What will Ducks Football Look Like in 2021?

Garrett Sharp-Craig Editorials

As the fall college football season begins without our mighty Ducks our attention shifts towards spring 2021 for our next dosage of Oregon football. Nevertheless whether the Ducks next play in spring or fall of next year, the roster for Oregon will look a lot different than it does today.

For starters, many of Oregon’s elite draft eligible players such as Penei Sewell and Jevon Holland will have been drafted or likely sitting out a spring season in preparation for the NFL. Other seniors that may be hoping to hear their name called in the early rounds of next year’s NFL Draft such as Thomas Graham Jr., Deommodore Lenoir, Jordon Scott and CJ Verdell may also elect to spend their spring training for the NFL.

After all, you could not possibly blame the players who elect to opt-out. The risk of injury in playing a spring season or using their extra year of eligibility in the fall is too much for some of these players who have NFL money on the table. Despite having draft eligible guys on roster, Oregon still has a very young and talented team filled with guys looking to make an impact day-one.

The ‘True Freshman’

Although the Ducks may lose a few key seniors for the 2021 season their roster will still be absolutely loaded with seasoned veterans and incoming talent. After finishing with the conference’s best recruiting class in 2020, Coach Mario Cristobal and Co. are on pace to sign the most decorated class in Oregon Football history.

Is Thompson destined to be the next great Oregon QB?

Ty Thompson, who recently just became Oregon’s first 5-Star Quarterback in program history, may be the prized jewel of the 2021 class. Although he’s unlikely to start for the Ducks in 2021, he is a name to key an eye on for future seasons. Other members of Oregon’s 2021 recruiting class such as the Ducks’ trio of elite receivers Troy Franklin, Isaiah Brevard and Kyron Ware-Hudson may be forced into key roles in the offense as true freshman.

Young Guys on the Block

For Oregon fans one of the most disappointing results in not having a fall CFB season was missing out on the opportunity to watch the young and exciting linebacker duo of Justin Flowe and Noah Sewell for the first time. The pair of 5-star recruits will be at the centerpiece of the Ducks’ front seven for years to come.

Flowe was the 2019 recipient of the HS Butkus award.

Additionally the Ducks are hoping that highly touted recruit, Dontae Manning joins an already elite secondary that already includes the likes of Mykeal Wright as well as other potential returners.

The quarterbacks of the 2020 recruiting class, Jay Butterfield and Robby Ashford, will likely be battling with Thompson for spots along the depth chart.

The 2021 ‘Captains’

With all the unknowns about the 2021 season we can only predict who will be the leaders in the locker room. Tyler Shough will be the likely starter after having spent the last three years on campus including two backing up Justin Herbert. Graduate transfer Anthony Brown as well as the young and upcoming freshman QBs may pose a threat to Shough’s job security but with how well he knows the offense and the players around him the job should be his to lose.

The Ducks should hope that draft eligible skill players Johnny Johnson III and CJ Verdell join Shough for the 2021 CFB season. However, if they both declare for the draft Oregon will have to rely on Devon Williams, Mycah Pittman and the incoming classes to provide positional depth amongst receivers. As for a replacement for Verdell, the Ducks should look no further than their in-house combo of Travis Dye and Cyrus Hibiki-Likio who both proved to be more than capable last season.

As for the defense, the heart and soul will undoubtably be wearing number 5. We are of course talking about future NFL superstar, Kayvon Thibodeaux. Thibodeaux, who won the 2019 Pac-12 Defensive Rookie of the Year, is primed to take on an even bigger role as both a leader and as a defensive end.

Thibodeaux celebrates an emotional win against rival Washington.

Due to his sophomore eligibility, Thibodeaux is one of the only remaining constants in a roster and a season filled with ambiguity. Whether or not he has Scott and Austin Faoliu lining up with him, Thibodeaux will be a force to be reckoned with especially if he wants more Chase Young comparisons.

With all this being said, predicting who will be on the 2021 roster is impossible without knowing the season schedule. Although the Pac-12 is optimistic for a spring season, there are many limitations making it a logistical nightmare. For starters, will it only be the Pac-12 and Big-10 participating as other conferences have elected to play this fall? If a spring season would occur how many of Oregon’s draft eligible players would participate and would they again try to play in the fall?

As a college senior, I want nothing more than a spring 2021 season to complete my collegiate career. But with that being said, there will be plenty of hoops to jump through before the Ducks next step foot in Autzen and the roster may look entirely different than it does today.

Garrett Sharp-Craig
Eugene, OR
Top Photo by Tom Corno

Bob Rodes, the FishDuck.com Volunteer editor for this article, is an IT analyst, software developer and amateur classical pianist in Manchester, Tennessee.

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