By Rob Moseley
The Oregon football program released a two-deep for Saturday’s opener against South Dakota at Autzen Stadium (7:30 p.m. PT, Pac-12 Networks), which reflects the Ducks’ experience on defense despite several losses to graduation, and the anticipated impact of several newcomers on offense and special teams.
Five true freshmen are on the two-deep released Monday, including long snapper Tanner Carew, who is first-string. Running back Royce Freeman, a standout in preseason camp, is listed as a potential starter along with veterans Byron Marshall and Thomas Tyner, while receiver Charles Nelson and right tackle Tyrell Crosby are listed as backups. Walk-on Aidan Schneider is the backup to Matt Wogan at placekicker.
Running back wasn’t the only offensive job still to be determined with five practices left before the first game. Pharaoh Brown, Johnny Mundt and Evan Baylis all remain in the mix to start at tight end; Dwayne Stanford and Darren Carrington are battling at a receiver spot; and Jake Pisarcik is pushing returning starter Cameron Hunt at right guard.
Hunt was one of five returning starters on the UO offensive line, but it could look dramatically different for the opener. With Tyler Johnstone recovering from a knee injury, the Ducks have moved Jake Fisher to left tackle, and inserted Andre Yruretagoyena at right tackle.
At receiver, Stanford is coming off a redshirt year due to a knee injury, and Carrington is a redshirt freshman, as is Devon Allen, who is listed as the starter out wide.
It’s a different story on defense, where nearly everybody in the two-deep boasts significant college experience. The only potential newcomer in the starting lineup is safety Tyree Robinson, who remains in a battle for that job with Reggie Daniels.
Among the “new” projected full-time starters for 2014 are defensive end Arik Armstead, nose guard Alex Balducci, outside linebacker Tyson Coleman, safety Erick Dargan and cornerback Troy Hill. All are upperclassmen who have significant experience in the Ducks’ regular rotation.
The backup defensive line does boast two newcomers, in JC transfer Tui Talia and converted tight end T.J. Daniel. Redshirt freshman Danny Mattingly is a backup at linebacker, and he’s joined by classmates Chris Seisay and Juwaan Williams in the secondary.
On special teams, redshirt freshman walk-on Ian Wheeler is listed as the punter against South Dakota. Keanon Lowe and Tyner will return kickoffs, backed up by Nelson and JC transfer Zac Schuller. Cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu is projected as the punt returner, backed up by Lowe or Carrington