Oregon's running backs learning new tricks

Oregon's running backs learning new tricks

Running back drills during Oregon's spring practices have been a bit light on the running backs. 

Senior Royce Freeman, redshirt senior Kani Benoit, and redshirt junior Tony Brooks-James have been the only three going through drills under new running backs coach Donte Pimpleton in what appears to be a thin crew of familiar faces. But appearances can be deceiving. The Ducks remain very much stacked at the position regardless of the overall numbers. And the group is as close as ever.

“We’re like brothers,” Freeman said.

Oregon's running game should look quite familiar next season in new coach Willie Taggart's no-huddle offense, but there will be more of an emphasis in running straight ahead (downhill) and being physical, both along the offensive line and for ballcarriers, especially the 235-pound Freeman.

Taggart, who has reviewed all of last season's game film, said he believes Freeman must run behind his pads better. Meaning, he must be more physical and allow his size and pad level to go through defenders rather than provide tackling angles that benefit defenders. The same points were made about Freeman under former running backs coach Gary Campbell. But in the team's old system, the running game relied a bit more on finesse than this new system under co-offensive coordinator Mario Cristobal, who came to Oregon from power-running Alabama. 

Cristobal wants the offensive line to be more physical and has added some downhill running plays to Taggart's offensive scheme that the new run game coordinator wants to see Freeman exploit with his size and strength by delivering "body blows," similar to wearing down an opponent in boxing. 

“Come the fourth quarter, your yards per carry and your knockdowns you have, your trunk yardage plays and explosive plays should increase by a significant amount,” Cristobal said. "We want to make it so by the fourth quarter people don’t want to tackle Royce Freeman.”

Or, any other running back on the team for that matter. Cristobal said the entire group has shown toughness this spring. 

“You want to be around guys that enjoy collisions,” Cristobal said. “That search and seek opportunities to be physical and to be tough and to establish a mindset.”

Oregon's depth at running back will receive a jolt next fall. Junior Taj Griffin, who injured his knee late last season, could return at some point, or he could redshirt to save the year of eligibility. Either way, the Ducks will also welcome in freshmen running backs, C.J. Verdell and Darrian Felix. Cyrus Habibi-Likio could also play running back but is expected to start out on the defensive side of the ball. 

So, depth shouldn't be an issue. Then again, does a team really need more than Freeman, Benoit and Brooks-James to be successful? Not likely.

“You know you’re gong to get the same type of talent level [no matter who is] going in,” Benoit said. “There’s not going to be a drop off.”

Freeman said the group was reminiscing the other day about having been together for so long. Benoit will enter his fifth season at UO while Freeman and Brooks-James enter their fourth. The bond among the group, Freeman, said is strong. Benoit said that sense of brotherhood trumps any potential hard feelings about playing time. 

“We all feed off each other," Benoit said. "We all try to make each other better."

Pimpleton, Benoit said, has been working out well and in some ways is like Campbell in how he relates to the players.

“Really calm, but he gets his point across,” Benoit said. “We accept that well. He’s not a yelling coach, he’s not a berating coach. He tells you what you need to do, if not then you’ll come to the sideline. He’ll just waive you over.”

Pimpleton, who along with other assistant coaches who aren't coordinators hasn't been made available for interviews this spring, is putting a heavy emphasis on running backs learning to recognize defenses and fully understand the blocking schemes. 

"That helps us run a lot better knowing where our lanes are and where the holes are going to be," Benoit said. 

Jim Leavitt, Part 1: Enamored with state's beauty, Ducks' program

Jim Leavitt, Part 1: Enamored with state's beauty, Ducks' program

This is Part 1 of a three-part series on new defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt based on an extensive interview conducted for Talkin' Ducks, which first aired on Wednesday and will re-air several times in the coming week. 

--

EUGENE - If you follow Jim Leavitt on social media, or have simply heard him speak, you already know how much he loves scenic views and tranquil areas where he can get in his daily runs.

So there should be no surprise that Leavitt has become enamored with the state of Oregon and its colorful trees, green landscapes and just the right balance of snow capped mountains and lush hillsides.

