Oregon Ducks: Wade Keliikipi

There were 34 Pac-12 players selected during the NFL draft, but there will be more than twice that many rookies in NFL training camps this summer. Shortly after the draft ended, the dominoes started falling and those who went undrafted started signing free-agent contracts.

The following list of undrafted free agent signings, which was compiled from various announcements and media reports, could change in the coming days:

Arizona
Arizona State
California
Note: K Vincenzo D'Amato will reportedly attend Green Bay's rookie minicamp.

Colorado
Oregon
Oregon State
Stanford
Notes: S Devon Carrington (Pittsburgh) and LB Jarek Lancaster (Oakland) will attend rookie minicamps.

UCLA
USC
Utah
Notes: DT LT Tuipulotu will attend Green Bay's rookie minicamp and C Vyncent Jones told the Deseret News he will attend minicamps for Pittsburgh and Kansas City.

Washington
Note: S Sean Parker will reportedly attend Washington Redskins rookie minicamp.

Washington State
Note: K Andrew Furney will attend Seattle Seahawks rookie minicamp.

Biggest shoes to fill: Oregon

March, 21, 2014
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Starters in, starters out. That's college football. Players' eligibility expires and they leave for the rest of their lives, which might include the NFL or not. And they leave behind shoes of various sizes that need to be filled.

In alphabetical order, we will survey each Pac-12 team’s most notable void. Today we look at Oregon.

Biggest shoes: NG Wade Keliikipi

There were a few different ways to go for Oregon. The Ducks most notable departures are Keliikipi, WR Josh Huff, CB Terrance Mitchell and DE Taylor Hart. But Bralon Addison is almost certain to replace Huff as the Ducks No. 1 WR -- he caught 61 passes in 2013 compared to 62 from Huff -- and, with Hart, DeForest Buckner and Arik Armstead have extensive experience as DE/DTs flanking the Ducks noseguard. Oregon, traditionally, is strong in the secondary, with veteran Dior Mathis the easy pick to replace Mitchell. It's not much different with Keliikipi in terms of who will replace him, but the question is how well he will be replaced. Keliikipi is a three-year starter and four-year contributor. He earned honorable mention All-Pac-12 honors his final two seasons. While he often battled injuries, he had 34 tackles, five tackles for a loss and two sacks in 2013. In healthy form, he was dominant against Texas in the Alamo Bowl. He might have been the Ducks most underrated player, one who was playing a critical position in a 3-4 defense.

Stepping in: Junior Alex Balducci

Balducci was thrust prematurely into service in 2012 as an undersized true freshman when the Ducks D-line was wracked by injuries. He held his own and was a reliable backup last year, finishing with 18 tackles. But how well can he hold up as a starter in the middle of the Ducks defense in 2014? At 6-foot-4, he's taller than Keliikipi and should play around 300 pounds this fall, so the Ducks aren't giving up anything in terms of size. But Keliikipi was good at holding his ground, even against double-teams, and was still able to make plenty of plays. He was more than a plugger. Balducci will need to be more active in order to replace Keliikipi's production. Further, the depth behind him is uncertain. He might end up seeing more plays than Keliikipi did, in large part because he won't have his own Balducci behind him.

Previous big shoes

Week 7 helmet stickers

October, 13, 2013
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Which Ducks deserve helmet stickers for the 45-24 win over Washington? Read on.

Marcus Mariota, QB: Mariota came up big in the Ducks' 45-24 victory against Washington, completing 24 of 31 passes for 366 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. He also rushed 13 times for 88 yards and a score.

Bralon Addison, WR: Addison, a sophomore, caught eight passes for 157 yards and two touchdowns against the Huskies.

Wade Keliikipi, DT: Keliikipi had 2.5 tackles for a loss and 1.5 sacks to go along with four total tackles for the Ducks defense. He was a disruptive presence inside.
An issue that seems to arise every year in recruiting is which players Oregon chooses to pursue and sign on the defensive line. It always seems to be a source of worry for fans and recruiting pundits alike.

While Haloti Ngata isn't walking through the tunnel at Autzen Stadium anymore, the Ducks have equipped themselves nicely with a patchwork defensive line over the past few years.

With the loss of Taylor Hart, Wake Keliikipi and Ricky Heimuli after the 2013 season, reloading the defensive line is one of the Ducks' primary objectives in the next 10 months. The Ducks landed a standout group of defensive linemen in the Class of 2012 and all of them should be heavily involved in 2013. With three or four spots in the 2014 recruiting class likely to be filled by defensive line prospects, the Ducks are eyeing a large group of targets.

