New freshmen Devon Allen and Royce Freeman have made quite a splash with their performances to create a ton of interest by Oregon fans. However another freshman has been quietly building a resume’ this year on special teams and emerged with the biggest buzz from his last game against Cal. Normally I am doing some type of analysis on Tuesdays, but Charles Nelson has demonstrated so much talent that is so rarely seen, that I wanted to step back and look at his amazing total package of play during one Pac-12 contest. This player truly IS “The Full Nelson.”
Everybody has watched his punt return many times on television and now on YouTube, hence I do not need to break it down beyond the question I pose from looking at the millisecond captured above. How did Charles get past all those Bears? He truly looks hemmed in and stuck going out of bounds, but we all know what happens from there. Two punt return TDs as a true freshman shout about his talent and the potential for the future!
So, let’s take a look at his performance on kickoff coverage. First off — look at his speed down field as he is nearly five yards ahead of his teammates. That puts decision-making stress on the wedge blockers, as they have to determine whether to double- or triple-team him, (and open lanes up for other Ducks) or to leave it for one blocker to attend to.
Cal decided to expend only one blocker towards Nelson (above) as he is blasting through the Bear via a sideways blow to prevent getting knocked off his feet. What is extraordinary about his effort is what the Grizzled Ol’ Coach was explaining to me; normally you have to slow down and do the choppy steps to move laterally to the tackle and evade the blocker. Nelson is able to go full-speed with his athleticism and accomplish the same thing?
Wow — Nelson made contact on the 12-yard line. On a subsequent punt coverage play he makes an amazing open-field tackle — and it is not the first time he has done this. Coach Mike Morris pointed out that there have been games that nearly EVERY tackle on punt and kickoff coverage has been made by this talented freshman. He has also been fearless in breaking up forming blockers and he does this with typical WR or DB size!
We all recall how Nelson was flagged for a penalty in the Michigan State game for violating the “halo” rule on punt returns. Most of us felt that he honored the rule and simply timed his hit to coincide so rapidly that the referee could not make the right call. In this recent Cal game we see (above) how the Cal punt returner is about to catch a punt from the Ducks, and note how Nelson has kept his “halo” distance.
Again we see (above) how Charles timed his hit just right and since there was a little bobble of the ball while catching it, it is jarring enough to the Cal player to have the ball pop out!
Hard to believe how well it popped out, and bounced right up for Tony Washington to catch and recover for the Ducks. Not many players can time a millisecond hit like Nelson, and certainly not as freshmen.
Whoa! Look at the screenshot above and we see how Charles Nelson is not playing at receiver, but as a running back to the right of Marcus Mariota!
Now … what the heck? We see Outside Zone Read blocking above going right, but the RB is going left? That does not make sense as the blocking is set for the RB to follow — usually. However, this is the “Sucker Sweep” where Oregon sucks the defense to the right while running a fast RB to the left, often without blocking! Nelson is off!
OK, I understand this is an article about the versatility of Charles Nelson, but damn … look at the blocking by Byron Marshall above — and he held it for four seconds! One remarkable athlete blocking for another to get a nice 14-yard gain.
Nelson’s skills on the punt return include his vision, because few understand cut-back lanes as quickly as Charles has demonstrated. He reminds me of Terrence Whitehead (about 10 years ago) and Michael Fletcher (about 16 years ago) with his innate ability to know when to cut back.
Both of those players did not have big top-end speed, but had massive bursts of acceleration to zip by defenders. Nelson appears to have that and the top-end speed of an elite athlete. The Coach explained to me that someone with that toughness coupled with the acceleration and speed is a rare combo among college players.
Could John Neal be right about the correct position for Charles Nelson? You have to have the proper hip movement, and fast feet to be a great corner, but few have those attributes like Nelson. Coach pointed out that we have tons of great young talent at WR/RB, and have more coming in recruit Taj Griffin and Tony James coming out of redshirt next year. Yet we could certainly use more corners, and Charles’ skill set shouts that he could be the “next Ifo.” I think I’ll agree with the Ol’ Coach on this one, and it will certainly make Spring Football interesting to watch!
“Oh how we love to learn about our beloved Ducks!”
Charles Fischer (FishDuck)
Oregon Football Analyst for CFF Network/FishDuck.com
Top Photo by John Giustina
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