Leavitt, 60, first discovered the beauty of this state when he made his first professional trip to the Oregon as Colorado's defensive coordinator in the fall of 2015. The Buffaloes were set to play at Oregon State on Oct. 24 and the team stayed in Eugene. 

The day before the game, which Colorado won 17-13, Leavitt said he went for a run along the Willamette River and up to Autzen Stadium. The surrounding beauty mesmerized him. 

“I remember calling my wife, Jodie, and I said, ‘if I ever get the opportunity to coach at Oregon, Iʼm going to do it."

Fast forward to 2016 when a Colorado interception in an Autzen Stadium end zone preserved a 41-38 win at Oregon that in many ways got the ball rolling toward Leavitt ending up with the Ducks.

Ironically, the Buffaloes' defense surrendered 508 yards of offense in that game to an Oregon team that was minus star running back Royce Freeman. But that win for Colorado, coming off of a strong showing at Michigan, made it clear that the program had turned the corner. The loss for Oregon made the Ducks 2-2 and raised red flags about a program in turmoil.

The Buffaloes finished the season with one of the top defenses in the country and the team reached the Pac-12 title game with a defense that ended the season having allowed just 21.7 points per game. Oregon, which went on to allow 41.4 points per game, finished 4-8. That led to the firing of Mark Helfrich and the hiring of coach Willie Taggart last December.

Soon after, Oregon hired Leavitt and paid him $1.125 million to turnaround a Ducks defense that ranked 128th in the nation. 

"Iʼve known coach Taggart for awhile, but when he had called and allowed me to be here and with [athletic director] Rob [Mullens] and everybody, I was overjoyed, because Iʼve always been intrigued by Oregon," Leavitt said. 

After accepting the job, Leavitt chose to drive from Colorado to Oregon. He drove through Burns and Sisters, taking in the sights.

“That was really kind of important for me so I can kind of get to know the state a little bit,” he said.

Oregon's state-of-the-art facilities created awe, as well. But not as much as those working within the Hatfield-Dowlin complex

“You can say all you want about the facilities here, but what has been the most impressive thing to me is the people,” he said. "Everything about Oregon is about championships and I like being in that kind of environment. So thatʼs been really impressive to me."

Part of Leavitt's appeal as a coach to his players is his boundless energy. 

"He's very enthusiastic and very upfront about what he wants from us on defense," senior linebacker Jimmie Swain said. "It's great having him around and having that enthusiasm out there on defense."

Sophomore linebacker Troy Dye said keeping up with Leavitt is difficult, even for the players.

"I didn't know he was in his 60s until he told us," Dye said. "I thought he was mid-40s, early-50s, something like that. He's always out there running with us...You've got to respect that type of energy."

So, where does that energy come from?

Leavitt joked that it might be the Pepsi he drinks religiously. Or, maybe it's his "love for the Lord." 

"I just feel so grateful for the opportunities that I have, certainly here at Oregon, every day I get here on the field," Leavitt said. "I just have learned to appreciate the opportunities that Iʼve had and appreciate being able to coach these guys, that these players allow me to coach them."

Also keeping him hopping are his two youngest daughters, Sofia, 7, and Isabella, 5.  

"I got Sophia, who just ran a 10k with me," he said. "And she went all the way. You know whatʼs funny is we ran the first two miles and she goes, 'dad, Iʼm a little tired, I might want to just walk a little bit.' Little did she know, I was praying, I was hoping so bad that she would say that so I could start walking. I was tired. So we walked a little bit, and then she looked at me and said, “letʼs go!” and I go 'oh my gosh here we go.'"

Then there's Isabella.

"That's my little tiger," Leavitt said. [They are] 18 months apart and they are something else, they really are."

They, too, have embraced Oregon. 

"They love the Ducks and theyʼve already got the Ducks cheerleading outfit on and they really have fun," he said. 

It's a new adventure for the Leavitt family. His career to date has been successful, even though controversy sullied is tenure as head coach at South Florida. He hopes to one day return to being a head coach and recognizes that turning around Oregon's defense would be a step in the right direction.

