Would You Bet on the Most Hyped Oregon Players?

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck Editorials 26 Comments

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This is the time of year where all the Pre-season awards land upon Duck football players. The number of those named has grown impressively over the years with the superb recruiting of Coach Mario Cristobal. But would you actually bet that each of the hyped players comes through with an outstanding season to confirm the early awards? Some, I believe will follow through, but others — I don’t know. I would be curious as to how sold you are on the players in question who are not named Kayvon Thibodeaux (because barring injury, Thibodeaux is a shoo-in for an outstanding season).

Bet on It:

While Verone McKinley III is a second-team Pre-Season All-Pac-12, I sense his knowledge of the Duck defense combined with his physical preparation has him poised for a monster season well beyond the early recognition. This one is more gut instinct for me, and I feel much more comfortable when he is in the game at safety. There is a high upside seething to emerge, and his leadership is crucial for this Tim DeRuyter defense.

Reasonable Odds:

A big name that everyone knows is No.7 CJ Verdell, who has high expectations for 2021. His vision is to be the first Duck to rush for 2,000 yards in a season, something that does not feel completely impossible given his will and assumed improved offensive line play. He is already one of seven returning FBS players to rush for 1,000 yards in both 2018 and 2019, but it might be tough for him to match the preseason projections.

Truong Nguyen

CJ Verdell could make the entire conference bow down this year.

I admire the pundits who give Alex Forsyth a first team Pre-Season  All-Pac-12, but he does get pushed backward by nose tackles more often than I’d like. I am not disdaining the selection, but I am a bit lukewarm on it.

No Way:

Mykael Wright is someone everyone loves, but I saw too many big plays against him at key moments. Perhaps he will explode this year to match the hype, but I see more downside to him than most do. In fact, I believe he could actually get bumped for some playing time by one of the other corners such as former 5-Star Dontae Manning, before it is over.

Noah Sewell: I know I’m going to be booed on this one, but I would much rather have the experienced Isaac Slade-Matautia at inside linebacker (who played at that spot before he was moved last year), than Sewell, and will feel that way until he quits over-running plays and leaving gaps open. The first touchdown scored by Travis Dye in the Spring Game was due to a busted coverage by the young linebacker, who also has to learn to pick up the running backs coming out of the backfield off his side.

Johnny Johnson (the magician) is someone who disappears in games, and I still label him the best candidate for having his starting and playing time reduced by the shimmering new freshman receivers. I’m not going with the preseason promotion, are you?

Tom Corno

DJ Johnson is a rising star at Tight End…

Big Upside Players that I’d Bet on:

Anthony Brown will end up Honorable Mention in the All-Pac-12 voting when the season is over. While he won’t have the gaudy numbers that other quarterbacks produce, his steady hand at key moments and his cool leadership will win everyone over by mid-season. Bet on it!

Everyone was surprised with the performance of DJ Johnson in his tight end debut, and as many of you know — I believe that “Greatness and Weakness Emerge Early.” We noted in the first game against Stanford that he could come across and deliver a vicious slice-block, or snag an errant pass with his fingertips. He is not mentioned in the early Pac-12 awards, but I believe you will see him on the first or second team all-conference at the end of the 2021 season. Bet on him!

I am looking forward to seeing the pulling talents and blocking in space by TJ Bass in his second year with the Ducks at left guard. He surprised me with his rapid transition from JC to being a starter, and I think there will be another leap up in his performance this fall. I’d wager on this young man!

UO AD Twitter

I love the upside of Troy Franklin, and I believe we will see it sooner rather than later.

While it is foolish to base a future All-Pac-12 freshman team selection only on a Spring Game, I am going to stick my neck out and declare that Troy Franklin will achieve those honors by season’s end. There is an excitement surrounding him that I do not sense from other receivers, and I believe he will be in the middle of some very big explosion plays this fall. Bet on him!

Terrance Ferguson, and Moliki Matavao as freshmen tight ends impressed me enormously as I took in the 2021 Oregon Spring Game many times in replay. I loved what I saw of Ferguson snatching the ball out of the air with his hands, and not waiting for it to come to his body and trap it. Near the goal line I watched Matavao double-team with the tackle to drive the defensive end backward and at the perfect moment Moliki peeled off and nailed the linebacker. Perfect combo-blocking and timing!

