Oregon Football: 12 Players with the Most to Gain in 2011

Connor KillorenSenior Analyst IAugust 3, 2011

Oregon Football: 12 Players with the Most to Gain in 2011

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    Coming off an appearance in last season's BCS National Championship Game, Chip Kelly's Oregon Ducks have their eyes set on a return to the promised land.

    The key to receiving another invitation to the biggest party in the BCS is how the coaching staff will replace departed players.

    With the addition of new starters to the depth chart, the question that must be asked is which players have the most to prove this season.

    Who are those players?

    Follow along as we count down 12 players who face the biggest expectations in 2011.

12. WR Justin Hoffman

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    Justin Hoffman steps into a starting role at wide receiver this season after serving primarily as a reserve in 2010.

    Hoffman recorded three receptions for 15 yards in 11 games last season.

    He'll need to step up and become a consistent third option for quarterback Darron Thomas.

     

11. CB Anthony Gildon

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    The Oregon secondary needs Anthony Gildon to continue his solid play opposite fellow defensive back and All-America candidate Cliff Harris.

    He missed two games due to injury last season, but hopes are high that he will remain healthy this season.

    Gildon also appears to have gained a significant amount of strength after becoming a member of the "Oregon Iron Club" during the offseason.

10. DE Brandon Hanna

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    Brandon Hanna came onto the scene last season after converting to defensive end from linebacker.

    He finished the season with nine tackles including 2.5 for loss.

    Now that he is a full time starter at defensive end, Brandon Hanna has the chance to become one of the Pac-12's best defensive linemen.

9. LB Dewitt Stuckey

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    Dewitt Stuckey enters his first season as a full time starter at linebacker after appearing in only six games last season.

    The Stockton, California native has one season remaining to prove his worth after being ranked as a four star prospect coming out of high school.

8. WR Josh Huff

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    Josh Huff was the only true freshman on the roster to see action in all 13 games last season.

    He recorded 12 carries for 214 yards and two touchdowns, along with 19 receptions for 303 yards and three scores.

    The Ducks will be counting on his athleticism and speed to shoulder a lot of production on the offensive side of the ball this season.

7. LB Michael Clay

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    Michael Clay steps into a starting role at linebacker after serving as a key reserve at the position last season.

    During his career in Eugene, Michael Clay has recorded 39 total tackles, one fumble recovery as well as one interception.

    The former three star prospect will be counted on to provide a steady presence pass rush this season with a relatively young defensive line.

6. WR Lavasier Tuinei

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    Lavasier Tuinei returns for the 2011 season as Oregon's most experienced receiver.

    He hauled in 36 receptions for 396 yards and two touchdowns during the 2010 season.

    However, he'll need to increase his production this fall to help take some of the pressure off the run game.

5. TE David Paulson

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    David Paulson will also be another threat in the passing game after having a phenomenal 2010 season.

    His 24 receptions for 418 yards and four touchdowns was among the best on the team last season.

    What's most impressive about that is the fact that David Paulson was able to do it at the tight end position in the Ducks' no-huddle offense.

4. LB Josh Kaddu

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    Josh Kaddu returns as the starting SAM linebacker on the heels of an outstanding 2010 season.

    He recorded 32 stops as well as 6.5 tackles for loss which tied for fifth on the team.

    As the SAM 'backer, Josh Kaddu will be calling the shots once again for Chip Kelly's defense.

3. CB Cliff Harris

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    Cliff Harris returns for his junior season after experiencing one of the best seasons by an Oregon defender in the school's history.

    He was named an All-American by multiple media outlets for his tremendous play in the return game.

    The First Team All-Pac 10 selection recorded six interceptions a season ago, which ranked among the most in the nation.

2. QB Darron Thomas

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    One of the best quarterbacks in the nation a season ago, Darron Thomas is back for 2011 season looking to improve upon his 2010 figures.

    Thomas completed 222 of 361 pass attempts for 2,881 yards and 30 touchdowns in his first year as a starter.

    People often forget that Thomas also has some wheels, as he carried the ball 93 times for 486 yards and had five touchdowns last year.

    His name should be included in the Heisman conversation.

1. RB LaMichael James

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    Perhaps the nation's best running back in 2010, LaMichael James has been mentioned as a possible Heisman favorite heading into this season.

    The First Team All-American and Doak Walker Award winner carried the ball 294 times for 1,731 yards and 21 touchdowns last year.

    Will he produce similar numbers behind a re-tooled offensive line?

    Only time will tell.