That quest begins in the fall. For now, he will take as much time as possible in between recruiting trips to soak in all that the state of Oregon has to offer someone who appreciates the outdoors. 

“I went out golfing and it's one of the most beautiful places I've ever been,” he said. “Just the hills, the trees, everything is so green and of course I know about all the rain and it ends up making everything so much more beautiful this time of year.”

It will remain so in the fall. But at that time, Leavitt will be knee-deep in trying to fix something that has been anything but aesthetically pleasing to watch the past two seasons. 

Next up: Part 2 - With big money comes big expectations. 

Payton Pritchard named to 2017 USA Men’s U19 World Cup Team

usatsi_9711712.jpg

Payton Pritchard named to 2017 USA Men’s U19 World Cup Team

USA Basketball Press Release:

COLORADO SPRINGS, Col. -  Six athletes with international experience, including three who helped the USA qualify for the 2017 FIBA U19 World Cup, were among 12 of the nation's top 19-and-under male basketball players named today to the 2017 USA Basketball Men's U19 World Cup Team.

As the 2013 and 2015 FIBA U19 World Champion, the United States will look for a third-consecutive gold medal at the July 1-9 FIBA U19 World Cup for Men in Cairo, Egypt.

Named to the 2017 USA U19 World Cup Team were: Hamidou Diallo (Kentucky/Queens, NY); Carsen Edwards (Purdue/Atascocita, Texas); Kevin Huerter (Maryland/Clifton Park, N.Y.); Louis King (Hudson Catholic H.S./Columbus, N.J.); Romeo Langford (New Albany H.S./New Albany, Ind.); Brandon McCoy (Cathedral Catholic H.S/San Diego, Calif.); Josh Okogie (Georgia Tech/Snellville, Ga.); Payton Pritchard (Oregon/West Linn, Ore.); Immanuel Quickly (John Carroll School/Bel Air, Md.); Cameron Reddish (Westtown School/Norristown, Pa.); P.J. Washington (Findlay Prep/Las Vegas, Nev.); and Austin Wiley (Auburn/Hoover, Ala.).

University of Kentucky head coach John Calipari is coaching the USA U19 World Cup Team with the assistance of Tad Boyle from the University of Colorado and Danny Manning from Wake Forest University.

"Every player on this team can play different positions and has different abilities," said Calipari. "Whether they're a point guard and a scorer or whether they're wing and a point guard, or a wing and a power player. We only took two true bigs, which is kind of dangerous. But, we decided that if we had to, we could go small and go zone. We could do it offensively and if they didn't have a real big guy, we'd just go, 'P.J., you just guard the guy. We're going to go pick-and-rolls, inside pick-and-rolls and slips and you're going to go play like a three anyway.'

"This is a really hard process. But it wasn't just me selecting these guys, USA Basketball is involved. This was done by committee, and it went back and forth. Everybody was giving opinions. We went to midnight and we still couldn't make the final decision, we had to sleep on it.

"Having to select the first group (finalists) was really hard and we ended up keeping three or four more guys, because we weren't ready to make a decision on those three or four. And then, we had couple of injuries, which ended up moving that number down. But, at the end of the day, there were three players for one spot and we had to choose one. We looked and said, 'okay. Who, if they had to, could help us?' And that's who we went with."

The USA Men's U19 training camp began June 18 with 27 athletes, 18 finalists were named June 20 and the team was selected following seven training sessions, held at the United States Olympic Trai ning Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

The team will remain in Colorado Springs and will train through June 25 before departing for Egypt.

Selections were made by the USA Basketball Men's Junior National Team Committee. Athletes eligible for this team must be 19 years old or younger (born on or after Jan. 1, 1998) and U.S. citizens.

Former Oregon Duck Aaron Wise earns PGA Tour card with win at Air Capital Classic

usatsi_9345541_147386290_lowres.jpg

Former Oregon Duck Aaron Wise earns PGA Tour card with win at Air Capital Classic

It has been a whirlwind of a year for professional golfer Aaron Wise, whose rise to through the pro ranks has been meteoric.

