As summer approaches, many Duck fans await their favorite season of the year: football. The Ducks will look to bounce back strong after losing their star quarterback and key members of their coaching staff.
After promoting Matt Lubick, the 2012 wide receiver Coach of the Year, to offensive coordinator and hiring ex-Michigan head coach Brady Hoke as the defensive cordinator, the team looks to build on their talented roster.
One of the biggest topics during the offseason was new players. This year’s recruiting class was ranked second-lowest in the past decade among Oregon’s incoming classes. Although the class was borderline Top 25 in the country, some are questioning the future of the team.
The 19 athletes that made up the recruiting class were all team captains before committing to Oregon. They’re men who display not only talent, but responsibility – characteristics on and off the field that signal a promising career with the Ducks. Although many freshmen do not play their first year, learning and adjusting to the new offense/defense is all part of the college football learning process.
With that in mind, there are several players who redshirted last year – as well as true freshmen – that can and will make an impact during the upcoming season.
When Vernon Adams graduated from college football, the Ducks were again in search of a quarterback. Redshirt freshman Travis Jonsen and senior transfer Dakota Prukop will continue to compete for the starting position.
Several coaches have stated that no starter will be named until later into or at the end of fall camp, so the quarterbacks will be fighting for minutes. Oregon also recruited two quarterbacks who look to develop under new quarterback/passing coach David Yost.
With new but experienced coaches and many skilled players, the program seems to be moving in a great direction. I would not be surprised if these new players become stars and take the Ducks to new heights. Let’s wish the best of luck to the new Ducks.
Here are five that you need to know:
5. Troy Dye
True freshman Dye came into the program this winter after graduating early from high school and quickly started learning the new defense. Though they recruited Dye as a safety, coaches saw his potential at linebacker. Dye, determined to make the transformation, gained an impressive 20 pounds in just five weeks. After playing safety for the first three years of high school and becoming a hybrid safety/outside linebacker during his senior year, he says he will play whatever position the team asks of him.
He is already getting reps with the first- and second-string linebackers and showing his versatility. Whether he is dropping back in coverage or rushing the passer, the 6’4, 220-lb. athletic freshman looks to add a potent element to the Oregon defense.
4. Terry Wilson
Wilson, the ESPN-ranked 114th overall prospect and 4-star quarterback, is another true freshman who will compete for playing time. Although he lacks experience behind redshirt freshman Jonsen and graduate transfer Prukop, Wilson is still seeing reps. With the help of Yost, future quarterbacks for the Ducks are in good hands.
While Wilson continues to learn the Oregon offense and develop into a overall better player, he made his Autzen debut during the annual spring game last month.
Even after completing just 4-10 passes, Wilson already seems to be ahead of Adams’ backups last year, Taylor Alie and Jeff Lockie. Many fans have high hopes for Wilson and believe he has what it takes to be an all-American QB.
3. Dillon Mitchell
Mitchell, the last and potentially best true freshman on this list, has already made his presence felt in Eugene.
In his first appearance at Autzen, during the spring game, he caught two touchdown passes in a game with a final score of only 21-20 – one in which he out-jumped sophomore defender Ugo Amadi for a 32-yard touchdown snag.
He has already made himself a go-to threat for the quarterbacks during spring training. Mitchell has been one of the hottest names during this spring and his talent backs it up.
The No. 1 receiving prospect out of Tennessee had quite the senior year, racking up more than 2,000 yards and 43 touchdowns. With new offensive coordinators and mentors such as Oregon’s No. 1 wide receiver Darren Carrington, the freshman is in a great position to succeed. Fans cannot wait to see what Mitchell has in store for the Ducks in his much-anticipated regular season debut.
2. Travis Jonsen
Redshirt freshman Jonsen came into the spring with an eager attitude. Though Oregon obtained a graduate transfer quarterback for the second straight year, Jonsen wants to compete for the starting role.
Fans saw him complete 5-9 passes for 64 yards in last year’s spring game. Unfortunately, his season ended before it started and surgery postponed his development as a quarterback.
But he is not giving up easily. Carrington said he believes Jonsen and Prukop are currently tied.
This year’s spring game was a glimpse into the quarterback battle where Jonsen threw a 52-yard touchdown to Carrington late in the fourth quarter. Despite losing, Jonsen made some good plays in the red zone, including what seemed to be another touchdown to Johnny Mundt before refs waived it off.
Nonetheless, if the redshirt freshman continues to challenge Prukop, he can ensure he will see minutes and potentially run the Oregon offense himself.
1. Dakota Prukop
Prukop, a graduate transfer from Montana State, has been the talk of the town all spring. He finds himself in a similar position to Adams last year, and Prukop has high expectations as the probable starter for next season. Unlike Adams, he will not have to complete a crash course in learning the offense – he has more than three months to master the playbook and become comfortable.
Though the starting quarterback will not be announced into after fall camp, Prukop has much more experience than Jonsen at this level. The 6’2 200-lb. FCS first-team all-American had an impressive season last year, throwing for more than 3,000 yards and 28 touchdowns. He also ran for 797 yards and 11 scores.
Prukop gave praise to his receivers for their ability to catch the ball in plays he normally would not want to throw.
When there’s a wide receiver and defensive player on him, Prukop does not consider them open. “But these guys,” he said, “when it’s like (that), you throw the ball to the receiver and they’ll go get it.”
Learning to play with these talented receivers is just one more thing to look forward to watching this season. From coaches to players, the additional pieces to the already-talented roster has many fans anxious for September.
Top Photo by Dillon Vibes
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