There is No Right Answer When it Comes to Charles Nelson

Charles Nelson (6) 1, OSU14, KC

Okay, so here’s the deal. Charles Nelson is just ridiculously freaking good. If you read my article on Sunday you can see what the Oregon coaches are saying about him, but here’s a quick recap if you didn’t:

John Neal (the defensive backs coach) merely gawks at his uncanny ability to transition from offense to defense.

Mark Helfrich (hopefully you don’t need me to tell you who he is) thinks he’s a “fantastic” football player.

Frost is a Nelson fan, can't you tell?

Kevin Cline

Frost is a Nelson fan, can’t you tell?

Scott Frost (offensive coordinator) believes he’s one of the best players he’s been around. Ever.

But, if that’s not enough to convince you, let me lay some numbers on you. Charles Nelson rushed the ball eleven times last season. Not much, due to the high number of Ducks in the backfield, but still notable. With those eleven rushes Nelson tallied 101 yards, an average of 9.2 yards per carry. Nelson also tallied 23 catches for 327 yards, which averaged out to 14.2 yards per catch.

Oh, and Nelson also led the Ducks in total punt return and kick return yards, even returning two punts for touchdowns. One of them was truly spectacular, and is a perfect little sample size of what this guy can accomplish when given just the smallest of windows.

Basically, if you got the ball into the guy’s hands good things were all but certain to follow.

So here the Ducks are, one year later, and all they can do is scratch their heads. Nelson has been moved to defensive back, as I’m sure all of you know, but it feels almost irresponsible of the coaches to not let Nelson play on the opposite side of the ball, too. It might’ve been less of a big deal had Nelson not exploded for 144 yards receiving and two touchdowns.

But of course, for those that point to those numbers and say “PUT HIM ON OFFENSE, COACH,” you need to calm down a little bit. Nelson also logged an interception in the game, as well as making three solid tackles. Essentially, he showed that no matter where you put him, he’s going to excel. And yes, I know it was just the spring game which doesn’t mean much, but still. No one else on the field played with the motor, intensity, or simply talent that Nelson put on display that cloudy day in Autzen stadium.

Just look at this dude. He belongs on defense...or does he?

Kevin Cline

Just look at this dude. He belongs on defense…or does he?

The reality is, Nelson will arguably be the best player on the field no matter which way the Ducks are playing, defense of offense. He’s a playmaker with lightning-quick speed and a Marcus Mariota-like ability to learn on the fly. As Mark Helfrich put it, “He just loves football.”

And that’s fine and dandy, but in actuality Nelson puts the Oregon coaches in a very awkward situation. On one hand it would be nice to try to play Nelson both ways, but on the other there’s always the question of tiring him out too early in the season and having him run out of gas come playoff time. Or worse, run the possibility of injuring your star. But of course, if they don’t play him both ways the coaches will be under constant pressure from both the fans and the media to do so, given what he’s shown them from a small sample size.

It’s a lose-lose situation for Mark Helfrich and his staff, but that’s how it goes sometimes. No matter how the next season unfolds, I can guarantee one thing though: Charles Nelson will be a star.

Top photo from Kevin Cline

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Caleb Couturie

Caleb Couturie

Caleb is a sophomore at the University of Oregon intending to double major in Journalism and Sports Management. He is the Managing Editor for, along with being a lifetime Saints and San Francisco Giants fan, as Caleb fell in love with sports at a young age and developed that love into a passion for sports analysis. He is looking forward to cheering on the Ducks throughout his career at Oregon, and is always willing to talk sports with any fellow fan.

  • MarcTheDuck

    Charles Nelson is like our surprise weapon. No one much is talking about him outside of Duckville – and even here it’s not all that much compared to what I think we’ll be saying by the second half of the season. I think he’s the most electric guy on the field in every game we play this year. It’s hard for me to imagine not putting a football in his hands each and every game – no matter what. I re-watched our biggest 3 or 4 games from last year and was astonished at what I was seeing from him in each game. And we really weren’t playing him that much at that point.

    • Godux

      Just have to think opposing DC’s look at film.

  • Jon Sousa

    In other words, there is no wrong answer as to where to play Nelson.

  • Godux

    Boy, I hope you are not trying to become the next John Cazzano. We have enough of those already, and won’t need a replacement when he drifts off. Become an expert on the teams you cover, study a little of their history, and astound us with credible viewpoints instead.
    To leave hanging a line indicating any use of Nelson, except as a both way contributor, is lose-lose is classic John. ….
    Any use of an uninjured Nelson, per your own examples, is a big win. Yeah I could see him on either or both sides of the ball and on special teams if the Ducks weren’t so talented everywhere he can play. Rather, I’d like to see him slotted where he can do the most good, which might well be on defense. Even with significant subtraction, the corps of receivers is as talented as any in the country.
    Receivers do make quarterbacks look good (or bad) but QB’s return the favor. With a talented passer, it is a lot easier to replace, or develop, a good pass catcher. On the other side of the ball, when facing a good passing quarterback, speed and talent play as bigger factors. Knowledge of where to be, who to cover, and how to get to and make the tackle, while impeded by play selection skills of the QB and good blocking schemes is a scarce resource. Nelson is one who has them, evidently, While not void of players with those skills, the defensive backfield depth at top level is not as deep for Oregon as it is in the receiver corps. The DB is going to be critically involved in a lot more plays than any of the receivers are. His mistakes are more often big plays or extended drives, by the opposition, both of which are more significant than lost downs due to a drop are for an offense.
    Still, I trust the coaches to put him where they think they need him most and stick with him there unless the situation changes. We know he can adapt quickly if they need to make a change. Most importantly. neither choice is a loser with this guy.