Oregon Football: 4 Freshmen Who Must Shine in Fall Practices
Oregon's No. 21-ranked 2014 recruiting class is rife with talent. In the coming weeks when 2014 practices open, the Ducks' new additions dive in with an opportunity to make a meaningful first impression.
From former head coach Chip Kelly to successor Mark Helfrich, premier freshmen have made immediate impacts at Oregon in recent years. Some of the cream of this year's recruiting crop will do so once more in 2014.
But even for those freshmen who won't crack the rotation in the coming season, this first season of practices will set the foundation for the Ducks' future.
WR Jalen Brown
Jalen Brown's early enrollment afforded the 4-star wide receiver spring practices to find a niche within the Ducks' 2014 lineup.
He’s very smart. It takes a special person to be able to come into school early and handle everything: academics, a whole new environment, competing with a lot higher caliber talents. And then you’ve got to have some stuff inside you. The difference we talk about playing time with freshmen is if you’re ready to compete and you have to have a lot of confidence, and he has a lot of that.
There are opportunities to break into the rotation heading into preseason camp.
Bralon Addison's knee injury threw the Oregon wide receiving corps into flux. Redshirt freshmen Devon Allen and Darren Carrington emerged as leaders of the group throughout the spring, and redshirt sophomore Dwayne Stanford should be a primary weapon.
But the Ducks need depth, and a strong preseason should prove Brown worthy of providing it.
QB Morgan Mahalak
Barring unforeseen and extreme circumstances, 4-star quarterback recruit Morgan Mahalak won't play in 2014. His initial practices as a Duck are less about the upcoming season and more setting the foundation for campaigns beyond this year.
Third-year starter Marcus Mariota will likely forego his final year of eligibility at season's end and enter the NFL draft. His act is a tough one to follow, but Mahalak can begin preparation to do so adequately this season.
Despite his similar build and comparable, dual-threat style, Mahalak is unique. But he will benefit from spending a season learning from Mariota, as the freshman explained to Thorburn:
You definitely see some of [the similarities], but you try to be your own person. With Marcus, there’s a great guy to look up to. But you focus on yourself and what you can do...I will watch how he does things and try to emulate it.
CB Arrion Springs
One of the most highly rated recruits in Oregon's 2014 signing class, cornerback Arrion Springs can jump into a prominent role immediately with an impressive preseason.
The Ducks lost three starters from their 2013 secondary. Among them was cornerback Terrance Mitchell, a dynamic playmaker whose turnover creation was crucial to Oregon's defensive strategy. Mitchell led the Ducks with five interceptions in 2013.
Springs, a 4-star prospect out of San Antonio, Texas, has the same kind of game-changing ability. 247Sports gives the cornerback high marks for his instincts and speed.
When he committed to Oregon in July 2013, Springs spoke favorably of his ability to fill a variety of roles.
That versatility should play well for defensive backs coach John Neal and new defensive coordinator Don Pellum.
LB Jimmie Swain
Oregon's linebacker corps is deep, experienced and talented—not exactly precipitous to a freshman coming in and breaking into the rotation.
However, the Ducks' depth took a hit last month when Tyrell Robinson opted to transfer and Oshay Dunmore was dismissed from the team. Both Robinson and Dunmore were competing for reserve roles.
The path for 4-star linebacker Jimmie Swain to land a first-year role cleared somewhat with the two departures. And with Swain's ability to play both on the outside and the interior, he'll have opportunities.
Swain "has the potential to help out immediately in a lot of ways," head coach Mark Helfrich said, per Aaron Fentress of CSNNW.com.