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.
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.
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