By Rob Moseley
A look back at Oregon’s month of spring practices that culminated in the spring game on May 3.
RECEIVERS AND TIGHT ENDS
Where things stood: Graduation took a heavy toll, with Josh Huff off to the NFL after setting a UO record with 1,140 receiving yards last season. The Ducks also lost running back De'Anthony Thomas, who played extensively out of the slot in college, and top reserve Daryle Hawkins. Additionally, Eric Dungy opted to transfer prior to the start of spring. Junior-to-be Bralon Addison was back after a breakout 2013 campaign that saw him catch 56 passes for 842 yards and seven touchdowns. But the other returners at receiver were mostly unproven, including incoming freshman Jalen Brown, who enrolled in January, and men's basketball player Johnathan Loyd, who joined up for the second week of spring. It was a different story at tight end, with all five guys from the depth chart to end last season back this spring.
What happened in April: There was good news and bad news over the course of the month. Start with the bad: Addison was on crutches after the first week of April, and teammates expressed concern about his availability in the fall. Additionally, Brown dealt with an apparent injury during spring as well. In the case of nearly every other player, though, there was obvious development during the 14 practices leading up to the spring game. The always underrated Keanon Lowe took full ownership of the position, establishing himself yet again as one of the Ducks' best leaders. Dwayne Stanford returned from a knee injury that sidelined him all of last fall and played with the No. 1 offense throughout April, along with Lowe.
With Addison sidelined, Chance Allen got extensive reps with the No. 1 offense, and began to demonstrate the consistency he'll need to earn more playing time in the fall. Similarly, B.J. Kelley made plays over the course of April that would indicate he's starting to evolve from a one-dimensional burner to a more complete player. But the most encouraging developments, as the spring game showed, were by last year's redshirt freshmen. Devon Allen capped a breakout spring — in which he also competed in track and field — by catching two touchdown passes in the spring game, one from Marcus Mariota. Darren Carrington, meanwhile, made one of the plays of the day, a leaping, twisting touchdown grab on which he had to sneak his feet inbounds. They're the future of the receiver position at Oregon, and the future looks like now.
At tight end, Baylis looked like the No. 1 guy for most of spring, although Mundt had the biggest day in the spring game with three catches for 22 yards. Presuming Brown is good to go for the fall, the Ducks will boast a wealth of experience and talent at the position. If the losses at receiver leave UO coaches concerned about playing too many three-receiver sets, there looks to be more than enough reason to play two running backs and/or two tight ends.
Who to watch in August: All eyes will be on and Carrington, to see if they carry over their performances from the spring and can solidify spots in the regular rotation. On the other hand, and Kelley could make moves to hold off the youngsters, too. Brown and Loyd figure to be much more comfortable, after their trial by fire in spring drills, and they could be guys who make a big jump in their second camp with the Ducks.
PROJECTED DEPTH CHART
WR: Keanon Lowe, Sr.; Devon Allen, RFr.; Jalen Brown, Fr.; Jeff Stolzenburg, Sr.
WR: Dwayne Stanford, So.; B.J. Kelley, Jr.; Charles Nelson, Fr.; Bralon Addison, Jr.
WR: Darren Carrington, RFr.; Chance Allen, So.; Johnathan Loyd, Sr.; Austin Daich, So.; Chris Tewhill, So.
TE: Evan Baylis, So.; Johnny Mundt, So.; Pharaoh Brown, Jr.; Koa Ka'ai, Jr.; Davaysia Hagger, RFr.