Oregon football heads into the 2014 campaign with one of the most veteran starting lineups in the Pac-12, returning 14 starters in total. Still, that means plenty of spots head coach Mark Helfrich must fill throughout the depth chart by kickoff Week 1 against South Dakota.
Open starting competitions ensued throughout the spring at Oregon and will continue into the rapidly approaching preseason camp.
After spring workouts, a few of the open jobs appear filled. Alex Balducci is primed to move into the vacant nose guard position on the defensive line, for example.
However, other openings will continue to generate fierce, internal competition once camps opens.
Slot Receiver: Devon Allen
Competition to replace injured star Bralon Addison in the wide receiving corps should be heated. And realistically, Helfrich cannot go wrong choosing either Devon Allen or Darren Carrington.
Both redshirt freshmen were impressive throughout the spring, and each should prominently factor in the Ducks' plans throughout 2014.
Allen's breakaway speed, demonstrated on both the track and football field, is an ideal weapon in the Oregon offense. His star performance in the spring game sets the right tone for him to break into the starting lineup by the start of the season.
Tight End: Johnny Mundt
Tight end should again be a position of importance in the Ducks offense after instability last season. Colt Lyerla was dismissed from the team, Pharaoh Brown was injured off and on, and freshman Johnny Mundt was still learning.
Brown was suspended for the Ducks' bowl-game win over Texas and missed spring workouts due to injury. That left the door open for Mundt, and the sophomore looks ready to break out.
Mundt showed up to spring workouts with a bulkier frame that should help with blocking, and he demonstrated reliability in the passing game with a team-leading three receptions in the spring game.
With a spot in the starting rotation, expect Mundt to have many more performances like his five-catch, two-touchdown effort last September against Tennessee.
Strong-Side Linebacker: Tyson Coleman
This is one of the more interesting positional battles coming out of spring practices. Redshirt junior Tyson Coleman spent the offseason recovering from injury, but outside linebackers coach Erik Chinander made no bones about Coleman's place in the lineup.
Andrew Greif of The Oregonian reports Chinander called the No. 1 spot at strong-side linebacker Coleman's to lose.
But if he does so, it will be to sophomore Torrodney Prevot, who impressed throughout the 15-date season.
"Torrodney has been fabulous this spring,” first-year defensive coordinator Don Pellum told Aaron Fentress of CSNNW.com. “He’s a very smart player…now, because he understands (the game) a little more you can see him take off and play.”
Cornerback: Dior Mathis
Terrance Mitchell left some big shoes for his replacement to fill, so don't expect a rush to name a starter without due diligence from the coaching staff.
Both Dior Mathis and Troy Hill gained experience as reserves and playing in multiple-defensive back formations. Mathis had an opportunity to move up the depth chart late in the season while Hill served a suspension, and Mathis has been able to build on that opening.
Dominique Harrison, a 3-star junior college transfer, worked his way into the discussion with a solid debut spring.
Safety: Tyree Robinson
A 4-star recruit in the Ducks' 2013 signing class, Tyree Robinson redshirted a season ago. The time spent acclimating to the speed of the college game served Robinson well, as the praise Helfrich heaped on him this spring would suggest.
On the May 1 coaches teleconference call via Pac-12.com, Helfrich said Robinson was one of the Ducks' breakthrough players.
Robinson blends a hard-hitting tackling style with keen ball instincts. The combination makes him perfectly suited to his role as a roving safety and gives him the inside track on teammate Reggie Daniels.
Safety: Erick Dargan
Erick Dargan returned to practices refocused following a two-game suspension that ended his 2013 campaign prematurely. Prior to the suspension, Dargan made 24 tackles, broke up four passes, forced a fumble and snagged an interception as a reserve.
The redshirt senior brings veteran savvy to a restructured secondary, a quality that should give Dargan the edge over youngster Juwaan Williams.
"Everything I see right now, he’s going to be a difference maker for us," defensive backs coach John Neal told Joseph Hoyt of the Daily Emerald.
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