This time of year, it is typical for a flood of media coverage focusing on the football new comers and recruiting. The freshman, the transfers, the redshirting players, and even the early commits for next recruiting cycle. Reviewing and comparing the measurables like physical size, 40 yard dash times, high school stats and youtube highlight videos, can be a great way to immerse yourself with football during the offseason. While the allure and excitement of the unknown commodities can be tantalizing, it is just as important to spend time reviewing the most experienced of the football Ducks: The Seniors.
These players have been around the block. They are called the veterans, the “old” guys, big men on campus. They are the more familiar assets. They each have a unique story of how they arrived, and they all will write their respective final “Oregon” chapter’s in the upcoming season.
Many of the players began their football careers at Oregon in 2008, and they have all contributed during this recent unprecedented run of Pac-10/12 Championships and BCS games. For perspective, most of the 2012 seniors signed with the Ducks on the heels of the Sun Bowl win, and before the Holiday Bowl victory against Oklahoma State. Some might say that the Oregon program has come a long way since then, and they have. But for some of these longest tenured Ducks, it has all been a part of one and the same fantastic ride.
Let’s take a closer look at the familiar names of the eldest Duck players, their accomplishments at Oregon, and peek ahead a little bit to the upcoming season.
#93 Rob Beard PK (6’0″ 225 Troy HS, Ca)
Rob Beard is a rare athlete to have as a kicker, and the Ducks have been lucky to have him. He played running back, linebacker, and kicker in high school. He also played basketball and ran track. After redshirting in 2008, Beard excelled with an average of 63 yards and 10 touchbacks on kickoffs. During the “natty” run, he hit 10-13 field goals, 63 extra points, and ran in 2-two point conversions. He suffered a leg injury in 2011, but still played in 7 games as the kickoff specialist, and recovered a fumble against Stanford. He has demonstrated a strong leg and good accuracy during his career, and the Ducks will be in good hands on kickoffs and field goals, provided Beard can remain injury free.
#38 Jeff Palmer LS (5’10” 200 Santa Margarita HS, Ca)
Palmer was brought to Oregon as a long snapper for field goals, but was picking off and beating Matt Barkley in high school. He traveled with the Duck team in 2008 despite redshirting, and handled snapping duties in all 13 games in 2009. In both 2010 and 2011 Palmer was named to the All-Conference Academic team and has set consecutive single season U of O records for the number of snaps on both point after and field goal attempts. Last year he recorded his first tackle, and of course had that awesome catch from Jackson Rice when they hooked up on a successful 2 point conversion against Stanford.
#49 Jackson Rice P (6’3″ 225 Campolindo HS, Ca)
Jackson Rice was highly regarded coming out of high school, being named the #1 punter in the nation by scout and he played in the Army All-American game. He has improved his numbers each season, with a career best 45.9 yard average (2nd in U of O history) in 2011 on 48 attempts. He was named to the All-Pac-12 second team and the All-Academic team. Behind his punts, the Ducks led the nation in net punting, and he has both run and passed for 2 point conversions. He has had a 50+ yard punt in 12 of the last 14 games, and was one of 3 finalists for the Ray Guy Award (Nations Best Punter).
#65 Isaac Remington DT (6’6″ 286 Phoenix College, Az)
Isaac “Ike” Remington was originally offered a scholarship from Oregon out of high school after being named top defensive lineman at a summer football camp in 2006. He instead played at the Junior College level and was a standout for Phoenix College. Remington enrolled during the winter term of 2010 to take advantage of spring drills. The tough tackle led all defensive lineman with a 445lb squat, and showed good strength and effort in all 14 games in 2011. He posted 4 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks, and the instant fan favorite appears to be primed for an even greater role in 2012.
#96 Dion Jordan DE (6’7″ 240 Chandler HS, Az)
Originally recruited as a tight end for the Ducks, Jordan was ranked by scout as the #10 prospect nationally. A 2008 redshirt, in 2009 he played spot duty at tight end and an even bigger role on special teams. He has been a favorite target on Chip Kelly’s 2 point conversions. Showing a rare combination of skills as a defender with great size and a superior burst of speed, Jordan eventually switched positions to defensive end where he has flourished. Jordan led the Ducks with 7.5 sacks and 13 tackles for loss in 12 starts last year. Among the fastest and most agile of the defensive lineman on the roster, Dion Jordan has posted bests of a 1.71 second 10 yard dash and 4.77 40 yard time. The ”Praying Mantis” was a 2011 1st team All-conference selection is projected to wreak even more havoc on opposing offenses in 2012, and could become an elite-level pro prospect.
