Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich is playing his initial 2014 depth chart close to the chest.
"There is a fine line in anticipating and predetermining, and we don't want to predetermine anything," he said last week at Oregon's media day, via Matt Prehm of 247Sports.
While several starting spots are locked in—Oregon returns the Pac-12's second-most veteran lineup behind only UCLA—there are enough positions to make for intriguing internal competition.
Helfrich spoke specifically of the wide receiver corps, which returns just one 2013 starter, Keanon Lowe.
In July at Pac-12 media days, Helfrich praised the leadership of the redshirt senior Lowe and noted redshirt freshmen Devon Allen's high potential.
Darren Carrington and Dwayne Stanford should also compete for spots atop the wide receiver depth chart. The unit's development in fall camp will shape Oregon's offense in the season to come.
"It might end up [being] three tight ends," Helfrich said last week per 247Sports. "Or two tailbacks."
A three-tight end set? No, Stanford head coach David Shaw was not added to Helfrich's staff in the offseason.
But the Ducks do have an abundance of options at the tight end position, with Evan Baylis, Pharaoh Brown and Johnny Mundt all having made starts in 2013. Add Koa Ka'ai, who has performed well enough this offseason to earn endorsements from tight ends coach Tom Osborne and quarterback Marcus Mariota, and there is indeed a wide variety of combinations for Helfrich to employ.
As for Helfrich's two tailbacks comment, that wouldn't be a problem. Oregon is similarly stocked in the backfield, if not more so.
Top returning rusher Byron Marshall and explosive sophomore Thomas Tyner are known commodities, but highly touted freshman Royce Freeman adds a new element.
So too does redshirt freshman Kani Benoit, another ball-carrier whose presence allows offensive coordinator Scott Frost and Helfrich to tinker with lineups.
Was like a monster truck event late in practice. Not sure who trucked a defender harder, Royce Freeman or Kani Benoit. Two powerful runners.— Rob Moseley (@DuckFootball) August 8, 2014
Oregon's linebacker corps can also dive deep into the depth chart with potentially productive reserves. One gaining attention through the first week of fall camp is redshirt freshman Danny Mattingly, a scout-team standout in 2013.
"I see way more growth," Derrick Malone told Andrew Greif of The Oregonian. "Now he can show what he can do because he can play that much faster."
Should Mattingly reach his high potential, he'll factor prominently into the rotation. But the collection of talent among the Oregon linebackers requires one to stand out in practice in order to make an impact come game day.
Outside linebackers coach Erik Chinander addressed the level of competition with GoDucks.com editor Rob Moseley:
Guys like Tony Washington, Tyson Coleman, Christian French, Torrodney Prevot, they’re comfortable. They go out there, they don’t blink. I want to see who’s going to be that next guy—who can communicate, who can talk, who can think fast. But I also just want to throw them in there so they understand, this is what it’s really like.
Helfrich may be less playing coy with the depth chart than he is weighing all options—the options are abundant.
Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise cited. Statistics compiled via CFBstats.com.