The 2019 Oregon Ducks epitomized the classic saying “defense wins championships.” Their stingy defense more or less carried the team through the season, making game-saving plays and bailing out the offense in a few games. While the offense sputtered, head coach Mario Cristobal kept the defensive momentum rolling through recruiting, grabbing some highly sought-after recruits who have since become household names among Duck fans.
Although the 2020 recruiting class is fairly defense-heavy, the 2021 class has plenty of offense — in a couple of years, the Oregon offense could even rival the great Oregon offenses of the mid to late 2000s. Troy Franklin, a highly heralded Rivals four-star recruit, will lead the 2021 class into Autzen and will be a strong addition to an already talented group of wide receivers.
Of those receivers, the starters are Johnny Johnson III, Jaylen Redd and Mycah Pittman. Devon Williams was a big get in the transfer portal and is likely to play, too.
Of the rest, the receiver who is most likely to see in-game action this year is Lance Wilhoite.
Wilhoite was a big get in the 2019 recruiting class, at the time the highest-rated commit since Thomas Tyner. Although he did not play last season, he has a lot of potential to make an impact in the wide receiving crew in upcoming seasons.
Wilhoite was a four-star recruit, and the number-one rated wide receiver out of Tennessee. Oregon beat out Ohio State, Penn State, Louisville and the home-state Volunteers to land the lanky 6’2″, 185-pound receiver. This is one of the few instances where Oregon did not have to beat out another Pac-12 school to land a top recruit.
Wilhoite isn’t as well known as he might be, because he didn’t get any action last season. But his talent shouldn’t be forgotten. Wilhoite attended Franklin Road Academy in his hometown of Nashville, Tennessee, and he really started to come into his own during his junior season, a season that included 69 catches, over 1,000 yards receiving and 14 touchdowns.
In Wilhoite, the Ducks have a fearless, athletic receiver who will not be afraid to go up and make a big catch. Because of his height and length advantage over opposing cornerbacks, he can win eight out of 10 contested catches in one-on-one coverage.
The only thing that could hold Wilhoite back at the college level is strength. He has very good speed, but his strength isn’t what it needs to be (yet). Where this could get him into trouble is in the five-yard buffer area. Cornerbacks and safeties are going to be stronger and faster than anyone he has played in high school and could disrupt the offense by holding him up on his route.
Wilhoite has been able to make up for what he lacks in strength with overall speed and ability to run with the football. As Chris Courtney from Whole Flock of Ducks explains, “As good as he is at getting deep and out-jumping defenders for the ball, Wilhoite is arguably just as good taking screens and slants the distance. He’s a very fluid athlete with a long stride and great speed; a true home run threat.”
Wilhoite is a hard-working kid who possesses a lot of talent, projecting as a multi-year starter. Ducks fans should not skip over his name on the depth chart. Even with this very talented wide receiving corps, Wilhoite will play a much bigger role in the offense this season, and will certainly make his mark on Rich Brooks Field before he’s done.
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Bob Rodes, the FishDuck.com Volunteer editor for this article, is an IT analyst, software developer and amateur classical pianist in Manchester, Tennessee.
My name is Cameron Johansson and I am a senior at the University of Oregon, majoring in journalism and minoring in business administration. I am originally from the East Coast, just north of Boston, but I have been an avid Ducks fan as long as I can remember. I was constantly seen with my vibrant yellow Ducks hat on at all times. My friends would often give me flack for that, but I didn’t care. Other than the Ducks, I am also a big fan of the Boston Red Sox, Celtics, New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Penguins. I grew up playing predominantly hockey and golf, but always found time to catch the Ducks every Saturday. Feel free to follow me on twitter for some more hot takes on the Ducks and sports in general! My twitter handle is @CamJohansson
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