Oregon Football Recruiting: 5 Former Blue-Chippers Who Will Shine in 2014
Oregon's success in the 2014 season will rely in part on the production of its most highly rated recruits. The blue-chippers that headlined recent classes will have the opportunity to validate the lofty praise given to them as prep prospects.
These 4- and 5-star prospects will be expected to take on more prominent roles—some at positions of particular importance to the team's goals.
One-time recruiting stars landed both by former head coach Chip Kelly and current head coach Mark Helfrich are ready to take the next step toward collegiate stardom.
DE Arik Armstead
The 5-star crown jewel of Oregon's 2012 recruiting class is a cornerstone of the 2014 Ducks defense.
Arik Armstead's contributions through his first two seasons were modest: five tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, 41 total tackles. But in stepping in for departed Taylor Hart, Armstead's production will be key to Oregon's run-stopping efforts.
Hart made 75 tackles last season, including six for a loss. Armstead must be as active to help the Ducks improve upon their 165.5 rushing yard-per-game yield.
Armstead's improvement is also integral to Oregon's defense of the pass. He boasts a virtually unmatched combination of length and athleticism, which can be used to disrupt opposing quarterbacks on blitzes.
In addition to filling the void Hart left statistically, Armstead said he is taking it upon himself to be a leader for the Oregon defensive line.
"I try to lead by example and if they have any questions for me, you know I'll help them as much as I can," Armstead told Andrew Greif of The Oregonian. "With the new guys we try to keep our culture and how we do things at Oregon."
TE Pharaoh Brown
Pharaoh Brown missed spring workouts with a foot injury, but the 4-star 2012 prospect ended last season with positive momentum. He returned from a leg injury that limited him for much of 2013's first half to score touchdowns in the final month.
At 6'6" and 241 pounds, Brown is the biggest receiving target in Oregon's offense. He can be the consummate red-zone threat for quarterback Marcus Mariota if he builds on last year's strong finish.
Beyond just the physical tools, tight ends coach Tom Osborne described another element of Brown's game to Victor Flores of the Daily Emerald—an element that should play an instrumental role in the junior breaking out this season.
"He learns fast,” Osborne said. “He’s not one of those guys you have to tell five times how to do something."
WR Darren Carrington
Darren Carrington arrived at Oregon last year with 4-star credentials, a 0.9181 rating in 247Sports' composite score and a 94-point rating from 247Sports exclusively.
He spent his first season in the program as a redshirt and should find an immediate spot in the receiving corps in his second year at Oregon.
Carrington suffered a hand injury midway through spring practices. He participated in the spring game wearing a protective cast but still made an impact. His three receptions for 47 yards led Team Twifo, and he caught the squad's only touchdown.
"He's a dynamic guy," Helfrich added. "Both those guys, Devon [Allen] and Darren Carrington, are working toward what we thought they were in recruiting."
S Tyree Robinson
Along with twin brother Tyrell, Tyree Robinson was one of the most heralded prospects in Oregon's 2013 recruiting class. He was rated a 4-star athlete by 247Sports with a composite score of 0.9314.
While Tyrell saw action in 2013, Tyree spent his first season in the program learning the ropes as a redshirt.
But with safeties Avery Patterson and Brian Jackson both gone, Robinson's time to shine is now. And all indicators from his performance in spring suggest he's ready. He told Steve Mims of The Register-Guard that his goal is to apply his first-year lessons to play more like a veteran:
I just want to know what I’m doing out there on the field so the older guys don’t have to worry about me on the field. I’m studying the game more because I want the coaches to depend on me. Whatever challenge comes toward me, I think I’ll be ready.
Robinson showed the first flashes of being a primary contributor to the secondary in the spring game, in which he made four tackles, broke up a pass and snagged an interception.
RB Thomas Tyner
The top-rated prospect in Oregon's 2013 class, Thomas Tyner made a splash in his freshman campaign. His 711-yard, nine-touchdown offering was just a sample of what could be to come from this former 5-star prospect.
Tyner's show-stopping performance in this month's spring game provides a nice springboard into his sophomore season. He will again share ball-carrying duties with running back Byron Marshall, a former highly touted recruit in his own right. Marshall came to Oregon as a 4-star prospect out of Valley Christian in San Jose, California.
Sacrificing individual statistics will make Tyner one prong in arguably the nation's most dangerous two-pronged rushing attack. However, that doesn't mean he won't see plenty of chances to rack up big yards.
With De'Anthony Thomas and his 96 carries worth of work gone, there should be plenty more opportunities for Tyner to strut his stuff in year two.