It was just June of last year that Wise won the NCAA Men’s Individual title and helped the University of Oregon win its first ever team championship. Wise became the first player since UCLA’s Kevin Chappell in 2008 to win both the individual and team championships in the same year.

Now he has his sights set on the PGA TOUR.

Wise played some of the best golf of his career for a wire-to-wire win at the 28th annual Air Capital Classic on June 18th.  Wise earned $112,500 for his victory and secured his PGA Tour card for the 2017-18 season.

At 20 years, 11 months, 28 days, Wise is the fourth-youngest winner in tour history. PGA Tour mainstay Jason Day, currently ranked No.4 in the world, set the record in 2007 winning the Legend Financial Group Classic at 19 years, 7 months, and 26 days. Not bad company for Wise.

“It’s a lot of history to go down with and it’s just a really cool feeling,” said Wise, who moved from No. 35 to No. 6 on the money list. “I played great all week so none of that surprises me but it’s great to be in that position.”

From start to finish, Wise had a historic weekend at the Air Capital Classic. He started 62-62, the lowest back-to-back rounds in the history of the Air Capital Classic, tied the second lowest 36-hole score (124) in Tour history, and his final score 21-under 259 was also a tournament record. His wire-to-wire win was also the first since Stephan Jaeger’s win at the Ellie Mae Classic in 2016.

Wise will officially receive his PGA Tour card at this year’s WinCo Foods Portland Open, Aug 21-27 at Pumpkin Ridge.  Tournament director Pat McCabe hopes Duck fans show up to support their former star.

“Congratulations to Aaron on his first win on the Web.com TOUR. It will be fun to have him at the WinCo Foods Portland Open in August. He has been on a tear through the golf world since he won the NCAA Championship as a Duck last year in Eugene. He has a very promising future on the PGA Tour” said McCabe. “Hope to see the U of O community come out and support Aaron as he competes for the top spot on the Web.com Tour and receives his PGA Tour card at Pumpkin Ridge. This is likely the last chance to see him play in the Pacific Northwest.”

For more information on the WinCo Food Portland Open, and to purchase your tickets to see Wise in action, visit wincofoodsportlandopen.com

QB Travis Jonsen's decision to transfer best for him, not for Oregon

QB Travis Jonsen's decision to transfer best for him, not for Oregon

The news that quarterback Travis Jonsen, who came to Oregon to become the next Marcus Mariota, will transfer only becomes an issue for the Ducks if starter Justin Herbert, who looks like the next Mariota, goes down and UO must turn to freshman Braxton Burmeister.

Unless, of course, Burmeister is the next Herbert.

Jonsen's decision, revealed yesterday, came as no big surprise. In fact, the most surprising aspect is that it took so long for the redshirt sophomore to pack up his locker and move on ten months after falling behind Herbert, and others, on the depth chart. 

Players want and expect to play. Especially quarterbacks, like Jonsen, once rated as the No. 3-dual threat prospect in the nation coming out of high school in 2015. He didn't go to Oregon to hold a clipboard and wear a headset. He went there to be the starter. 

Redshirt as a freshman? Fine.

Play the backup role for a year? Okay. 

Spend the next three seasons sitting behind a potential superstar like Herbert? No thanks!

The moment last fall when Herbert raced up the depth chart to become the backup to graduate transfer Dakota Prukop, Jonsen should have packed his bags. Adding insult to injury, Jonsen also fell behind true freshman Terry Wilson Jr., whom the Ducks planned to redshirt and did. 

The fact that Jonsen stayed, gutted it out and returned for spring drills is a testament to his commitment to try and make things work for the Ducks. Those criticizing him for running are being unfair. The window in life to play college football is brief and nobody remembers the faithful backup who wasted his talent on the sideline for the betterment of the team. 

