WRs need to catch on for Ducks to fly
July, 4, 2012
By Brandon P. Oliver | ESPN.com
AP Photo/Tony AvelarJosh Huff has shown explosive game-breaking ability in his first two seasons at Oregon, but he also has been prone to drops and other errors of concentration.While the weakness hasn't been as glaring as on the defensive line, Oregon's wide receiving corps has lacked sizzle in recent years. There has been some tantalizing talent in recent years with the likes of Cameron Colvin, Jaison Williams and others who had solid, yet unspectacular, careers. Jeff Maehl turned into one of Oregon's all-time bests and made more big plays than most Ducks fans can count. LaVasier Tuinei emerged in 2011 and turned in a Rose Bowl MVP performance in his last game in an Oregon uniform. A true gamebreaking receiver can make a world of difference and the Ducks are searching for their first truly elite receiver in years.
Similar to the defensive line, the current crop of wide receiver talent in Eugene is at an all-time high. Now it's time for one or two of the young and talented playmakers to rise above the rest and give Oregon a true threat on the outside. Josh Huff is the biggest threat among the returning pass catchers, but his inconsistency has been frustrating for Oregon fans in the past two seasons. Huff has the speed and athleticism to take over games but has been erratic in terms of reliability.
Joining Huff as veteran receivers in 2012 are Rahsaan Vaughn, Justin Hoffman, Eric Dungy, Daryle Hawkins and Will Murphy. While there has been improvement among this group, the prevailing thought is that one of the young guns needs to step up in order for the offense to reach its potential.
Rahsaan Vaughn: The 6-foot-2, 195-pound junior college transfer showed flashes in 2011 with 14 catches for 184 yards. His experience and leadership will be key to helping the receivers progress in 2012.
Will Murphy: At 6-foot-2, 185-pounds, the former walk-on earned playing time in 2011 and has shown the work ethic to earn playing time among Oregon's deep receiving corps.
Justin Hoffman: The Eugene native earned his way on the field in 2011 and walked away with 10 catches for 133 yards during his junior campaign. Hoffman is a gritty receiver that will help hold the unit together in 2012.
Josh Huff: The 5-foot-11, 200-pound Huff has kept Duck fans on the edge of their seats for the past two seasons. As one of, if not the top, overall athlete among the receivers, Huff has the potential to be a break out star in 2012. Staying healthy and in the right state of mind are his biggest challenges. Huff had some dropped balls in 2011 that seemed to mess with his head. Huff's progression is among the biggest keys to the Oregon offense in 2012.
Daryle Hawkins: At 6-foot-4, 200 pounds, the versatile Hawkins struggled at times in 2011 but emerged towards the end of the season. As one of the most physical receivers, Hawkins development this off-season is key. Look for Hawkins to play a significant role for the Ducks in 2012.
Eric Dungy: The son of Tony Dungy has made big strides since arriving in Eugene and his steady game and great hands will serve him well as he looks to find his place in the rotation. The 6-foot-1, 180-pound Dungy had three catches for 40 yards in the Oregon spring game.
Blake Stanton: The former Crespi High teammates of Bryan Bennett and Hroniss Grasu, Stanton has served as a utility man since arriving in Eugene. Stanton emerged as a solid receiving threat this spring, particularly when Bennett is at the helm. The 5-foot-11, 200-pound Stanton had a number of receptions as Bennett's favorite target in the spring game.
Davide De Pas/ESPN.comThe No. 23 player in the 2011 class, redshirt freshman Devon Blackmon will be expected to make a big impact in 2012.
Keanon Lowe: The Portland native earned time in 2011 on special teams after a redshirt season in 2010. The former US Army All-American fits the mold of the typical undersized Ducks receiver, but has the speed to be a difference maker during his career.
Devon Blackmon: The 6-foot-1, 195-pound Blackmon is an all-everything athlete who played quarterback in high school. His familiarity with the offense should pay big dividends down the line as he adjusts to the college game. Blackmon is a former Under Armour All-American and former member of the ESPN 150. Blackmon was No. 23 overall and the No. 2 athlete in the nation coming out of high school.
B.J. Kelley: The least touted among his 2011 classmates, Kelley may have the most potential out of the redshirts. At 6-foot-2, 185 pounds, Kelley has the size, speed and hands to make an impact in 2012. He has been a terror in offseason workouts and seems primed for a stellar career.
Tacoi Sumler: What Sumler lacks in size he makes up for in speed, as the Florida native is lightning fast and from the mold of former Ducks WR star Sammie Parker. Sumler has elite speed and runs solid routes out of the slot. His development will be key in stretching the field in order for the Ducks to fully execute their running attack.
Bralon Addison: The 2012 ESPN 150 member comes in with high accolades and seems destined to slide in the role of utility man, a la De'Anthony Thomas. Like Blackmon, Addison played quarterback in a spread option attack in high school. His knowledge of the game and his quick, slashing style will make it tough to keep him on the sidelines in 2012.
Dwayne Stanford II: The 6-foot-5, 195-pound Stanford comes to Eugene by way of Cincinnati. His size gives him an early advantage over his peers. Stanford is raw as a receiver and will need to work on his flexibility, hands and route running, but he is a physical presence and could be key to holding the edge in Oregon's rushing attack.
Chance Allen: Like Addison, Allen is another Texan headed to Eugene.His late decision to sign with the Ducks gives Oregon wide receiver coach Scott Frost another weapon to add to his arsenal. Allen has great size at 6-foot-3, 190 pounds, but seems destined for a redshirt season due to the depth accumulating in Eugene.
Regardless of who manages to step out of the shadows, the wide receiver position is stocked with a wide array of talented players that leaves the Ducks in good position to stretch the field and the imagination of head coach Chip Kelly.
If a couple of the receivers emerge and take their game to the next level, the Oregon offense could become even more fun to watch than ever before. Jeff Maehl and others provided a go to guy, but the Ducks have yet to have a Dez Bryant or Robert Woods that can absolutely take a game over on command. If they find something close to that, the Ducks could find themselves with a fourth consecutive conference championship.