Alex Ofodile

Willie Taggart sends message with removal of WR Darren Carrington Jr. from team

Willie Taggart sends message with removal of WR Darren Carrington Jr. from team

Oregon coach Willie Taggart has removed the team's best wide receiver, Darren Carrington Jr. from the program following a DUII arrest in the early morning hours of July 1, and in the process sent a message to the rest of the Ducks that certain levels of misconduct won't be tolerated. 

Taggart, through the athletic department, issues the following statement: 

"I have visited with Darren Carrington and informed him that he is no longer a member of our program. We will always consider Darren a Duck and support him in any way we can. We wish him all the best in his future endeavors."

The decision could not have been all that easy for Taggart. Carrington is the team's best playmaker on offense in the passing game, and maybe all around. But he has had far too many off-the-field transgressions to be ignored, including being suspended for the 2015 national title game due to testing positive for marijuana use, and for being accused of assaulting someone last fall. 

Plus, Carrington, according to sources on the previous coaching staff, has committed a series of relatively minor to semi-serious transgressions that have indicated he hasn't taken discipline seriously while at Oregon. 

Taggart wiped the slate clean with Carrington back in January and as recently as about 12 hours before the player's approximate 3 a.m. arrest on July 1, praised his star for the progress he had made on and off the field. Then, the following morning, Carrington betrayed Taggart's trust and belief in him.

When Taggart took the job last December he informed the entire team that it would not get him fired as it had Mark Helfrich by lacking discipline, cutting corners and losing games. "Try me," he warned the Ducks. 

By all accounts, the team as a whole got the message. Players who were not giving 100 percent under Helfrich were flying straight under Taggart or getting out of Eugene. 

Carrington is the latest and he has been dismissed the hard way. The good news for him is that as a recent graduate - a testament to him committing to academics - Carrington could transfer to play anywhere in the country. He could easily rehabilitate his image with one great season and end up in the NFL, where his talents belong. 

For Oregon, this puts a lot of pressure on sophomore wide receiver Dillon Mitchell to become a legitimate threat in the lineup that now only includes one proven pass receiver, senior slot Charles Nelson.

Oregon will also need sophomore tight end Jacob Breeland, and wide receivers, redshirt sophomores Alex Ofodile and Malik Loveette, and freshman Darrian McNeal, to rise to the occasion and provide adequate to elite targets for sophomore quarterback Justin Herbert. 

It's a lot to ask for. It could safely be said that losing Carrington will cost Oregon a game or two next season, especially given that the defense - 128th in the nation last year - will likely still have major holes this season. 

But, in the long run, this is a move that could pay dividends by leading to a roster that now has an example of an elite talent being let go because he didn't follow team rules. 

That reality could result to a better overall program as Taggart's regime moves forward. 

Ten Ducks that must rise in 2017: No. 8 - WRs Ofodile, Lovette and McNeal

Ten Ducks that must rise in 2017: No. 8 - WRs Ofodile, Lovette and McNeal

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. 8: Wide receivers Alex Ofodile, Malik Lovette and Darrian McNeal.

The status of senior wide receiver Darren Carrington Jr. remains unclear. Oregon coach Willie Taggart suspended Carrington - easily the team's best wide receiver - indefinitely following his DUII arrest late last month. 

Let's assume for now that Carrington will play this season giving the Ducks a legitimate No. 1 receiver to play alongside senior Charles Nelson, one of the best slot receivers in the Pac-12, if not the nation. That still leaves the Ducks in need of sophomore Dillon Mitchell to emerge in order to give UO three legitimate starters for its three-receiver offense. That's why Mitchell checked in at No. 2 on this list. 

Even if Mitchell delivers the Ducks will undoubtedly need more than three capable receivers to survive the season, especially given the fast pace of the offense and the injury factor. Oregon, over the last few years, lost Bralon Addison, Devon Allen, Byron Marshall and Dwayne Stanford to injury, and Carrington to a suspension. If not for the Ducks' depth at the position, UO would have been sunk on offense.  Oregon must uncover similar depth for this season.

The 6-foot-3 Ofodile, a redshirt sophomore and former four-star recruit, has yet to live up to his potential and was slowed by a foot injury during spring drills. He, however, remains a candidate to emerge as a reliable target in his third year at Oregon. 

