The freshmen have been on campus for a few weeks and summer workouts are nearly underway.
For the Ducks, there isn’t a whole lot needing to be figured out. The running backs look talented, though experience isn’t plentiful. Marcus Mariota looks to build upon one of the best freshman seasons for a quarterback in college football history, and the Ducks have two potential first-round NFL draft corners in the in Ifo Ekpre-Olomu and Terrance Mitchell.
But Oregon isn’t returning 22 starters, there are fresh faces on campus, and there are bound to be some key story lines to watch this summer.
The Linebacker Situation
Besides Boseko Lokombo, the Ducks do not have proven linebackers on the roster. Derrick Malone and Tyson Coleman are two guys that have shown promise, but a starting role is a whole new animal.
Rodney Hardrick has suffered a couple of injuries that are hampering his ability to make an impact on the turf.
Junior college transfer Joe Walker was a big storyline during spring practices. Can he continue his improvement and land a starting spot?
Brett Bafaro is coming off a redshirt season and surely looking to find a spot in the rotation and at 6-foot-2, 225 pounds, he has the size.
Oregon also signed three freshman linebackers in February: Danny Mattingly, Tyrell Robinson and Torrodney Prevot. The Ducks don’t have enough experience at linebacker for anyone but Lokombo to be tabbed the starter, so these three freshmen have a shot to see the field in 2013.
The Ducks will look for a few veteran linebackers and a newcomer or two to breakout this season. If that happens, all questions about the Oregon defense will be silenced. If starters aren’t settled by the end of preseason, Oregon fans might want to worry ever-so-slightly.
Which Fresh Faces Can Make an Impact?
Fans are always excited to see which freshman and transfers will convince the coaches that throwing off their redshirt is a good idea.
A few players are fully expected to make an impact this year like running back Thomas Tyner, but it’s not necessarily the highly-recruited names that are the most ready.
The much anticipated arrival of kicker Matt Wogan is here. Ducks fans have been waiting for this moment a long time, but the starting spot isn’t locked up. Wogan will have to compete, just like every player does, to earn his spot on the field.
The previously mentioned linebackers all have a chance at seeing the field, with one likely redshirting. The Ducks probably don’t have the depth at LB to redshirt two of the four newcomers.
Can one of the O-linemen find a spot on the rotation? The Ducks signed five offensive linemen in the 2013 recruiting class, and while Cameron Hunt and Evan Voeller were the higher rater recruits, don’t count out the others.
Jake Fisher was a three-star recruit, and he found the field over two four-star recruits.
The Ducks are deep at receiver, but the lack of experience leaves a small door for Darren Carrington or Devon Allen to make an impact.
The Ducks had a talented recruiting class and about half of them have a shot at seeing the field. While that is unlikely, that is how good the Ducks are recruiting.
Who Will Fill the Starting O-line Spots?
Jake Fisher, Tyler Johnstone and Hroniss Grasu have three of the starting spots filled, but both guard positions are up for grabs.
The early front-runners are Mana Greig and Hamani Stevens. Both players are veteran players who have seen enough action to deserve the early nod.
One guy to keep an eye on is Andre Yruretagoyena. At 6-foot-5 and nearly 290 pounds, big Andre Y is the dark horse for a starting guard position. An early commit to the Ducks and highly-rated lineman out of Arizona, he redshirted his first year on campus while garnering backup minutes last fall. He has a solid chance, especially because of his age, to get one of the two open spots.
Another intriguing body on the roster is James Euscher. A local product from Aloha, near Portland, Euscher is a massive, lean 6-foot-7 body the Ducks would love to use heavily this season. Redshirting his first year also, Euscher played reserve minutes last year and in blowouts. He has the NFL type body, but the raw ability to make him the most interesting man on the o-line.
The prior mentioned freshmen 0ffensive linemen will be another story line to watch. Elijah George, Jake Pisarcik and Doug Brenner join Hunt and Voeller as Oregon’s 2013 OL signing class.
George and Brenner will likely need to redshirt, allowing time to add weight and strength.
While Pisarcik was a bit of an unknown, he has the size to fit in nicely with his fellow Ducks.
Hunt is probably the front-runner for early playing time.
Outside of the linebackers, many of the Ducks’ questions this season have to do with reserve roles or rotation players. The Ducks bring back enough starters at key positions to believe that a Pac-12 championship and potential national championship is possible.