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Sunday, March 3, 2013
Ducks must reload as talent comes, goes

By Brandon P. Oliver

Oregon Uniforms
Quarterback Marcus Mariota, wide receiver Keanon Lowe and running back De'Anthony Thomas are all possibilities to leave Oregon early for the NFL.

The Oregon Ducks will enter the 2013 season having lost a possible top-five pick to the NFL draft, the No. 2 rusher in the Ducks' history and two all-league linebackers. The loss of Dion Jordan, Kenjon Barner, Kiko Alonso and Michael Clay will hurt, but potential losses after the 2013 season could sting a lot more.

The 2013 recruiting class was solid, but not spectacular. Next year, the potential of losing De'Anthony Thomas, Marcus Mariota, Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Terrance Mitchell, Hroniss Grasu and Colt Lyerla early to the NFL would be a huge blow to the Ducks as they try and continue their run of BCS appearances. The Ducks will definitely lose three impact players on the defensive line, two safeties, a linebacker and star wide receiver Josh Huff to graduation.

With heavy losses ahead, the Ducks must land a strong recruiting class in 2014. There are negatives to having a roster loaded with NFL talent, and the Ducks are about to learn that the hard way.

The positives speak for themselves, as the result of having such a loaded roster has shown up on the field in the past few seasons. The ability to sign such talented players helps any program improve on the field, and Oregon has proven it can turn potential into stardom. The Ducks' talented and experienced coaching staff has helped many unheralded recruits develop into all-league players.

While the Ducks have sent plenty of players on to the NFL, never have they had a roster so loaded with potential NFL stars. Programs like Alabama, Florida, LSU and USC are used to this dilemma, and they have learned to master the art of managing an ever-changing roster. In fact, they thrive on it.

Oregon has never had the luxury of landing a handful of five-star recruits every year. Regardless, it has become one of the most successful programs in the country by doing it their way. They have had stars like Onterrio Smith, Haloti Ngata, Jairus Byrd and LaMichael James, who left early for the NFL.

Every recruiting class is important, as bringing in new players capable of maintaining the level of success is the ultimate goal, but the Class of 2014 could be one of the most important in school history. Not only is it Mark Helfrich's first recruiting class, but the Ducks are also facing a decision by the NCAA that could alter the future of the program.

Thomas Tyner
Oregon-bound RB Thomas Tyner is a top recruit, but it's important for the Ducks that his presence doesn't scare off future tailback prospects.
Depth is another issue that can be positive and negative.

When you have a position loaded with talent like Oregon does at running back with players like Thomas, Bryon Marshall and Thomas Tyner, it is hard to recruit an elite player who knows what he is facing to on the field. If a recruit knows that one or more of the current players at his position is likely to leave early for the NFL, he is much more likely to sign with that program, knowing that playing time and future success aren't far off.

After missing out on ATH Dontre Wilson in the Class of 2013, the Ducks should be able to reel in a couple of elite running backs in the Class of 2014.

Making the jump from being one of the top-10 programs in the country to being top-five is a big one. With an uncertain future after the 2013 season, the Ducks have a lot of work to do in the Class of 2014 to ensure they continue to build on the best run in program history.