Lovette, the former receiver turned defensive back turned receiver again, opened some eyes during spring drills and is virtual shoe-in to contribute this season.

"He can help us," Taggart said of the redshirt sophomore. 

Then there is McNeal, a poor man's version of former UO star De'Anthony Thomas whose love for the game, Taggart said, is matched only by the 5-foot-9, 160-pound ankle-breaker's play-making abilities. 

The last time UO needed this much new help at wide receiver was 2014 when the Ducks returned just one receiver of consequence, Keanon Lowe. That situation turned out just fine with the emergence of Carrington, Nelson, Allen and Stanford, and Marshall shifting from running back to receiver.

Oregon doesn't need quite as much help this time around with Nelson and Carrington returning, but also the Ducks still need capable bodies for quarterback Justin Herbert to target. But what if Carrington does not return...

Taggart would be more than justified to cut Carrington loose if he truly was guilty of DUII given his past transgressions. In that scenario, the Ducks would be in huge trouble because not only would depth be a concern but the team would be minus a legitimate lead receiver to lean on. 

At the end of the day, it's logical to assume that Taggart will find enough receivers to get the job done to a certain extent. But in order for the Ducks to score enough on offense to compensate for what will likely still be at best a mediocre defense, the receiving corps had better find some competent new faces in a hurry. 

The working list

No. 1: Cornerback Thomas Graham Jr. 

No. 2: Wide receiver Dillon Mitchell.

No. 3: Nose tackle Jordon Scott

No. 4: Freshman quarterback Braxton Burmeister

No. 5: Sophomore tight end Jacob Breeland

No. 6: Sophomore linebacker La'Mar Winston.

No. 7: Redshirt sophomore nose tackle Gary Baker. 

No. 8: Wide receivers Ofodile, Lovette and McNeal.

No. 9: Safeties Brady Breeze and Billy Gibson

No. 10: Several freshman must deliver

Five Ducks' spring game storylines: No. 3 - Finding WR depth

Five Ducks' spring game storylines: No. 3 - Finding WR depth

Oregon's spring game kicks off at 11 a.m. on Saturday.  Here is a look at one of the five reasons why you should care. 

No. 3: Oregon searches for wide receiver depth. 

We know senior wide receiver Darren Carrington II has elite talent. We know that senior Charles Nelson makes defenders look silly in the open field.

We also know that beyond those two we know very little about the rest of the crew.

Wide receiver is a legitimate area of concern for the 2017 Oregon Ducks. It's not an area worth panicking over, however. Not yet, at least. The Ducks have been in worse situations on paper like in 2014 when the top returning receiver was Keanon Lowe at 233 receiving yards the previous year and No. 1-wide receiver Bralon Addison was out for the season with a knee injury.

That potential problem worked out just fine with quarterback Marcus Mariota winning the Heisman Trophy by throwing to previously unproven targets, Byron Marshall, Devon Allen, Dwayne Stanford, Lowe, Carrington and Nelson.

Three short years later and only Nelson and Carrington remain leaving the Ducks to search for their next batch of elite pass catchers. Oregon hopes they are already on the roster. 

Sophomore Dillon Mitchell, who scored two touchdowns in last year's spring game, is a potential star loaded with talent. Redshirt sophomore Alex Ofodile, injured all spring, was a recent four-star recruit. But he is out with a foot injury. 

Then there are the serious wild cards. Freshman Darrian McNeal, a three-star recruit who enrolled early enough to be on hand for spring drills, has the open-field moves of Nelson minus the elite speed. Malik Lovette, a converted defensive back, has also shown positive signs during spring. 

"He's done some nice things for us," Taggart said of Lovette. 

Lovette actually went to Oregon as a receiver in 2015 before switching to cornerback during fall camp. He ultimately redshirted before entering the 2016 season as a potential contributor. That didn't quite pan out and Lovette now finds himself back on offense, where the Ducks certainly need receiver depth. 

Oregon will also welcome in a handful of freshmen receivers in the fall. 

But it's safe to say that Taggart would like to see a couple of the young guys show something on Saturday. Then again, that can always be taken with a grain of salt. As previously stated, Mitchell scored on two spectacular touchdown grabs during last year's spring game but did virtually nothing during the regular season. 