New coach Willie Taggart, who took over for Mark Helfrich last December, offered a fresh start for all on the roster by stating that nobody had a guaranteed starting job. That opened the door for Jonsen to maybe seize the starting job away from Herbert. But Taggart had watched game video. He had seen Herbert throw for 19 touchdowns and just four interceptions over seven starts. Taggart watched Herbert throw for 489 yards against Arizona State and the six touchdowns thrown against California. 

Jonsen had, as well. Live. So had Wilson. Each had to have known that beating out Herbert was a long shot. Wilson got the hint sooner than Jonsen and left Oregon during spring drills. Jonsen held on two months longer before deciding that his best path to see the field would be to play a season at Riverside City College and then wait for offers from FBS programs looking for a transfer starter in 2018.

Jonsen could have picked the program last fall, transferred, sat out a year and now be eligible to play. However, now he can put together a body of work on the field at a level higher than high school and maybe entice more programs to seek his services.

Jonsen is leaving not because he couldn't cut it. Taggart has said he loves Jonsen's talent and believes he is a starting-caliber quarterback. But Herbert is simply more gifted and more proven. 

So where does this leave the Ducks? Well, let's say the situation is not dire but certainly not optimal. 

Oregon has been in this position before. 

In 2004, freshman quarterback Dennis Dixon beat out redshirt freshman Johnny DuRocher to earn the backup job behind junior Kellen Clemens. DuRocher transferred to Washington leaving the Ducks thin at quarterback. Oregon went 5-6 but Clemens never missed a start. 

In 2012, Mariota, then a redshirt freshman, beat out redshirt sophomore Bryan Bennett, who immediately considered transferring. Had he done so, the Ducks would have had to rely on true freshmen, Jeff Lockie and Jake Rodrigues to backup Mariota. Oregon avoided that potential hazard when then-coach Chip Kelly convinced Bennett to remain at UO for a season before he ultimately transferred to Southeastern Louisiana, where he proved dominant. 

Taggart couldn't work that same magic on Wilson or Jonsen and now finds himself with just two scholarship quarterbacks. Three if you count redshirt senior Taylor Alie, who saw action at quarterback in 2015 before being moved to wide receiver last fall.

Burmeister is the wild card in all of this. A 4-star recruit Taggart calls a football version of a "gym rat," Burmeister has put in countless hours of extra work on the field and in the film room.

If he is ahead of where Jonsen and Wilson were as true freshmen, the Ducks could be just fine if Herbert were to go down for a game or two.  

While Burmeister didn't shot much during the spring game in terms of throwing the ball accurately, he did display a live arm and very capable running skills that would serve him well in a spot start or two. 

Where things could become dicey is if Herbert went down for a lengthy period of time. In that situation, Jonsen could have stepped in and given the Ducks starting-caliber play, at least based on Taggart's view of his potential. 

Burmeister might be able to provide the same level of performance. He is just more of a mystery given that he has just 15 practices under his belt at the college level.

A downside to playing Burmeister at all is that Oregon would have to burn his redshirt. Ideally, Oregon could have sat him this season and created a two-year gap in eligibility status between him and Herbert. 

Another possibility at No. 3 behind Alie could be in-coming freshman athlete Bruce Judson, a four-star recruit out Cocoa High School in Cocoa, Fla.  He figures to play receiver at Oregon but did play quarterback in high school. 

But let's be real. Should Oregon be forced to dig that deep into the quarterback depth chart, figure that the Ducks at best would be headed to the Las Vegas Bowl. 

Things certainly have become more interesting at quarterback for the Ducks. But when you have a starter good enough to scare off two players as gifted as Jonsen and Wilson, that can't be considered a bad thing. 

Ten Ducks that must rise in 2017: No. 3 - NT Jordon Scott

Ten Ducks that must rise in 2017: No. 3 - NT Jordon Scott

Oregon's quest to improve greatly over last season's 4-8 record will depend on the rapid development of several young and/or previously little-used players. Here is a look at ten most likely to rise to the occasion in 2017.

No. 3: Freshman nose tackle Jordon Scott

The legend of Jordon Scott is starting to take root and will surely explode the first time the 335-pound nose tackle rips past an offensive linemen to make a for loss or a sack at Autzen Stadium. 

