junior
Arguably the biggest concern facing the Ducks entering this offseason was the revamping of its defensive line with Taylor Hart, Wade Keliikipi and Ricky Havili-Heimuli all gone. However, the unit performed well on Saturday and laid a solid foundation for its continued work into the offseason.
Defensive tackle DeForest Buckner is primed for a monster year. Along with junior Arik Armstead, Oregon features a long and athletic pass-rush duo with a bulked-up Alex Balducci plugging the middle.
Stetzon Bair is coming off a solid spring game with seven tackles, a sack and a fumble recovery. T.J. Daniel also ended spring on a high note with five tackles in the scrimmage.
Junior college transfer Tui Talia could find his way into the two-deep chart if he builds on his impressive spring game effort. Either way, the emergence of such depth up front is a huge win for new defensive coordinator Don Pellum.
1. Torrodney Prevot, Sophomore
or Tyson Coleman, Redshirt Junior
2. Oshay Dunmore, Redshirt Sophomore
1. Rodney Hardrick, Redshirt Junior
2. Joe Walker, Junior
1. Derrick Malone, Redshirt Senior
2. Rahim Cassell, Redshirt Junior
1. Tony Washington, Redshirt Senior
2. Christian French, Redshirt Junior
The cornerstone of Oregon's defense heading into the 2014 season is its linebackers corps. This unit blends veteran savvy with high potential quite well.
Rodney Hardrick is a capable run-stopper, and Tony Washington is able to wreak havoc in opposing backfields, rushing from the outside. Washington recorded 7.5 sacks and 12 tackles for loss in a breakthrough campaign.
Derrick Malone was Oregon's leading tackler in 2013, and he has a talented backup behind him in Rahim Cassell.
Each of those three spots in the linebackers corps seems solidly set, but Oregon has a competition spilling over into the summer at strong-side linebacker between sophomore Torrodney Prevot, redshirt junior Tyson Coleman and redshirt sophomore Oshay Dunmore.
Outside linebackers coach Erik Chinander told Andrew Greif of The Oregonian Coleman could be the starter, but he must make up ground from missing the spring. "I'm not going to put him on the depth chart until I've seen him play, but I know he's a good player," Chinander said.
The emergence of Prevot this spring is among the more intriguing developments. Pellum offered high praise for Prevot to Josh Schlichter of the Daily Emerald:
He is a very smart player, he has a very good understanding of the game. Because he understands a little more, you can actually see him take off and play. He’s extremely fast and sudden, and it’s showing up more and more. We’re really excited with his progress.
1. Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Senior
2. Dominique Harrison, Junior
1. Erick Dargan, Redshirt Senior
2. Juwaan Williams, Redshirt Freshman
1. Tyree Robinson, Redshirt Freshman
2. Reggie Daniels, Redshirt Sophomore
1. Dior Mathis, Redshirt Senior
2. Troy Hill, Redshirt Senior
Routinely a strength of any Oregon defense, the 2014 Ducks secondary is undergoing something of a face-lift. Gone are last year's standouts: Terrance Mitchell at cornerback and Avery Patterson at safety.
But with All-American Ifo Ekpre-Olomu manning one cornerback spot, Oregon is certainly starting with a strong foundation for its restructuring. Defensive backs coach John Neal should not have trouble slotting the starter opposite Ekpre-Olomu, as both Dior Mathis and Troy Hill are experienced and talented.
Mathis ended spring with an impressive spring game, which may have sealed his spot in the first string.
The young safety trio of Tyree Robinson, Reggie Daniels and Juwaan Williams closed the spring with individually solid performances in the scrimmage.
Joining them on the back line is redshirt senior Erick Dargan, another experienced upperclassman getting his opportunity to shine in the first string.
1. Matt Wogan, Sophomore
2. Eric Solis, Redshirt Senior
1. Matt Wogan, Sophomore
or Ian Wheeler, Redshirt Freshman
1. Dior Mathis, Redshirt Senior
2. Jalen Brown, Freshman
1. Johnathan Loyd, Senior
2. Erick Dargan, Redshirt Senior
Losing De'Anthony Thomas, Huff and Addison might be a higher hurdle for the Oregon special teams unit to overcome than the offense. Though that may seem remarkable, Oregon's return men have been integral in setting the table for the Ducks' quick-strike offense in recent years.
Johnathan Loyd's transition from basketball's hardwood to the gridiron gives Oregon a potential difference-maker, and his presence was enough for the punt team to purposefully avoid him Saturday.
Mathis is a sprinter for the track team, which bodes well for his credentials as kick returner.
Kicker Matt Wogan saw double duty, also punting on Saturday. He averaged an impressive 41.3 yards per punt, but his one field-goal attempt went badly awry. Fortunately for the Ducks, they do not attempt many field goals—Wogan was 7-of-9 last season.