Still, a few flashes of potential from the youngsters would be better than none at all. 

Other entries: No. 1 - QB Travis Jonsen; No. 2 - CB Thomas Graham Jr. 

Taggart and Ducks enter spring with five glaring questions

Taggart and Ducks enter spring with five glaring questions

The Willie Taggart-era at Oregon on the practice field began this morning when the Ducks opened spring drills, which will include 14 sessions before the Spring Game on April 29. 

Oregon enters spring with a new staff but most of the same players who were largely responsible for a 4-8 season in 2016, a year that led to the firing of former coach Mark Helfrich and a staff that featured some assistants who had been in Eugene for as many as 20-plus years.

In order to win right away, Taggart must do so with the players recruited by the former staff. That's not impossible. In fact, it's highly likely. Oregon played mostly a young and battered group in 2016. It's a core that should be considerably better in 2017 after taking their collective lumps during the program's first losing season since 2004 (5-6). 

That development process began during the winter and continues this spring. Many questions linger for this staff to sort out, but here are five that must be addressed this spring: 

1. Will a quarterback controversy develop or will Justin Herbert re-establish himself as the guy for this new staff? The only quarterback in Oregon history who at the same age could have beaten out what we saw from Herbert as a freshman would be Marcus Mariota. Maybe. That's how good Herbert is. So, when Taggart says that the position is open, he is essentially hoping that either redshirt freshman Terry Wilson Jr. or redshirt sophomore Travis Jonsen demonstrates some Mariota-level skills.

We shall see. 

Herbert took over as the starter in week 6 and in seven starts completed 63.5 percent of his passes for 1,986 yards and 19 touchdowns with just four interceptions. Project those numbers out over 13 games (with a bowl) and you get 3,688-35-6. Those numbers are almost identical to what Mariota put up in 2013 (3,665-31-4) as a redshirt sophomore while playing on a much better team.  No doubt Taggart witnessed all of Herbert's skills while reviewing game video from last season. 

Still, Taggart points out that UO won just four games, so whatever Herbert did last season wasn't good enough. Truth be told, Herbert won just two of those four (Arizona State and Utah), but Mariota wouldn't have won much more with the defense Oregon put on the field. 

Taggart does liked the physical abilities he saw from Wilson and Jonsen during winter workouts, but added that Herbert has also looked great, so far. 

“Really impressed with winter conditioning watching him run around and change directions, and doing those things," Taggart said. 

Now, Taggart wants to see Herbert, or another quarterback, become an established leader. 

“At the end of the day, I want to see who can lead this football team," Taggart said. "Who can get this team to rally around him.”

Let the QB games begin. 

2. Are there any young playmakers at linebacker not named Troy Dye? Dye made a name for himself last season as pretty much the only playmaker on defense. The Ducks will return to the 3-4, defense, which means UO needs three other linebackers to emerge. Seniors A.J. Hotchkins and Jimmie Swain must improve. Also, Oregon could use someone among the young group of sophomores La'Mar Winston Jr. and Keith Simms, and redshirt freshman Eric Briscoe, to breakthrough. 

"We have to get more athletic at that spot," Taggart said.

Translation: "We lack ballers."

Oregon will be looking for more of those this spring. 

3. Are there any playmakers along the defensive line at all? We must continue on with the defense because that side of the ball was so bad last season. So bad that there really weren't any bright spot along the defensive line to be found. 

Taggart, however, said he believes that some playmakers exist upfront. Mass confusion on defense last year, he added, led to a lot of young defensive linemen not being able to flourish. 

"Usually when you don't know what you're doing, you'll get your butt whooped," Taggart said. "But there's some potential."

Jalen Jelks, Henry Mondeaux, Gary Baker, Rex Manu, Drayton Carlberg, and others, all must develop this spring or opposing offenses will once again trample the Ducks. 

4.  Can Dillon Mitchell and Alex Ofodile ease concerns about depth at wide receiver? Oregon returns two wide receivers of consequence: seniors Darren Carrington II and Charles Nelson. Taggart needs about four more receivers for him to be comfortable about the depth at this position. 

