May 11, 2016
By Rob Moseley
Photo: Eric Evans
A look back at Oregon’s month of practices that culminated in the Spring Game on April 30.
Where things stood: The Ducks lost their leading receiver from 2015, Bralon Addison, not to mention Byron Marshall, who was injured last September and opted not to petition for a fifth year of eligibility. And yet, they entered the winter of 2016 flush with talent at receiver and tight end, thanks to the emergence last fall of Darren Carrington, the return to offense by Charles Nelson and the rehabilitation of Pharaoh Brown. The status of Devon Allen was in flux after his brilliant return to track and field competition this winter and spring. But the mix of veterans Dwayne Stanford, Evan Baylis, Carrington and Brown along with young talent like Jalen Brown, Kirk Merritt and Alex Ofodile gave the Ducks ample pass-receiving options entering spring practice.
What happened in April: The breakout star of the month, including the Spring Game that capped it, was freshman Dillon Mitchell. He enrolled in January and was in line for ample practice reps in April while the likes of Stanford, Ofodile, Allen and Jalen Brown sat out. But Mitchell proved his daily highlights in practice were no fluke in the Spring Game by catching seven balls for 104 yards and two touchdowns, all totals that led both teams. Mitchell leaped over a defensive back on the first touchdown, and outwrestled a defender for possession on the second, demonstrating both dynamic athleticism and an aggressive, physical nature. Also that day, Pharaoh Brown made his return to live action, catching a couple balls before absorbing contact and stretching the field on one gain of 26 yards.
Merritt had just one touch in the Spring Game, a rush of 13 yards, but it demonstrated the increasing ways coaches spent the month trying to devise ways to get the ball in his hands. He and Nelson are highly versatile, explosive threats who can carve up a defense underneath, while Carrington, Stanford, Allen, Mitchell and company stretch the field on the outside. Lower on the depth chart, Casey Eugenio also took advantage of increased reps in the spring to stand out on a daily basis, and figures to continue to be a thorn in the defense’s side as a scout-teamer, if not more. Also, Dylan Kane moved over from safety and gave the offense yet another long, athletic weapon.
Who to watch in August: The Ducks figure to play a bunch of guys at both receiver and tight end, so which ones actually start isn’t the biggest deal in the world … but who are we kidding, it’s fun to speculate about starters. So, where to go with these groups? Stanford has a ton of experience, and Carrington looked like the star of the group late last season. But a healthy Allen proved himself in the 2014 season, and Mitchell sure looked in April like a guy who can help in September. And then what of Jalen Brown and Ofodile, promising young players seemingly only in need of an opportunity? And is Pharaoh Brown all the way back, the kind of matchup nightmare he presented before being injured in 2014? Or are multiple tight ends in the plan for this fall? There’s a projection below, but it could look a whole lot different come September.
PROJECTED DEPTH CHART
WR: Dwayne Stanford, Sr.; Devon Allen, Jr.; Jalen Brown, So.; Dylan Kane, RFr.
WR: Charles Nelson, Jr.; Kirk Merritt, So.; Casey Eugenio, So.; Chayce Maday, So.
WR: Darren Carrington, Jr.; Dillon Mitchell, Fr.; Alex Ofodile, RFr.; Jeff Bieber, So.
TE: Pharaoh Brown, Sr.; Evan Baylis, Sr.; Johnny Mundt, Sr.; Taylor Stinson, So.; Ryan Bay, RFr.; Jacob Breeland, RFr.; Cam McCormick, Fr.