As good as the Oregon Ducks 2011 recruiting class was, there will undoubtedly be more than a few freshmen who will play early. The new Ducks have a blend of speed, size and athleticism that will be great for Oregon's system.
For Oregon fans, hopefully this type of talent infusion is just a sign of things to come. Out of the entire 21-man recruiting class, here are five who will make an impact this season.
Ifo Ekpre-Olomu is one of the most underrated athletes of Oregon’s 2011 class. He is extremely muscular for his size, which allows him to shed off tackles as he speeds by defenders.
As a freshman, Ekpre-Olomu’s biggest impact will most likely be on special teams, but eventually he will work his way in at corner. Oregon fans can look forward to him locking down receivers for the next couple years.
With the graduation of two starters and the suspension of Kiko Alonso, the Ducks are very thin at inside linebacker. Anthony Wallace has the size, speed and talent to play right away for the Ducks.
Oregon has had success finding stars in Texas, and Wallace was arguably the best linebacker in the state last season, according to Rivals.com.
Since the Ducks like to rotate so many players on defense, it makes sense that Wallace would have an opportunity early. Once he gets on the field, he may be hard to keep off.
Of all of Oregon’s incoming receivers, I think Devon Blackman is the quickest. He has incredible change-of-direction speed that makes him very dangerous in the open field.
The Ducks need receiver help after the graduation of Jeff Maehl and DJ Davis, and Blackman could play in the slot right away. Although he looks a little bit lean for Division I football, Blackmon is a spectacular athlete who should merit playing time.
Although I personally would like to see De’Anthony Thomas team up with Cliff Harris in the defensive backfield, he needs to have the ball in his hands. Thomas has the ability to play multiple positions in Oregon’s offense, which coach Chip Kelly loves.
Thomas chose Oregon over USC on National Signing Day largely because he was going to play defensive back there and he wanted to be a running back. Where Thomas fits into the Ducks backfield is a good question.
Nevertheless, Thomas is a very exciting prospect for the Ducks wherever he plays.
Players with the combination of size and agility like Colt Lyerla don’t come along very often. Coming out of high school, he has drawn comparisons to the Bears' Brian Urlacher.
However, as a freshman, he will see time on the offensive side of the ball. As the Ducks displayed in their spring game, they are likely to feature Lyerla in the tight end and “tazer” positions.
As he progresses in his college career, he will probably switch sides over to the defense at outside linebacker. Defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti will be undoubtedly ecstatic to get have Lyerla’s skills on his defense.