Here are a few names to keep an eye on throughout the 2014 recruiting cycle:

DE Lorenzo Featherston (Greensboro, N.C ./Page): The 6-foot-7, 215-pound ESPN Watch List member has high interest in the Ducks and fits the profile of what Oregon has looked for in defensive lineman in the past few years. Of course, Chip Kelly and Jerry Azzinaro are gone, but Featherstone maintains the athleticism and range that would make him an ideal fit for the Ducks' drop-end position. Featherstone hopes to get a visit from the Oregon staff during the spring evaluation period. An impressive spring could lead to Featherstone receiving an offer from one of his favorite programs. Michigan, North Carolina, North Carolina State and Tennessee have all offered and are the main programs in pursuit.

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Oregon recruiting: Quick hitters 

February, 14, 2013
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Oregon is done with the 2013 class and is in early pursuit of the Class of 2014. Like they did under Chip Kelly, the Ducks are going to take their time and do their due diligence in evaluating recruits with Mark Helfrich at the helm.

The Ducks will still make the same in-depth inquiries about recruits with the potential to earn an offer, but it appears the 2013 recruiting cycle taught them once and for all, that waiting until it's too late can cost a program in a big way. A number of recruits have the Ducks near the top of their lists, and with 2014 being an important class, expect them to be more aggressive than usual in their attempt to replace players they could lose after 2013.


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Oregon signing day surprises 

February, 6, 2013
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After losing long-time commit Dontre Wilson (DeSoto, Texas/DeSoto) to Ohio State on Monday, the Oregon Ducks enter signing day looking for a couple of surprises to go their way. Fortunately the Ducks have gotten the better end of the deal with signing day surprises in recent years.


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Ducks make habit of closing strong 

January, 14, 2013
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Haloti NgataG Fiume/Getty ImagesHaloti Ngata lived up to his five-star hype at Oregon and brought that success to the NFL.

For those Oregon fans who worry about how many commitments the Ducks have at this point in the recruiting cycle, all they need to do is take a look back over the past decade or so, starting with the 2002 recruiting class, when the Ducks landed some guy named Haloti Ngata on signing day.

With a handful of spots to fill in the class of 2013, DuckNation decided to take a look back at who the Ducks have added in the final weeks of the recruiting cycle in each year since 2003.


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Oregon gains maturity in win

September, 30, 2012
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SEATTLE -- The occasional bloody lip can be a good thing. A body blow -- while it might stun momentarily -- is sometimes just what the lungs need to suck in fresh air.

And for 30 minutes Saturday night at CenturyLink Field, the Washington State Cougars swung and clawed and took their best shots at the No. 2 team in the country. They went for it on fourth down. They tried an onside kick. On offense, they attacked at the heart of their opponent and on defense they blitzed without fear or consequence.

And for a period -- a brief period, mind you -- the Oregon Ducks had a little blood on their lips.

But the Ducks calmly reached up, wiped it away, and delivered a potent and dismissive second-half performance en route to a 51-26 victory.

This was a good thing, because it’s only going to get harder for the Ducks (5-0, 2-0 Pac-12). Unlike their nonconference blowouts, things are a little tougher in the Pac-12. The athletes are a little faster and they hit a little harder. So facing a bit of an adversity is just what a team in the midst of a national title run could use.

“Absolutely,” said Oregon running back Kenjon Barner. “With our team, we know we’re going to get everybody’s best shot. Credit to Washington State because they played a great first half. They did everything you are supposed to do in that first half. They just did a great job. But we’re a strong-willed team and we know when we execute and do what we’re supposed to do, it’s hard to stop us.”

Barner got the Ducks going early. After the defense forced a three-and-out on Washington State’s first possession, Oregon calmly marched 50 yards in four plays, ending with a 22-yard Barner run -- the first of his three rushing touchdowns on the night. The Ducks cruised out to a 20-3 lead and it looked like another sleepwalk.

But the Cougars didn’t fold as others have. Carl Winston added a 2-yard touchdown run to Andrew Furney’s 18-yard field goal to make it 20-9 after the missed PAT. Then Brett Bartolone caught a 26-yard touchdown from Connor Halliday midway through the second quarter following a 34-yard field goal from Oregon’s Rob Beard. It was 23-19 and the folks at CenturyLink were thinking another upset could be possible -- following Washington’s stunner Thursday night over No. 8 Stanford.

[+] EnlargeOregon's Kenjon Barner
Otto Greule Jr/Getty ImagesKenjon Barner rushed for 195 yards and three touchdowns, two of which came in the second half.
“We battled away,” said Washington State coach Mike Leach. “Some of our field goals should have been touchdowns. We gave them two relatively easy touchdowns early. I think if we played with more control, we wouldn’t have. We played pretty courageously throughout the rest of it.”

And with less than four minutes to play in the half, Washington State drove inside the red zone and looked poised to, at the very least, make it a one-point game. That’s when the Oregon defense really broke loose.

Three consecutive sacks (Dion Jordan, Michael Clay and Wade Keliikipi) put the Cougars out of field goal range and shifted the momentum heading into the locker room.

