Oregon Ducks Football: Four Key Positions in Flux

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Player personnel in college football is a constant revolving door — finding, developing and then plugging in the “next man up” is a never-ending battle for coaches.

Entering the 2013 season, some notable personnel losses for the Oregon Ducks football team were apparent.  Three senior linebackers and the program’s second-leading rusher, headlined a group of departing players who had become special during their time in Eugene.  Each had also fully exhausted their eligibility, but their contributions to the depth and experience of the Oregon football program were difficult to measure.

This next season, the Ducks will again need to fill some holes left by key departing players.  Overall, Oregon returns nine players from the starting offense and five on defense, which seems like a good start.

Joining the competition for these newly vacated spots in the offseason will be a mix of talented redshirt and true freshmen who could seriously shake things up on the depth chart.

With a few weeks left until National Signing Day, the list of newcomers (and even some departures) are likely still fluid.  Here is a look at four position groups projected to feature new starters in 2014:

Safety

Returners: Erick Dargan 5-foot-11, 212 pound (RSr.), Isaac Dixon 5-foot-11, 193 pound (RJr.), Bronson Yim 5-foot-10, 185 pound (Jr.).

New Faces: Tyree Robinson 6-foot-4, 200 pound (RFr.), Reggie Daniels 6-foot-1, 198 pound (RSo.), Juwaan Williams 6-foot-0, 190 pound (RFr.), *Glen Ihenacho 6-foot-0, 185 pound (Verbal commit).

Replacing Avery Patterson and Brian Jackson left big shoes to fill

Craig Strobeck

Replacing Avery Patterson and Brian Jackson left big shoes to fill

Analysis: Oregon will need to find not one, but two new starters at the safety spots, and replacing Brian Jackson and Avery Patterson could be a tall order. Luckily, senior Erick Dargan has played extensively and led the team in interceptions in 2012. Tyree Robinson and Reggie Daniels look like the favorites to hold down the other side.

Inside Linebacker

Returners: Isaac Ava 5-foot-10, 250 pound (RSr.), Rahim Cassell 6-foot-0, 223 pound (RJr.), Tyson Coleman 6-foot-1, 225 pound (RJr.), Rodney Hardrick 6-foot-1, 231 pound (RJr.), Derrick Malone 6-foot-2, 220 pound (RSr.), Joe Walker 6-foot-2, 230 pound (Jr.).

New Faces: Danny Mattingly 6-foot-5, 230 pound (RFr.), *Jimmie Swain 6-foot-3, 230 pound (Verbal Commit).

Analysis: Oregon struggled as a team to produce tackles for loss and sacks in 2013, at least when compared to the high output in this department from Michael Clay, No. 3 overall NFL draft pick Dion Jordan and current NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, Kiko Alonso.

Looking at pure measurables of the returners, none of the players in the current group appear to be cut in the mold of a prototypical middle linebacker.  Cassell, Hardrick, Malone and Walker will be the odds-on favorites for the two interior spots, but praise has been repeatedly heaped upon redshirt freshman Danny Mattingly and most expect him to factor heavily into next years’ rotation.  Four-star commit Jimmie Swain is officially listed as an outside linebacker, but he also possesses the size to be effective inside, as well.

Defensive Tackle

Returners: Alex Balducci 6-foot-4, 297 pound (Jr.), Arik Armstead 6-foot-8, 296 pound (Jr.).

New Faces: Stetzon Bair 6-foot-9, 281 pound (RJr.), *Jalen Jelks 6-foot-7, 253 pound (Verbal commit), *Tua Talia 6-foot-5, 265 pound (Signed Commit).

Analysis: Oregon had better line up a few sizable commitments here as they look to replace twin 300-pounders in Wade Keliikipi and Ricky Heimuli.  The Ducks have really only one true defensive tackle in Balducci, and will need some more players who can make an immediate impact if they hope to improve on their spotty short yardage and run defense, and be able to match up in the trenches against opposing teams with elite lineman.

Wide Receiver

Returners: Keanon Lowe 5-foot-9, 186 pound (RSr.), Blake Stanton 5-foot-11, 220 pound (RSr.), Eric Dungy 6-foot-1, 182 pound (RSr.), Dwayne Stanford 6-foot-5, 197 pound (RSo.), Chance Allen 6-foot-2, 199 pound (RSo.), Bralon Addison 5-foot-10, 181 pound (Jr.), B.J. Kelley 6-foot-2, 183 pound (RJr.).

New Faces: Devon Allen 6-foot-0, 195 pound (RFr.), Darren Carrington 6-foot-2, 192 pound (RFr.) Jalen Brown 6-foot-2, 184 pound (Fr.).

Analysis: Keanon Lowe and Bralon Addison will lead the way into spring for two of the starting spots, but who will end up with the third?  Will this be the season that B.J. Kelley or Eric Dungy finally break out?  Redshirt sophomores Chance Allen and Dwayne Stanford both bring tremendous size at the position similar to former standouts Daryle Hawkins and Lavasier Tuinei.  Additionally, Devon Allen, Darren Carrington, and Jalen Brown represent a trio of four-star receivers with size, speed and hype, but all are lacking in game experience.

It is entirely possible, and even likely, that these projections will be shaken up a bit between signing day and kickoff against the South Dakota Coyotes on August 30th.  Until then, keep an eye on who emerges from these four position groups.  The Ducks have some talented players competing for these spots — but whoever wins the primary starting and rotation jobs, will be decided by on-the-field performance in spring ball and fall camp.

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Josh White

Josh White

Josh White has been a dedicated Duck fan since the Bill Musgrave days. He has attended (and lost his voice at) virtually every home game and many away games since the late 1980's, including 96 of the current 97 game sellout streak at Autzen Stadium. A Eugene native, Josh works full time in Eugene area real estate, helping people buy and sell residential and commercial properties, and also volunteers with Habitat For Humanity, Kidsports and Food For Lane County. He welcomes your feedback.Twitter: @WhiteHouseJosh Facebook: EugenesBestRealtor