Scott should receive plenty of opportunities to do so after making it clear during spring drills that his combination of bulk, strength, speed and low pad level could combine to make him a force. 

Scott, out of Largo, Fla., has had to shed some weight since his arrival last winter. 

"Iʼm really proud of him," Oregon defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt said. "He came in about 358 lbs. and is down to about 330 pounds, in that area. Heʼs always been strong. Heʼs a very explosive guy and he has great character and he has great demeanor. And he has great confidence and knows what he wants. He knows what he wants to do in life, and those qualities are very, very important."

What's important for the Ducks is that they find someone, anyone, to hold up the middle of the defensive in Leavitt's 3-4 scheme. 

That person will be a combination of junior Rex Manu, redshirt sophomore Gary Baker and Scott. Graduate transfer Scott Pagano, from Clemson, could also play the nose position. 

But it's Scott who is the most intriguing. With his natural physical gifts, he has a chance to work his way into becoming an impact player - down the line. 

Don't expect Scott to take the Pac-12 by storm next season. He likely won't be in physical condition enough to be the guy inside for most of a game. However, do expect Scott to be in the rotation, making plays, learning and working his way toward potentially becoming a special player down the line. 

The working list

No. 1: Cornerback Thomas Graham Jr. 

No. 2: Wide receiver Dillon Mitchell.

No. 3: Nose tackle Jordon Scott

BREAKING: Oregon quarterback Travis Jonsen to transfer

BREAKING: Oregon quarterback Travis Jonsen to transfer

Oregon quarterback Travis Jonsen has decided to transfer, according to a program source, leaving the Ducks with just one veteran quarterback on the roster. 

Jonsen plans to transfer to Riverside City College where he could play this season then be eligible to transfer and play at a FBS program in 2018.

His move affirms that sophomore Justin Herbert was winning the competition with Jonsen to be the starter in 2017.

Jonsen follows redshirst freshman Terry Wilson Jr., who elected to transfer during spring drills. 

The loss of Jonsen makes true freshman Braxton Burmeister the backup to Herbert, and could thrust senior Taylor Alie back into the quarterback mix after he was moved to receiver in 2016. 

Jonsen came to Oregon as a four-star recruit in 2015 and No. 3-rated dual-threat quarterback in the nation. He redshirted as a freshman under coach Mark Helfrich and saw his development slowed by a turf toe injury. 

The following spring, Oregon brought in graduate transfer Dakota Prukop to compete with Jonsen for the starting job after moving Taylor Alie and Jeff Lockie to receiver.

Jonsen showed well and impressed coaches enough for them to believe that even if Jonsen lost the starting job the Ducks would be set at quarterback for the near future. 

However, during fall camp Jonsen regressed and fell all the way to fourth string behind Prukop, Herbert and Wilson, who was redshirting. 

Herbert eventually became the starter and ended up passing for 19 touchdowns while very much looking like a potential future superstar. 

Jonsen, however, elected to stay at Oregon and make a fresh start under new coach Willie Taggart, hired shortly after Helfrich and his staff were let go.

Taggart stated numerous times upon his arrival and throughout spring drills that Herbert would not be handed the starting and job and would have to compete with Jonsen and Wilson. 

Early into spring drills, however, Wilson bowed out of the competition and left. According to a source, Jonsen sought to leave UO before spring drills before electing to stay. 

Oregon's spring game, however, made it clear publicly that Herbert remained the best quarterback on the roster. 

Herbert completed 16 of 26 passes for 327 yards and four touchdowns. Jonsen completed 5 of 15 passes for 86 yards with an interception. 

 

Ducks receive commitment from Braden Lenzy out of Tigard

Ducks receive commitment from Braden Lenzy out of Tigard

The Oregon Ducks received a commitment this week from four-star athlete Braden Lenzy out of Tigard High School. 

Lenzy, who decommitted from Notre Dame and plays wide receiver and defensive back, is listed by Rivals.com at 6-foot, 165-pounds. Recruiting website 247Sports also rates Lenzy as a four-star recruit and as the No. 8-rated athlete in the nation. Rivals ranks him No. 16 on that list and as the No. 4 prospect in a deep in-state class of recruits. 

