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Insider

'Plug and play' works because of recruiting

8/26/2012

During the past couple of decades, the Oregon Ducks have had their share of outstanding talent as they began to emerge as a powerful program. But inconsistency of the Ducks recruiting led to some down seasons. Under Chip Kelly, Oregon has had steadier success.

The Ducks try to recruit versatile athletes at every position, and seek players who love the Oregon system of being capable of playing multiple positions.

In the Ducks' 2011 recruiting class, Kelly signed four of the top players in the country that were deemed "athletes" without a set position. Two of them made a significant impact in their first seasons. De'Anthony Thomas was the top-ranked athlete in the class and his impact was as good as any freshman in school history. Thomas was the only player in the country that season to amass 400 yards rushing, receiving and returning kicks.

USC recruited Thomas to play cornerback, a position at which many considered to be his best hope for an NFL career. Thomas wanted to play offense and he made the tough choice to decommit from the hometown Trojans in order to do what was in his heart.

The Ducks also signed Colt Lyerla, a 6-foot-5, 240-pound player who has been compared to Brian Urlacher of the Chicago Bears.

Urlacher played safety at New Mexico before moving on to become one of the best linebackers in NFL history. Lyerla had many hoping for him to step right in at middle linebacker and giving the Ducks an athlete they have never had at that spot. But Lyerla preferred offense and doesn't have the nasty demeanor to play defense. The coaches decided to play Lyerla at tight end before his freshman season, and it paid off early. Lyerla had five touchdown catches as a freshman and has a promising future at tight end.

The Ducks also signed the country's No. 2 athlete that season in Devon Blackmon, who played quarterback during his senior year in high school. Blackmon chose the Ducks over schools such as USC and Alabama and is likely to be heavily involved in the rotation at wide receiver this season.

Christian French chose the Ducks over Notre Dame and others because Oregon liked him as a tight end. Other schools wanted French on defense. After a year in Eugene and the emergence of former wide receiver/tight end Dion Jordan at defensive end, the Ducks decided it was best that French move to defense.

French has drawn praise in practice and will likely take over for Jordan in 2013.

This past February, the Ducks signed Terrence Daniel, Cody Carriger and Bralon Addison as athletes. Daniel has shown promise at tight end and Carriger has been impressive at defensive end.

The most impressive athlete this fall has been Addison, who has drawn comparisons to Thomas and is showing he should play right away.

Like Blackmon, Addison was a quarterback as a high school senior but now has star potential as a slot receiver and kick returner.

In 2013, the Ducks will lose Kenjon Barner from the offensive arsenal, but Thomas and Addison could be a dynamic duo.