For college football teams fall camp moves quickly, especially for the elite programs that cannot afford to start slow when the regular season rolls around.
But this past week the Oregon Ducks had more rapid changes than usual, including the good, the bad, and the interesting.
The good: Freshmen stepping up.
On the offensive side of the ball a few young ducks have gotten their feet wet and then some, but it is not at the positions people anticipated.
Heading into camp Chip Kelly was hoping to address the wide receiver need with a talented and athletic group of incoming freshmen. But Devon Blackmon, Tacoi Sumler and BJ Kelley have all struggled to keep up with the veterans thus far.
However, running backs De’Anthony Thomas and Tra Carson have shown great ability in camp, leaving many to believe that both may see action on the field early this season. Thomas in particular has shown the explosiveness that may leave Chip Kelly no choice but to find a way to get the ball in the freshman’s hands. Carson, though a big bruising back with surprising speed that could help Oregon in short yardage situations, may just be stuck behind too many outstanding backs to make the travel team this season but has none- the- less shown he can be an impact player.
Also, freshman Colt Lyerla has all but locked up the second tight end spot behind senior David Paulson. Lyerla has freakish athleticism and size that will earn him early playing time and force opposing defenses to account for him, giving quarterback Darron Thomas yet another weapon.
On the defensive side of the ball redshirt freshmen cornerbacks Terrance Mitchell and Troy Hill continue to battle for the starting job against LSU in Cliff Harris’ absence. Both have remained impressive through this week, with Mitchell appearing to maintain a slight edge.
The bad: Players leave the field and don’t come back.
This week two Ducks have taken early flights south and left the team, with the headliner being running back Lache Seastrunk.
Seastrunk, who has been a focus of the current NCAA investigation concerning Oregon’s association with Texas based scout Will Lyles, appears to have been passed on the depth chart by Thomas and Carson, leaving him as fifth in line for playing time.
Due to the playing time opportunity dwindling, Seastrunk requested and was granted his full release from Oregon on Saturday. Some reports claim the likely destination for Seastrunk is Baylor, closer to his family in Texas.
The other player that has left the team is reserve wide receiver Blake Cantu. Cantu, primarily a practice player that was making improvments and vying for playing time this fall, appears to have left the team due to injury problems.
Cantu joins tight end Brandon Williams on the list of players from Oregon that have had to retire from football due to injury problems. Williams had suffered a series of neck injuries in his college career.
The Interesting: Dior Mathis to wide receiver?
Mathis, one of the fastest players on the Oregon football and track teams, had been buried at cornerback and was not progressing as quickly as players like Mitchell and Hill.
However, with the Ducks having been thin at wide receiver even before Cantu left the team, Mathis has been taking snaps on the offensive side of the ball late this week as an experiment.
Mathis, a redshirt freshman from the greater Detroit area, has the speed and talent to play the position but shows clear signs of rust and lack of knowledge of the playbook. But given the right amount of time, and the opportunity, Mathis could become a serious deep threat for Oregon, a weapon they currently lack.
Other notable developments:
On Saturday Oregon was ranked #3 in the AP poll, matching their position in the USA Today Coaches Poll. The rankings are the highest preseason rankings ever for the Ducks.
Linebacker Kiko Alonso, currently suspended indefinitely for his arrest back in April (his second during his time at Oregon), has been practicing with the number one defense for most of camp. That, combined with the depth at linebacker and Kelly’s decision to not have suspended Alonso already, leaves many to believe that he may be available against LSU.
Tight end Curtis White has suffered another injury that will keep him out for several weeks. White, a highly recruited tight end from Eugene, Oregon, has never been able to stay healthy long enough to make an impact since he set foot on campus. His absence, along with Williams’, places pressure on Lyerla to play early and well if the Ducks want to be successful on offense with the passing game.
Delinquent Ducks vs. Behind Bars Bengals?
For most of the past two seasons Oregon has established a reputation for getting in trouble with the law, and deservingly so. Between LaGarrette Blount’s right hook to a Boise State players’ jaw, Jeremiah Masoli stealing and smoking his way to a forced transfer to Ole Miss, and Cliff Harris’ need for speed, Duck fans have begun to consider the boys in blue in Eugene to be a larger enemy than the Washington Huskies.
But now it is LSU’s turn to face the camera and then turn to their left. After a reported bar fight involving several LSU players, a number have taken on lawyers, including starting quarterback Jordan Jefferson.
It is unclear as of now whether any of the players will be disciplined or face charges, but it must be a distraction for the team ranked #4 in the nation just behind their opponent in week 1. As if that game needed any more hype or build up.
Quote of the week from Oregon practice:
“This is not a sorority pillow fight men!” – Tight ends and special teams coach Tom Osborne
About the Author
Written by Rob Parness
My name is Robbie Parness and I am a student at the University of Oregon. I'm a California native that loves to play, watch and talk about all kinds of sports. I would love to become a sports writer someday or work in sports in any capacity.