Sophomore Dillon Mitchell and redshirt sophomore Alex Ofodile are both former four-star recruits and the next men up. But the jury is out on both. They could either emerge this spring or open the door for one of seven freshmen receivers to take their jobs. 

One such freshman already on campus is three-star recruit, Darrian McNeal, a quick elusive receiver in the mold of Nelson and former UO star, De'Anthony Thomas, but not quite as fast, according to Taggart.

Taggart said McNeal's love for the game shows in his play, play that could get him on the game field right away. 

But for this position to take off, Mitchell and/or Ofodile must take major strides in their development this spring. 

5. How will a new coaching staff mesh? Defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt and cornerbacks coach Charles Clark worked together in Colorado. Taggart brought two South Florida assistants, special teams coordinator Raymond Woodie and running backs coach Donte Pimpleton, to UO from his former team. Other than that, no other coaching connections exist on this staff. 

So, stands to reason that there could be some growing pains as the staff learns to work together. 

"Not everybody has been around me," Taggart said. "A lot of things I might not like and I'll continue to coach those guys up and get it the way that we want it."

So far, Taggart said, the staff has worked together very well. Camaraderie and enthusiasm have been high. Taggart said it helps that Leavitt and co-offensive coordinator Mario Cristobal are former head coaches who get the process. 

We will see if harmony continues or if some feathers get ruffled along the way. Especially if the previous four questions go unanswered and the team is left floundering in a sea of mediocrity during year one of the Taggart era. 

How Oregon's recruits fit in: WR/TE - Freshmen must contribute at receiver

How Oregon's recruits fit in: WR/TE - Freshmen must contribute at receiver

Oregon coach Willie Taggart last week signed his first recruiting class, which Rivals.com ranked No. 18 in the nation. Now CSN is taking a look at how each new recruit could fit into the Ducks' plans next season.

Other entries: Quarterbacks, Running backs, Offensive linedefensive lineLinebackers, Defensive backs.

Today: Wide receivers and tight ends.

New Ducks: WR - Jaylon Redd (5-9, 180, Rancho Cucamonga H.S., Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.), Daewood Davis (6-2, 175, Deerfield Beach H.S., Hollywood, Fla.), Johnny Johnson III (6-0, 194, Chandler H.S., Chandler, Ariz.), Darrian McNeal (5-9, 160, Armwood H.S., Seffner, Fla.) and Bruce Judson (5-9, 203, Cocoa H.S., Cocoa, Fla.). TE- None. 

Projected 2017 starters: WR - Charles Nelson, Sr., (5-8, 170), Darren Carrington II, RSr., (6-2, 205), Dillon Mitchell, Soph., (6-1, 195). TE - Jacob Breeland, RSoph., (6-5, 240). 

Key backups: WR - Alex Ofodile, RSo., (6-3, 190),  Casey Eugenio, RJr., (5-8, 175), Dylan Kane, RSo., (6-3, 195). TECam McCormick, RFr., (6-5, 240), Ryan Bay, RSoph., (6-4, 235). 

The situation: Devon Allen is focusing on winning gold at the 2020 Summer Olympics. Dwayne Stanford graduated. Jalen Brown transferred to Northwestern. Consequently, UO is left with four returning scholarship wide receivers. 

That's not enough. The Ducks see at least two receivers go down with injuries in most seasons, just as Allen and Stanford did in 2016. 

It's quite clear then that Oregon is likely to need contributions from at least two freshmen receivers in 2017. Carrington, Nelson and Mitchell are the front-runners to start with Ofodile figuring to at least get in on the action. 

After them, Oregon will have to look for help from the freshmen class. 

Rivals.com rated Redd, a four-star recruit, as the No. 8 athlete in the nation. Johnson, McNeal and Davis were a three-star recruits.  Judson, a four-star recruit as an athlete, could very well play receiver.

Based on hype, Redd and Judson figure to have the best chance to see playing time as freshmen. But nobody say Nelson coming in 2014 when he became an impact freshman seemingly out of nowhere. 

Things are more dicey at tight end where the Ducks lost three tight ends from last year. The Ducks failed to land a signature from Josh Falo, who ended up at USC.

So the Ducks are left with two scholarship tight ends. Breeland, a three-star recruit in 2014 (Rivals.com), and McCormick, a three-star recruit in 2016 who redshirted last year, will carry the burden.