#46 Michael Clay LB (5’11” 225 Bellarmine College Prep, Ca)
When Michael Clay came to Oregon in 2009, the Ducks had a proven starting group of linebackers already set.
No problem for Clay, who was one of 3 true freshman who found a way on to the field anyway. He was the team’s long snapper and won the Len Casanova award (outstanding first year player) in his freshman year. The swarming defender recorded big minutes and big hits as a reserve in 2010. He also effectively ripped out the hearts of the beavs with a 64 yard run on a fake punt in the 2010 Civil War. Despite missing 3 games with injury last season, Clay was the 2nd leading tackler (102 tackles) and 2nd in the Pac-12 with 8.9 tackles per game. One of the most fun Ducks to watch on defense, wherever the ball goes, you can nearly always find #46 there too. Michael Clay will be counted on to lead the defense from his inside linebacker position next year. Look for him to have a break out season, and be the focal point of a very talented group.
#47 Kiko Alonso LB (6’4″ 240 Los Gatos HS, Ca)
Kiko led his high school team with 12.5 tackles per game and 27 sacks. He also led his team in receiving, which probably doesn’t surprise many who watched his diving interception in the Rose Bowl. That play proved to be a key to both the Ducks victory, and his being named as the defensive MVP of the game. After redshirting in 2008, he appeared in 12 games in 2009 and a season high 27 snaps in the ’09/’10 Rose Bowl. A torn knee ligament kept him out for the entire BCS National Championship season. This past year, he ranked 8th on the team and 4th among linebackers in tackles. He also posted the 3rd best overall, and the top linebacker bench press at 380 lbs. Expect Kiko Alonso to compete for snaps at an inside LB spot, where he has all of the tools to be the starter.
#53 Jennings Stewart LB (6’3″ 217 Grants Pass HS, Or)
Jennings Stewart played high school football under legendary former Oregon quarterback- now coach, Tom Blanchard. At the prep level, he made 2 All-Conference teams. Originally signed as a tight end, he was named as the offensive scout team player of the year during his 2008 redshirt year. In 2009, Stewart made the switch to linebacker and was a 3 time scout team player of the week. He made his first career tackle against Portland State in 2010, appearing in 3 games. He appeared in 5 games in 2011, recovering a fumble in the Civil War and posting 2 tackles for loss against the Missouri State Bears. The senior will be looking to do even bigger things on the field in 2012.
#20 John Boyett FS (5’10” 202 Napa HS, Ca)
A dual-threat quarterback and standout defender in high school, Boyett passed for 1,827 yards with 19 touchdowns, and added 1,527 yards rushing and 20 more touchdowns his senior year. He also posted 81 tackles, 3 sacks, and 3 interceptions at safety. Boyett stood out as a redshirt at Oregon in 2008, where he earned 3 scout team player of the week honors. He has since gone on to assemble one of the most decorated resumes ever by an Oregon safety. He is a rare, do everything type of player that plays with a special focus and intensity. He has tackled opponents nearly 300 times in 3 years, and seems to always lead the team in the biggest games. Boyett should be a huge factor in the defensive backfield again next year. With his work ethic, it is a safe bet that John Boyett will be at the top of his game as a senior. I wrote a more detailed profile on him and other Duck safeties shortly after his record breaking Rose Bowl performance, titled John Boyett, and the great Duck Safeties.
#10 Rahsaan Vaughn WR (6’2 192 College of San Mateo, Ca)
Rahsaan came to Oregon as the #1 rated JC receiver in the country, and was a 1st team JC All-American. He appeared in 14 games for the Ducks in 2011 as a true junior, and scored a touchdown against Nevada. Vaughn has the size and athleticism to contribute even more next season, and he will be in the thick of what looks to be a fierce competition at the wide receiver position in 2012.
