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Position Battles Remain Focus in Spring Practice for Ducks

Posted By Rob Parness On Apr 19 2012 @ 2:20 am In Oregon | No Comments

With a little over a week left until Oregon holds its spring game, the Ducks continue to practice out of sight from the media and some concerns about positions battles remain.

One area that Oregon needs to address is the wide receiver position. Last season freshman De’Anthony Thomas was the team’s leading receiver, but he will need to play more running back this season to replace LaMichael James. Also, Oregon lost veteran receiver Lavasier Tuinei to graduation.

Junior Josh Huff had a disappointing season last year when having issues dropping the ball, but continued to show flashes of excellence. However, Huff was arrested last month for a DUI and it is unclear just how far into Head Coach Chip Kelly’s doghouse Huff is.

Walk-on receiver Justin Hoffman returns for the Ducks in 2012, but he is viewed more as a possession receiver that is a solid blocker and good for a catch now and then. He is not the deep threat that Oregon needs to stretch the field and open up the rest of the offense.

The solution to the problem was supposed to be the talented coalition of redshirt freshman. Devon Blackmon, BJ Kelley and Tacoi Sumler were all expected to battle one another for snaps this season, but all indications are that they are still learning and remain too inconsistent to earn the trust and approval of Kelly.

The answers may actually come from veteran receivers like Daryle Hawkins and Rahsaan Vaughn.

Hawkins was bounced back and forth between receiver and quarterback early in his career, but this may be the year that the junior takes off after settling in at the wide-out position. His speed combined with his size at 6’4 would be a huge plus for Oregon.

Vaughn, like Hawkins, saw some playing time last year but as the season went on he saw his role decline. However, he does have talent and experience and will likely be in the mix come September.

There are other position battles raging at Oregon’s closed spring practices as well. While the defense is littered with experience and talent, the strong safety position is an area of interest after experienced veteran Eddie Pleasant graduated.

The Ducks have a log-jam of sorts at the position, but it is a good problem to have considering all of the players are very talented and they will be playing alongside experienced senior John Boyett, one of the top free safety’s in the nation.

Brian Jackson, Avery Patterson and Erick Dargan may be the favorites at this time. It is important to note that all three of these players will see action in Oregon’s defensive backfield come the fall, but consistency at that position is important.

Another area of interest is in the true freshmen that are working with the team in spring practice after arriving early in Eugene.

Arik Armstead, a highly touted defensive end, is an athletic freak and the thoughts of placing him opposite Dion Jordan would be unbelievable for the Ducks. However, Armstead is fresh out of high school and even though he seems to be picking it up fast, it is unlikely that he will make an elite impact this quickly.

The real impact may come from tight end Evan Bayliss. Indications are that he is learning the offense incredibly quickly and may see time on the field right away backing up sophomore Colt Lyerla.

Bayliss is a huge boost for Oregon because injuries have left the tight end position very thin heading into next season.

Lastly, the focus for most Duck fans remains on the quarterback competition.

Chip Kelly remains tight-lipped and hasn’t said either sophomore Bryan Bennett or freshman Marcus Mariota has the edge. However, reports indicated that Bennett, the more experienced player, is leading and is the favorite to be under center come September 1 for the season opener.

A lot remains unclear right now about Oregon, but following the spring game people should have a bit better idea of where things stand with a few of these battles.

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