Lenzy, based on his Hudl highlight video, is a very smooth route runner and elusive after the catch. Although, the video didn't reveal much in the way of elite breakaway speed.  

The addition of Lenzy gives the Ducks 11 players on their commitment list for the 2018 recruiting class and bumped Oregon's class ranking up to No. 13 from No. 18. 

Oregon lands ex-ISU star MiKyle McIntosh

usatsi_9696127.jpg
USA Today

Oregon lands ex-ISU star MiKyle McIntosh

This off-season the Oregon Ducks have a few holes to fill after losing some key pieces from last season’s Final Four team. Well, help may have arrived in the form on Illinois State transfer MiKyle McIntosh.

McIntosh, a 6-foot-7, 234 pound forward, averaged 12.5 points and 5.6 rebounds last season for the Redbirds leading them to a school record 28-win season and a share of the Missouri Valley Conference title.

In April McIntosh decided to leave ISU and declare for the NBA Draft without signing an agent, leaving the door open for a return to the NCAA.  McIntosh worked out with a few NBA teams, including his “hometown” Toronto Raptors.

I looks like it became obvious in the workouts it would benefit McIntosh to head back to the college game.  McIntosh, who was considering Oregon and Oklahoma among others, took to his Instagram page on Wednesday to declare his final decision.

The addition of McIntosh continues Oregon’s influx of Canadian talent in recent years. It is not lost on Ducks fans that head coach Dana Altman has grabbed some great talent up north, including Dillon Brooks, Chris Boucher, and Dylan Ennis. 2017 commit Abu Kigab calls Canada home as well.

As a graduate transfer McIntosh with be immediately eligible to play for the Ducks.

 

Ten Ducks that must rise in 2017: No. 2 - WR Dillon Mitchell

Ten Ducks that must rise in 2017: No. 2 - WR Dillon Mitchell

Oregon's quest to improve greatly over last season's 4-8 record will depend on the rapid development of several young and/or previously little-used players. Here is a look at ten most likely to rise to the occasion in 2017.

No. 2: Sophomore wide receiver Dillon Mitchell.

Late last season when Mitchell returned a punt 45 yards against Utah he demonstrated the speed and athleticism that have made him such an intriguing prospect since he signed as a four-star recruit in 2016. The Ducks will need to see many more examples of his talent in 2017. 

Mitchell came to Oregon as the No. 17-rated wide receiver in the nation but ended up catching just two passes for nine yards while getting lost in a crowded depth chart at receiver. 

Injuries to Devon Allen and Dwayne Stanford thinned out that depth a bit but not enough to for Mitchell to become a major contributor. Now the depth at receiver is so thin that Mitchell will be needed to deliver in order for the passing game to reach its potential under sophomore quarterback Justin Herbert. All signs point to Mitchell being ready to make an impact. 

The Ducks will return just two proven pass catchers in senior wide receivers Darren Carrington II and Charles Nelson. Mitchell will enter fall camp as the No. 3 receiver in an offense that starts three receivers. 

Redshirt sophomore Alex Ofodile, injured all spring, was a four-star recruit in 2015. He will have a chance to compete for playing time. Freshman Darrian McNeal could be in the mix after a solid spring. So to could former cornerback Malik Lovette. Each presents some intriguing abilities but none are as complete as Mitchell could possibly be. 

Oregon coach Willie Taggart entered spring drills hoping to see Mitchell demonstrate play-making ability to match the hype. Taggart says he has been pleased with what he saw from Mitchell and expects him to be in the mix this fall and receive a chance to thrive. 

But it's up to Mitchell to seize the moment. How well he performs could be the difference in a game or two for the Ducks, who will likely need to play great on offense to overcome what figures to still be a mediocre defense. 

The working list

No. 1: Cornerback Thomas Graham Jr. 

No. 2: Wide receiver Dillon Mitchell.

No. 3: Nose tackle Jordon Scott