The blast of the defenders backward made it easy for the running back to score by simply cruising with the surge into the end zone. Matavao has never played a-down-in-anger for the Ducks, yet he blocks like that? Whew! I would bet on both these players!

Pac-12 Video

These young-gun Tight Ends can block and catch right out of the gate.

All this betting talk does get my gaming blood pumping for the upcoming season. If you wish to place some bets on the games as I do, you can check out an online gambling guide that will lead you to the best licensed bookmakers.

The real question for devoted Duck fans is how convinced are you of the players I’ve listed above? Am I a bit too pessimistic on some players and over-my-skis-hyped on others? Summer is the best time to reflect upon the upside of Oregon football as….

“Oh, how we love to ponder about Our Beloved Ducks!”

Charles Fischer  (Mr. FishDuck)
Eugene, Oregon
Top Photo by Eric Evans, UO Athletics

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Hey A few things a disagree with.

  1. Wright: I am not saying he is elite, but with james suspended I don’t see much space for Manning to take his spot. I also think Manning will end up playing boundary while Wright is at Field. I also Like wright, I’d have to go back and review the tape but I think he has been more than serviceable and should maintain his position at cb1(field).
  2. Verdel belongs in the no way category. He is way to injury prone and Cristobal doesn’t run a bell cow system. If he was at Utah I would say he has a shot but being at oregon I don’t think it’ll happen.
  3. Dj Johnson for a few reasons. first he isn’t playing at fall camp currently(no reason has been given) and two once some of the other players returned last year he got passed over. I can’t bet on a TE that was passed by Kampmoyer. I also look at the scheme and think pass catching skills will be heavily favored and I think Webb, Ferguson, and Moliki will all be ahead of him on the depth chart I also hope herbert gets his chance. Also Cam may get to play a few games before injury(knock on wood) this year as well.

I think you hit the nail on the head with McKinley, Bass and Brown will all shine during the year. I also don’t think JJ3 will really do that great either. Don’t get me wrong he’ll do fine, but he is now going to be sharing time with williams, thornton, hutson, franklin and pittman.

I would also say we should bet on Sala, I really hope he plays guard next year, in the ever changing lineup he was strongest when he played guard and he was really good at it.

I actually feel really confident regarding Dye in the coming season. I think he should be able to go out and really make plays in open space

Jon Sousa

Regarding Noah Sewell, I have a different take. First of all, I agree that he made a ton of mistakes last year, especially in over pursuit of his target. He missed so obviously that even my rookie, untrained eyes could see it.

My different take is that Sewell has had an entire off season to think it over, watch his own film, and be coached (both by coaches and by older team members). Sewell emerges as more mature, more self-controlled, and a leader. 2020 was great for NS because it gave him invaluable experience during a shortened year that will be thrown into trash heap of ancient history.

So, I think Noah Sewell has a huge breakout year in 2021 and ends up winning over CF as a big fan.


Two inexperienced linebackers with a combined One year of experience, who are 5* recruits should give OC’s nightmares as they wake up in a cold sweat, with drool next to their pillows, ‘damn I was hoping to sleep.’

Honestly we have had guys who have been run over by the tosu types. I actually remember QB’s stiff arming our LB’s, this won’t happen with the new level of LB’s. These guys are going to get even better, but this will be some of the best LB play we have seen.

I will politely disagree and wonder why ISM left? It was rumored he left for family reasons, but he ended up even further away. ISM saw what I see, IMHO.

The youth movement is real, and more talented. I think this is where we will see what happens this year and see who it right.

I still remember seeing JStew as a high school kid play, and knew there wasn’t anyone who could compete with the kid. These young LB’s, QB’s and WR’s are the same. It may take a little time, but the future is now.

I imagine we are both a bit right, but it will be fun to watch, can’t wait!

Jon Sousa

I agree that ISM would be nice to have, for many reasons, but that is not an option. We have what we have. Most people (including me) think that Flowe may have taken the starting position from ISM by mid-season. It sure would have been nice to have ISM leading and teaching the younger LBs.

I can’t agree with anyone who says (and I know you didn’t) that ISM made the wrong decision because I don’t know what his reasons are.

It is what it is. JF and NS will probably be starters from the beginning of the year because, in spite of youth and inexperience, because they are probably the best on the roster in their positions. We can take some comfort in the fact that they are not incoming freshmen, but guys who have been around for a year. Hopefully JF also learned from NS’s mistakes last year.


