I have already aired my grievances about December being too busy and how the bowl games are suffering as a result. However, today Oregon plays in the Holiday Bowl against North Carolina and we will get the opportunity to see some backups take the field and hopefully make an impact. Here are five players to watch in today’s game who haven’t been starters throughout the season, but may be starters today (or play a critical role in the game).
Florence is a freshman and was actually the very first player Dan Lanning called after Georgia won the National Championship last year. He has played a ton of meaningful snaps this year in his backup role behind future NFL draft pick Christian Gonzalez. He will see the field a lot today and may even get the nod to start.
This is a huge opportunity for him, as it is a chance to make an impact in the game and his first shot to cement himself as a starter leading into Spring Camp.
Manning is unlikely to start this game as Trikweze Bridges holds down the starting spot, and though early in the year it felt like Bridges was a liability to the team, he has developed nicely as the year has gone on. By the end of the year the secondary was, for the most part, less of a liability — excluding the Washington game.
Manning had some great moments in coverage this year, but he is still far from a lock-down corner and he needs to learn to control himself as he goes into tackles. He was flagged with targeting twice this year. This game could be a chance for Manning to take that next step.
Brown has been a backup in a linebacker corps that has struggled this year. He did have a couple nice moments against Oregon State, one of which he made a nice hit that forced a fumble. Without Noah Sewell, Justin Flowe and Jackson LaDuke, Brown will have plenty of opportunities and may even start. It will be up to him to make the most out of those opportunities, especially as the linebacker position has, on the whole, underperformed all year.
Help is on the way at linebacker but Brown, like the other players on this list, has a chance to make an impact now and hopefully be part of Oregon’s solution at linebacker moving forward.
Herbert had a couple nice plays this year, but he hasn’t broken out yet. That is in part due to how deep Oregon’s tight end room has been with Terrance Ferguson, Moliki Matavao, and Cam McCormick all playing critical roles ahead of Herbert on the depth chart. Matavao has entered the transfer portal and is gone now, so that leaves the tight end room a little thinner and provides a chance for Herbert to get an expanded role.
It would be great to see Herbert, and really any of our amazing tight ends, get some additional targets and score some touchdowns. This was an early-season staple of the offense, but as the year progressed, we saw fewer plays targeting tight ends.
Isaiah Brevard or Kyler Kasper or Another Wide Receiver
Yes, this is a bit of a cop-out as I’m lumping two, or possibly more, players in one category here — but with Dont’e Thornton gone there is an opportunity for another receiver to step in and make a mark. Expect Troy Franklin, Chase Cota and Kris Hutson to all start, as they have been the starters all year, but when Oregon goes to the bench they will be going deeper than they have typically done this year because Thornton was the go-to back-up receiver, especially down the stretch.
I have named Brevard and Kasper because these two players are oozing with potential and haven’t seen much play time to date. They may get the opportunities they need to break into the receiver rotation with this bowl game. The difficulty comes in that they may see the field but never be targeted. However, they must make the most of the opportunities they get and, perhaps more importantly, they must prove they know the playbook and complete their blocks.
These players should see increased playing time and should make the most of it. But with the changing nature of the bowl games, and an expanded role for backups, are there any names you feel should make this list?
Top Photo By Eugene Johnson
Natalie Liebhaber, the FishDuck.com Volunteer Editor for this article, works in the medical technology industry in SLC, Utah.
David Marsh is a high school social studies teacher in Portland, Oregon. As a teacher he is known for telling puns to his students who sometimes laugh out of sympathy, and being both eccentric about history and the Ducks.
David graduated from the University of Oregon in 2012 with Majors in: Medieval Studies, Religious Studies, and Geography. David began following Ducks Football after being in a car accident in 2012; finding football something new and exciting to learn about during this difficult time in his life. Now, he cannot see life without Oregon football.
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