“We understood that they gave us their best shots,” said Jordan. “So the second half we went out and focused on going out and trying to finish the game. Guys made big plays … it was wonderful.

“We knew they were going to keep fighting and they weren’t going to change much in what they were doing. We just had to turn up the dial as a team and as a unit and that’s what guys did. We got after it and played smart football.”

And therein lies the maturity of the Ducks. They opened the second half with a grinding, 18-play drive (their longest since last year’s game against LSU, when they had a 19-play drive) that went 76 yards and took up 6 minutes, 20 seconds. De'Anthony Thomas capped the march with a 4-yard touchdown.

“We knew we were going to get the ball to beginning of the second half and that first drive was going to be key for us to set the tone for what we wanted to do,” said Oregon coach Chip Kelly. “Everybody contributed and made plays. I thought we were balanced. They made us work for it. Give them credit. I thought defensively they had a good plan and it took us a while to get on the right track.”

When the Cougars finally did get back on the field, the drive was ended when Avery Patterson intercepted Halliday and returned it 34 yards for a touchdown and a 37-19 advantage.

The Ducks no longer tasted blood. They smelled it, sacking Halliday seven times in the game, with two each from Taylor Hart and Keliikipi.

“We turned it up and tried to get him out of the pocket a little bit and get their offensive line on their heels,” Jordan said. “Those guys got more tired than we were in the second half.”

Barner would add a 10-yard touchdown on Oregon’s next possession for the third Ducks score of the quarter. He capped a fantastic game with an 80-yard touchdown run in the fourth, finishing with 195 yards on 20 carries.

“That’s what it’s all about,” Kelly said. “You get a chance and hopefully you don’t make the same mistakes twice and every week is its own season and how the games themselves unfold. We know in this league it’s going to be a 60-minute game … We think we’re built to play for the whole game and a lot of guys kept fighting and battling and they finished.”

Oregon Ducks weekly mailbag 

August, 31, 2012
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It has been an interesting week for the Oregon Ducks. From naming a starting quarterback, potentially getting a transfer, official visits being set up by top recruits and the season opener against Arkansas State, it's fair to say that things are heating up in Eugene.

With a flurry of activity surrounding the program, it is now time to open up the mailbag and answer your questions.

[+] EnlargeBryan Bennett
Jim Z. Rider/US PresswireOregon sophomore quarterback Bryan Bennett passed for 369 yards and six touchdowns and ran for 200 yards on 23 carries last year when he stepped in for an injured Darron Thomas.
Mike L. (Portland, Ore.): With Marcus Mariota being named the starter, it leaves Bryan Bennett with three years left as a backup. Like Mariota, freshman Jake Rodrigues and Jeff Lockie both have four years left. Bennett has said he's staying, but I could see him or one of the freshmen leaving this season. Should the Ducks turn their quarterback recruiting up a notch for 2013?

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Lavasier TuineiSteve Dykes/Getty ImagesLaVasier Tuinei emerged from being an unknown two-star recruit to being Oregon's go-to wide receiver, winning Rose Bowl offensive MVP honors in his final game.
Oregon Ducks fans have been witness to one of the greatest rises in college football history over the past two decades. The Ducks have risen from cellar dwellers to one of the hottest names in all of college football. The facilities, the uniforms and the Nike connection have all played a big role in the Ducks' rise to the top of the Pac-12.

Along with the success and the increased exposure nationally has come a major boost in recruiting elite athletes to come to Eugene. It isn't always the high school All-Americans that turn into college stars. Oregon has made a living finding "diamonds in the rough" that have helped build a powerhouse.

There have been some big names in the recruiting world who chose to play their college ball in Eugene, but how many of them have lived up to the hype?

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DucksMatthew Emmons/US PresswireRicky Heimuli (front), a highly touted defensive tackle in the 2010 class, is expected to take a big step up on Oregon's defensive line this season.
After a nice run of NFL talent along the defensive front from 2002-05, the Oregon Ducks took a number of hits with recruits failing to qualify or not showing up on campus for a variety of reasons. When new defensive line coach Jerry Azzinaro arrived in 2009, things began to change in Eugene. While the talent has been building in recent years, the defensive line was the one glaring weakness when comparing Oregon to the likes of SEC powers Auburn, LSU and Alabama.

The Ducks have excelled at nearly every position outside of DL in recent years. The linebackers have been key in helping the Ducks to high sack totals, but 2012 looks like the season it all comes together up front for the Ducks. The depth, size and talent are at an all-time high in Eugene, as key returners are back for another go around and a number of impact newcomers will be entering the fold.

After losing Kenny Rowe, Brandon Bair and Zac Clark from the 2010 BCS runner-ups, the defensive line stepped up last year and kept the Ducks among the elite. Now that they have another year under their belts, look for Oregon's front line to make a big impact in 2012.

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