After star receiver Devon Allen went down with a torn ACL in the Rose Bowl and Darren Carrington was suspended for the National Championship Game and potentially half of the upcoming season, Oregon fans have spent the off-season without a clear idea of what the wide receiver position might look like going forward.
Enter Jalen Brown: a 6-foot-1, 200-pound receiver overdue for some on-field college experience. Following a back injury in 2014, redshirt Brown is primed to contribute immediately to the wide receiver position for the Ducks in 2015.
Brown attended Mountain Pointe High School in Phoenix, Arizona, compiling career stats of 181 catches for 3,367 YDs and 50 receiving TDs. In his senior year, he earned numerous state accolades while helping lead his team through a 14-0 state championship campaign and a No. 7 national ranking.
As a junior, he was honored with the state’s Gatorade Football Player-of-the-Year Award after he posted 67 receptions for 1,235 YDs and 18 TDs. Brown’s 50 touchdown catches between 2011-2013 set the Arizona state record.
And that isn’t the only record Brown owns. He also played defense at Mountain Pointe, displaying impressive versatility and athleticism on his way to tying the school record for career interceptions with 14.
His experience playing multiple positions will serve him well at Oregon, which employs a high-tempo offense that can be difficult for those who lack stamina and durability. Brown came to the University of Oregon as the third-highest ranked prospect from the state of Arizona and the No. 15 wide receiver in the nation.
As the Ducks enter the post-Mariota era, the wide receiver position will be under more scrutiny than ever. Without the luxury of a Heisman Trophy winner under center and a fierce quarterback battle heating up as the season approaches, every dropped pass or missed block could mean start or sit for the Duck receivers. With the uncertainty surrounding Allen’s knee and Carrington’s eligibility, the opportunity for playing time is there for the taking.
Currently at wide receiver for Oregon are speedsters Byron Marshall and Bralon Addison, both expected to be major contributors this fall. Also returning is Dwayne Stanford, a towering 6-foot-5, 205-pound redshirt junior who has already seen plenty of action as a starter. Last season, Stanford started 13 games and produced 43 catches for 639 YDs and 6 TDs. The Ducks will need Stanford to provide veteran experience for the young hopefuls looking to make an impact this season.
Another player at the position who shows great potential along with Brown is 6-foot-3, 200-pound freshman Alex Ofodile. Sporting an impressive high school resume of his own, Ofodile graduated early to get a jump on joining the Oregon Ducks in preparation for the 2015 season.
While Ofodile has a slight size advantage that can help him take advantage of smaller defensive backs, Brown is the beneficiary of a year spent in the program as a redshirt, learning the system and earning the trust and praise of his coaches and teammates.
“He’ll have a chance to become a four-year starter,” receivers coach Matt Lubick said last October, according to Andrew Greif of OregonLive. “He’s going to have that opportunity. I think he understands that, too. He’s knows he can play here, and not only play here but be really good here.”
This highlight video of Brown’s high school games shows a strong natural ability to locate the ball in the air and high-point the ball with exceptional timing. Sure hands — coupled with good route-running and the ability to make defenders miss — are all part of the package Brown brings to the table.
The Oregon offense is innovative and will provide plenty of opportunities for Brown to produce in the open field. Not only that, but Brown is a serious deep threat, boasting 23.6 yards per catch average his senior year – good for sixth in the state. This was evident in the 2015 Spring Game when Brown caught three passes for 114 YDs.
If Brown can earn playing time in the preseason and in the first few games of the year, assert himself as a sure-handed pass catcher and help keep the chains moving, expect to see a solid debut season for this redshirt freshman — and plenty of great days to come for the Oregon Ducks football program.
Feature photo by Gary Breedlove