Nice Ponder Point Charles! While I agree with most, I respectfully disagree on NS.

Yes, he over-ran some plays and left some other holes open, but he had a Freshman season to be respected. 48 tackles (28 solo) with a forced fumble and coaches PAC 12 Defensive POY.

I gotta believe that with his physical attributes and football IO, combined with the family tree he comes from, Noah Sewell will not disappoint this season. I think that young man is driven to improve.

I am also looking forward to watching Popo Aumavae bust out this year, thinking that he will be benefiting from the double-teams teams on KT.


Just being a wet rag here. There is still one elephant in the room. One that could easily ruin all forecasts of brilliant or underwhelming performance (and our fun today and during the season). COVID 19. How will IT perform during the season?

Jon Sousa

This has been my concern ever since people started talking about a “full spring” and a “full fall camp”. It is possible that COVID is already taking some Men of Oregon out as we read of no-shows during the first week of practice.

COVID is still alive and well and can take out top players in a heartbeat.

Unfortunately, we will probably never know when it happens, just like what happened with Ashford and baseball during the spring.

J Duck

Thanks “CF” for the brutally honest predictions, indeed some old names will fizzle and some newbies will shine, and I think some “young veterans” will really emerge at the next level this season. Some homer fans won’t like your takes but I think it’s reality.


While no one can really know this early on, your predictions are interesting nonetheless.

I hold JJ3 in higher regard than you do and expect (hope?) some big plays in key situations by him.

The TE’s you favor may not see many snaps from scrimmage this year. They should see special teams action, and either may end up with a redshirt. My breakouts at TE are Webb and Herbert.

Continuing on about the Tight End group, those guys are too big, fast and multi dimensional to sit. The staff ought to define new roles for some of them so they can be on the field. Can you imagine a kickoff squad including 4-5 TE’s?


I think the question, which hasn’t been answered yet, is who will be the starting qb against Fresno? Brown may become honorable mention, or will one of the young guns get on the Heisman watch list for next year? We need somebody to rise up to the watch list, not just mentioned on a list if we are to reach the potential of this team.

The other question is on DeRuyter, will he get the potential out of this all-star defense. Will we see the Von Miller’s rise up, like he did at one of his stops, or will he be another Defensive Coordinator who plays a sideshow to the Oregon O? I think we will see a defense of the ages, Gang Green watch out!

Justin Flowe is the one who will really have a coming out party. The guy has it all, speed, intelligence and a high football IQ. Thibs will have his sidekick. These two will wreck teams, and the others will feed off the chaos they cause. Defense will lead the Oregon Football Team, that will be the story.

On offense we will, again, see flashes of the old brilliance, but we are a season away from being led by a Heisman candidate. The receivers will all get their chances, and we will see the cream rise, but not quick enough to dominate like the defense. Next year the offense will complement the Duck D.


The defense may be too young and inexperienced to dominate the best teams needing a year of snaps to learn from. I see this to be a defining aspect of the 2021 season. Can the defense step up and win games.

The running dialogue is that CFB has become Offense driven, and that great offense will beat great defense.

There’s one name that comes to mind. Had some big press in the last couple of years then burned out. Had everyone’s attention but it seems the attention to detail and making up for the others around him took its toll.

Now is just a situational player but suspect that we will be seeing his name more closer to the season. Heard he’s transforming his physique, changing his diet, involved in charitable giving and doing his absolute best to avoid a future life of jack squat living in a van down by the river.

Will CF go dark, be swallowed by a puddle or ultimately have a breakout year? I think the latter but the proofs in the puddle.


CF? The name which is rising is Cam McCormick (CM), not sure who you are referencing as CF?
Hand to forehead, I get it now!


Hey, let’s not have a puddle muddle.


Ah, missed you, Charles. These are excellent ponder points. As does Jon, I agree with you about Sewell. He has immense talent and physical skills. But I think he needs to learn how to apply them more judiciously.

I’ll toss out one more name…one that I’ve been touting for over a year now…Robbie Ashford. IF the RPO is truly implemented in 2021, for certain there will be times when Brown goes down for a bit. Talented backup qb’s are prized and needed for teams to succeed. I know everyone has been high on Ty. And down the road he may or may not turn out to be the ultimate choice of coach MC. But I believe RA has equal skills, especially now that he is focusing on football. And please note, RA was running with the second team in the first practice.

I second that motion.