Breeland caught six passes for 123 yards while flashing signs of being and impact receiver. 

The verdict: There will be some lively competition at wide receiver among the freshmen with two likely becoming rotation players while three redshirt for the future. As for tight end, Oregon should certainly use a late get, maybe a transfer to help with the lack of depth. 

Next up: Offensive line. 

Oregon 2017 Outlook - WRs: Position thin after loss of Jalen Brown

Oregon 2017 Outlook - WRs: Position thin after loss of Jalen Brown

Oregon's worst season (4-8) since 1991 (3-8) led to a coaching change. Yet, the Ducks' cupboard is hardly bare for new coach Willie Taggart. We will take a position-by-position look at what the new coaching staff will have to work with while trying to turn things around in 2017.

Other entries: QuarterbacksRunning backs; Tight ends, Offensive line, Defensive line, Linebackers, Defensive backs

Today: Wide receivers.

Key losses: Devon Allen, after suffering a season-ending knee injury at Nebraska, announced that he would focus 100 percent on track and field and winning a gold medal in 2020. Senior Dwayne Stanford, lost for the year at Washington State, is gone. Redshirt junior Jalen Brown announced via Twitter that he plans to transfer.   

Projected 2017 starters: Charles Nelson, Sr., (5-8, 170), Darren Carrington II, RSr., (6-2, 205), Dillon Mitchell, Soph., (6-1, 195)

Key backups: Alex Ofodile, RSo., (6-3, 190),  Casey Eugenio, RJr., (5-8, 175), Dylan Kane, RSo., (6-3, 195). 

What we know: Carrington's return is good news only if he matures into a leader that matches his talent. If not, he could run into trouble with new coach Willie Taggart's quest to restore discipline to the Ducks. Carrington is super talented and could improve his draft stock with a productive season and a shift in the attitude department. His 43 receptions for 606 yards and five touchdowns (tied) led the team in 2016. 

Nelson contributed 52 receptions for 554 yards and five touchdowns. He should continue to thrive in Taggart's offense.  

After these two...

What we don't know: Remember when Oregon had Carrington, Nelson, Allen, Stanford, Addison and Brown in 2015? That group was stacked with talent. This group? Not so much. At least not with proven talent.

But, let's not forget that in 2014 the Ducks returned the least amount of receiver production in 20 years and then discovered an embarrassment of riches despite Addison missing the season with a knee injury. Maybe that could happen again with the current group of young receivers. 

Mitchell, a four-star recruit in 2016, flashed some open-field running ability as a punt returner late in the season, but he caught just two passes for nine yards. Ofodile, a four-star recruit in 2015, got his feet went last season, but caught just one pass for eight yards. Kane, a three-star defensive back recruit in 2014, moved to wide receiver in 2015 and has yet to make a reception. Eugenio, a walk-on, frequently was listed on the two-deep depth chart also didn't make a reception. 

New receivers coach Jimmie Dougherty has his work cut out for him in the department of developing depth.  It's safe to say that without Brown, the Ducks will need both Mitchell and Ofodile to emerge in 2017. 

Even if they do, the Ducks could still need a freshman recruit, or two, to contribute in order to make it through the season.  The Ducks have received verbal commitments from four-star recruit Jaylon Redd and two three-star receiver recruits, Johnny Johnson III and Darrian McNeal

Final word: The Ducks should be fine at this position as long as they don't suffer serious injuries. Counting on freshmen could be dicey. Best-cased scenario is that Mitchell and Ofodile live up to their potential.  

Position grade: C. The depth enjoyed from 2014 through 2016 is gone and one of the two returning starters has been proven to be unreliable at times. That makes this an average group. For now. 

Next up: Offensive line.

Oregon wide receiver Jalen Brown announces he will transfer

Oregon wide receiver Jalen Brown announces he will transfer

Oregon wide receiver Jalen Brown announced today via Twitter (below) that he plans to transfer after three seasons with the Ducks. 

The redshirt junior stated that he has received permission from Oregon to seek another program to join but also stated that he planned to remain at Oregon until June in order to graduate in three years.

Graduating would allow Brown to transfer to another FBS program without sitting out a season. However, if he waits until June to do so he would miss attending spring drills with his new team, which probably wouldn't help him in terms of earning more playing time with a new team than he would with Oregon in 2017. 

