New Return Men for the Ducks?

Charles Nelson returns a kick for the Ducks

With spring practice starting, players will get a chance to knock the cobwebs off when it comes to playing their positions. Some players, however, will also get a chance to see how they perform in different roles on both sides of the ball. One position in particular is a big deal for Duck football, and that is being a return man for an athletically elite program.

We have seen many players handle this role with intensity in the past. Who can forget De’Anthony Thomas’ opening kickoff return against Texas in the Alamo Bowl? Or even many of the other kickoffs he ran back for momentum-changing touchdowns. It’s a role that must be handled with explosive athleticism, speed, and awareness. If a player returns a kickoff or punt for a touchdown, it can become a game-changing moment for any team.

Devon Allen returns a kickoff for the Ducks

John Giustina

Devon Allen returns a kickoff for the Ducks.

The big question is, who will the Ducks assign these roles to for the upcoming season? We’ve seen the track-star speedster, Devon Allen fill in the big shoes of Thomas last season. Byron Marshall and Charles Nelson also stepped into this role returning punts and kickoffs for the Ducks as well.

However, after Allen sustained an injury in the Rose Bowl from the opening kickoff, it led many people to question whether it’s safe to have certain players returning kicks and increasing their chances to become injured. Although Allen was an ideal candidate for this role with the Ducks, his injury posed a threat to a receiving corps that was already beat up heading into the offseason.

So this brings up another question: Who will be the headlining return man for Oregon this season? It very well could be Allen again, considering the wide receiver position will have a little more depth with the return of Bralon Addison, and newer additions like Alex Ofodile. However, the Ducks will still have to be smart about who to use when it comes to kick -returning in order to prevent further detrimental injuries.

We saw an example of this when Oregon decided to use punt returner, Johnathan Loyd, a former point guard on the basketball team. He didn’t quite have a specific position on offense, but he was utilized for his athleticism to add explosiveness to an important position without jeopardizing the health of starting players.

Byron Marshall celebrates a touchdown

Craig Strobeck

Byron Marshall celebrates a touchdown.

The Ducks aren’t lacking any players when it comes to their athletic ability, but it is something they will have to think about moving forward in order to preserve their key players for an entire season. Allen, along with Marshall and Nelson, will still be the go-to selections for this role, but expect there to be more players getting touches on kickoffs. We could see a lot of new players step into this role throughout spring practice and the spring game as we get closer to the 2015 season.

Things will get interesting for the kick-return role as more practices unfold as we approach this year’s upcoming Spring Game on May 2nd.

 

 

Top Photo by John Giustina

Print Friendly

 Volunteer Position Openings:

--Media Management/Supervisor:  We are looking for someone beyond college age who can help manage students and mentor in a number of different departments. Expertise is not required as organizational skills and interest in guiding others.   --Assistant Football Analyst: Love college football and enjoy watching it for hours? We need associates to view games and find the techniques/teaching points we identify for them in advance.  You will be recognized in publications, and could have the opportunity to move to full Analyst.   --College Football Analyst: We are looking for Coaches, or retired coaches to help create analysis videos (we do the video part) that will be viewed by thousands, and will help young football players as well as fans understand the game much better. The national recognition will help your resume' as well as make an impact upon the game we all dearly love.   --Video Specialist: We are looking for help in the Eugene/Springfield area to assist with the shooting and editing of analysis videos.   All Positions: Send a resume' with full contact information and any writing samples you have to charles@fishduck.com  Again, these are volunteer positions donating five hours a week each.

Ben Salaman

Ben Salaman

Hey there, my name is Ben Salaman and I’m currently a junior at the University of Oregon studying Advertising in the School of Journalism. I was born and raised in the beautiful Bay Area of California. I've always been fascinated with the wide world of sports and its stories, and I love sharing my viewpoint on them. You can find me in the gym, on the field, or at a skate park; I’ll play anything. But above all sports, I’m addicted to the Quack. Go Ducks! Follow me on Twitter: @bsalaman15

  • worldwidewebfoot

    Good article, as always. However, I can forget about De’Anthony Thomas’ opening kickoff return against Texas in the Alamo Bowl. But I can’t forget about his kickoff return against Kansas State the year before. Remember how he leaned into the goal line, as in track? Great stuff.

    • Ben Salaman

      Thank you, I very much appreciate it. I also completely agree, what a play against K-State. He is never a dull player to watch.

  • Michael Oaks

    I don’t like this paragraph at all Ben! You make it sound as though Jonathan Loyd was cannon fodder for the football team, or a sacrificial lamb! No sir! he was darned good at it and a complete 100% member of the football team. This is the paragraph I didn’t like: We saw an example of this when Oregon decided to use punt returner, Johnathan Loyd, a former point guard on the basketball team. He didn’t quite have a specific position on offense, but he was utilized for his athleticism to
    add explosiveness to an important position without jeopardizing the health of starting players.

    • Ben Salaman

      I was definitely not referring to him as a “sacrificial lamb”, Michael. He is a very talented athlete who was also an integral part of both the football and basketball team. I was not undermining that whatsoever with that paragraph. I was merely stating that the Ducks used him in this role as a tactical move to help alleviate the wear and tear on other marquee players who played in positions that lacked depth at the time. I respect your input though.

  • hvrli

    Don’t forget Pat Johnson, Sammie Parker, Cliff Harris, and LaMichael James (I know that you can’t list all those names in your story) as serious threats to take any K/P return back for a TD.