#90 Will Murphy WR (6’2″ 183 West Albany HS, Or)
The 3 sport athlete in high school earned 1st team All-state honors and won the 5A state title as a senior. After a productive prep career, Murphy chose to walk on at Oregon. After a 2008 redshirt year, Murphy played a reserve role in 2009 and made his first collegiate reception against New Mexico in 2010. He appeared in 10 games last year, and will be looking for his first touchdown in 2012.
#81 Justin Hoffman WR (6’1″ 206 Churchill HS, Or)
The Eugene native and former Churchill high standout redshirted in 2008 and won the weekly scout player honor 4 times. He earned playing time in just about every game in 2009 and 2010. Hoffman is among the strongest of Oregon receivers with a 375 lb squat and a 297 lb power clean. His 3.88 second shuttle time and 6.88 second “L” run were the fastest among receivers last year. In 2011, he started only 6 games due to injuries, and was named to the Pac-12 All-Academic team. Justin Hoffman will have stiff competition for playing time next season, but the steady senior has shown time and again the ability to hold his own during position battles.
#77 Carson York OL (6’5″ 292 Lake City HS, Id)
York originally signed with the Ducks in 2007, but delayed enrollment due to a shoulder injury. A former shot put champion in high school, York redshirted in 2008 and has mostly started at left guard since 2009. He was a 2nd team All-American in his first year has been named to two first team All-Conference teams. York has also earned back to back 1st team All-Conference Academic team selections. The standout lineman will be rehabbing from an injury that occurred during the Rose Bowl win during the offseason, and should factor in heavily with the offensive line rotation as a senior.
#61 Nick Cody OL (6’5″ 301 Hockinson HS, Wa)
Nick Cody first stood out as a redshirt freshman in 2008. Part of the rotation at right tackle in 20 games his first 2 years, Cody stepped in and started 13 games at the position in 2011. The journalism major has twice been named as an honorable mention All-Conference Academic team. Next year, expect Cody to compete again for starting reps. His experience and ability has been valuable to the record setting offense during the most successful run in Duck history.
#60 Ryan Clanton OL (6’5″ 300 City College of SF, Ca)
Like former Ducks Matthew Harper, Jeremiah Masoli, and Blake Ferras, Clanton began his collegiate career at the City College of San Francisco. One of the strongest and most athletic lineman, Clanton has been a regular on the line at both tackle and guard in 2010 and 2011. With impressive strength (395 bench press, best among lineman) solid size and skills, the Ducks should expect him to be a key factor in both protecting the new quarterback, and opening holes in the running game.
#24 Kenjon Barner RB (5’11” 195 Notre Dame HS, Ca)
Kenjon Barner came to Oregon after a dominating high school career where he racked up over 8,100 yards rushing, over 10,700 all purpose yards, and 144 touchdowns. As a senior, KB tallied 3,124 yards rushing including 3 games over 300 yards, a 240.3 ypg average, and posted 46 touchdowns. How good was that? In 2007, it was enough to lead the state of California in rushing average (ranking 4th nationally) and scoring (2nd nationally.) Recruited as a defensive back, he made the position switch after redshirting in 2008. I simply do not have the time or words to try and capture what he has meant and accomplished at Oregon since then. For more detailed reading on Kenjon Barner, our own Steve Maher recently wrote a great article here. Personally, I am in love his leadership and running style. Along with many (if not all?) of you, I am eager to see what he can accomplish next year, when he figures to get the majority of the carries. Enjoy this great Kenjon Barner 2011 highlight video from Mr Mike Wines:
Authors note: JC transfer Kyle Long, 6’7″ 300 lb offensive tackle and son of NFL Hall of Famer Howie Long will also be a senior next season.
Overall, the Oregon Ducks will have a relatively small senior class this season, with only 16 players set to play their final slate of games. They also lost 16 players after the Rose Bowl this past year, including 14 seniors and 2 underclassmen. By contrast, the Ducks had 23 seniors depart after the BCS Championship game. With the 16 seniors representing just 18% of the roster, the Ducks will again be a young team in 2012. These seniors may go down as winning more games than a class ever has before, and they have all helped the team in different ways during the record run. This group will be looking for an unbelievable 4th straight conference championship and 4th straight BCS appearance. They will begin the final chapter of their journey at the spring game on April 28th.