The Oregon Ducks wide receiving corps are aiming to be the best in the country, per the Oregonian.
The Oregon Ducks wide receivers are aiming to be the best in the nation.
The Ducks hope to quash any doubts experts may have about this year's receiving corps, which lost four key receivers from its 2013 roster, per The Oregonian's Andrew Greif:
"With nine days to go before Oregon's Aug. 30 season opener there remain more questions than answers for a Ducks receiving unit that brings back 24 receptions but none of its top four receivers from a year ago.
"How quickly will junior Bralon Addison, injured in April, return to games, if he chooses to at all? Who replaces Josh Huff as Oregon's best downfield target? Will someone emerge from the field of a half-dozen candidates to take over Oregon's hybrid run-catch 'Tazer' position? Can they add to their reputation as some of the country's best perimeter blockers?
"Senior Keanon Lowe, the unit's leader who had 18 of those catches and dozens of blocks a season ago, has a message for those who can't watch Oregon's closed practices: Check back in a few weeks and see if you still have questions.
"'I'm excited for everyone to stop questioning the receivers in 10 days or whenever we play because I'm more excited than I've ever been about this core of receivers we have,' Lowe said. 'I have no worries and I'm completely confident with the group we're going into this season with.
"'I think we can be one of the best, if not the best, receiving corps in the country.'
"To be in that conversation the receivers must prove they're as deep as they've contended throughout fall camp. Lowe, fellow senior Jonathan Loyd, junior B.J. Kelley, sophomores Chance Allen and Dwayne Stanford and freshmen Jalen Brown, Darren Carrington and Devon Allen are all mentioned as potential cogs in the rotation.
"And yet the hesitance is understandable. Loyd is not quite six months removed from playing point guard for Oregon's basketball team and hasn't played football since his senior year of high school. Kelley's rare speed has been held back by inconsistent hands. Stanford injured a knee 16 months ago. Brown is a true freshman. Collectively, this unit owns 63 career catches.
"To those concerns, Oregon has maintained there is power in numbers.
"'I've only been here two years but this is the most depth we've had, it's exciting,' receivers coach Matt Lubick said on Aug. 8. 'Last year we played four guys and this year I'm hoping we can play six or seven because it's going to make everyone else better, to keep them fresh.'
"UO will give its pass catchers plenty of opportunities to show why they deserve to be in the rotation. Quarterback Marcus Mariota's 3,665 passing yards in 2013 were the second-most in single-season school history, and that followed his 2,677 yards yards as a redshirt freshman -- No. 10 all-time at Oregon."
As for the Ducks' running game, it should be in good hands with freshman running back Royce Freeman. Mariota praised Freeman in an Aug. 21 update from The Oregonian's Tyson Agler:
"No, this isn't another story about Royce Freeman. It just starts with him.
"The Oregon Ducks are making personnel decisions over the coming days. Coaches will pour over tape and names, trying to figure out which freshmen will play in their first year and which ones will sit out.
"Freeman, the freshman running back who has been the talk of camp, has all but cemented his place on the roster the Ducks will take into next week's season opener against South Dakota. And if he hadn't yet, quarterback Marcus Mariota is the latest to have his back.
"The Heisman contender said Freeman has done an 'unbelievable job' acclimating himself to the college game. He said Freeman knows where to be and is dedicated to the pass protection. When asked about a Freeman moment from camp that stood out, Mariota didn't even have to go further back than an hour.
"'Just probably 30 minutes ago he took off on a 60-yard touchdown,' Mariota said. 'For a kid his size, he has unreal speed. We're kind of setting high expectations for him, but I think he'll live up to it.'
"So yeah, Royce Freeman is probably not going to redshirt.
"But a lot of players will. Last season, only six Duck freshmen found the field and coach Mark Helfrich and staff are going to spend the next couple of days figuring out who those are going to be.
"'This afternoon, tonight and tomorrow are all big picture, evaluation discussions as a staff and then with the individuals,' Helfrich said.
"Freeman will likely see the field. As will others, like offensive lineman Tyrell Crosby and long snapper Tanner Carew. But other than that, it's a mystery. The depth chart, even for veteran players, remains a riddle."
The Ducks enter the 2014 NCAA season ranked No. 3 in the AP Top 25.
For more of the hottest sports news, log on to Sport Balla today.