Brown caught 19 passes for 318 yards and three touchdowns in 2016, and also threw a 33-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Darren Carrington. Brown in 2015 caught seven receptions for 89 yards and a touchdown as a redshirt freshman. 

With Devon Allen (injury) and Dwayne Stanford (graduation) moving on, Brown is in effect the team's No. 3 receiver behind redshirt senior Darren Carrington II and senior Charles Nelson.  That pecking order sets up Brown to potentially be the Ducks' No. 1 receiver in 2017.

Former four-star recruits, sophomore Dillon Mitchell and redshirt sophomore Alex Ofodile round out the projected top five for 2017.

Without Brown, Mitchell and Ofodile would see increased roles. Ofodile caught one pass for eight yards last season while Mitchell had two receptions for nine yards, but did display skills as a punt returner last in the season. 

Roses or Roulette?: Ducks Preview Part 3 - WRs and TEs hard to beat

Roses or Roulette?: Ducks Preview Part 3 - WRs and TEs hard to beat

College football is back! The Ducks begin fall camp on Monday so we're breaking down each position to determine if the Ducks, picked to finish fifth in the Pac-12, and their fans will be smelling roses as Pac-12 champs during a trip to the Rose Bowl, or placing bets at a roulette table prior to watching a sixth-place UO team in the Las Vegas Bowl. Each position is graded using the poker hand scale.  

Today: Wide receivers and tight ends. 

Projected starters: WR - Senior Dwayne Stanford (6-5, 205), junior Charles Nelson (5-8, 170) and redshirt junior Darren Carrington II (6-2, 195).  TE - Senior Pharaoh Brown (6-6, 250). 

Key backups: WRs - Redshirt junior Devon Allen (6-0, 190), redshirt sophomore Jalen Brown (6-1, 200), freshman Dillon Mitchell (6-1, 190), redshirt freshman Alex Ofodile (6-3, 200);  TEs - Seniors, Evan Bayliss (6-6, 250) and Johnny Mundt (6-4, 245).

Smelling like roses:  Last season's receiving corps was the greatest in program history. Hands down. Gone, however, are Bralon Addison and Byron Marshall. Devon Allen is running the 110-meter hurdles at the Summer Olympics in Rio. Will he return to the football team? Likely. But even if he doesn't, and even without Addison and Marshall, this group remains loaded. Not quite as deep as last year, but loaded, nonetheless. 

Carrington could be the most talented Oregon wide receiver in program history. He served a six-game suspension last season for violating NCAA drug policies prior to the 2014 national title game, but still caught 32 passes for 609 yards and six touchdowns in seven games. Double his production over a full season and you have a potential All-American. 

Maybe the most fascinating piece will be Nelson. His return to the offense full time after playing safety much of last season could lead to a weekly fireworks show from the slot position reminiscent of De'Anthony Thomas. Nelson should receive touches in a variety of ways (screens, short passes, sweeps, reverses), all designed to get him into space, allowing Nelson to make defenders look silly. No way, if healthy, Nelson doesn't score at least 10 touchdowns this season. 

Stanford will be steady as ever. Jalen Brown is a budding star. Mitchell showed flashes in the spring game. Ofodile is a former four-star recruit. 

Then there's the return of Pharaoh Brown at tight end. He hasn't played since that horrible night at Utah in 2014 when he suffered a severe and grotesque leg injury. Now healthy, Brown could return to his NFL-caliber form. If so, watch out Pac-12 defenses. Mundt and Bayliss are solid, but they lack Brown's overall talent, which was special before the injury. 

Place your bets: Just like with the running backs, the Ducks can afford to lose a couple of pieces and remain potent. The only problem is finding enough opportunities for each star to shine. 

Odds are: The receivers, assuming a quarterback can get them the ball, will be as feared as any in the country. Carrington and Nelson will be the most feared receiving duo in the Pac-12.  

Poker hand: Four of a kind with a healthy and dominant Brown at tight end.  The receiving corps is certainly championship caliber. 

Next up: Offensive line.  

Other posts: QuarterbacksWide receivers/Tight ends; Offensive line; Defensive line; Linebackers; Defensive backs.