Darren Carrington

Oregon WR Dillon Mitchell must shine

Oregon WR Dillon Mitchell must shine

EUGENE - Oregon sophomore wide receiver Dillon Mitchell won't be able to shake the weight of expectations this season. Not with his immense talent. Not with the loss of senior Darren Carrington Jr.  And not with the team's need for someone, anyone, to emerge as a major threat in the passing game. 

"There's been pressure put on my shoulders," Mitchell said. "But I'm still just playing the game I love. People can expect a lot from me." 

Oregon's decision to move sophomore Brenden Schooler to wide receiver to bolster depth there could prove to be a shrewd move. But it won't matter much if Mitchell doesn't realize his potential. 

Coach Willie Taggart's dismissal of Carrington from the team following his DUII arrest eliminated that best player from an already thin group. Senior Charles Nelson is one of the premiere slot receivers in the Pac-12, if not the country. After Nelson, UO's returning wide receivers last season caught all of three passes for 17 yards. 

Two of those catches, going for a total of nine yards, belonged to Mitchell, who in 2016 was buried on a depth chart behind a very deep group. Gone are Carrington, Devon Allen, Dwayne Stanford and Jalen Brown, who transferred despite having a strong chance to start in 2017. 

But while Mitchell, a four-star recruit last season and 17th-rated receiver in the nation, didn't play all that much last season, he did, by all accounts, display elite potential during practices, which was one of the reasons why he didn't redshirt. 

"I’m just waiting on this season to showcase what I’ve always been doing,” Mitchell said. 

Mitchell wasn't excited to see Carrington, his mentor, leave the program. 

“When I first got here he was the first person to talk to me,” Mitchell said. “He was the first person to show interest in me. He taught me how to be a college football player."

Mitchell called Carrington, "a big brother."

“He had a lot of mistakes but he also did a lot of good things that people will never see,” Mitchell said.

Carrington was the team's best big-play threat. His combination of speed, ability, leaping ability and ball skills made him unique on this roster. Mitchell possesses similar talents, and, if he develops, could lessen the sting of losing Carrington. 

According to Mitchell, he has spent extensive time working out with Herbert during the offseason to improve their chemistry, and he's been working on fine-tuning the craft of route-running. 

“I want to become a more creative wide receiver and try things that haven’t been tried before,” he said. 

But doing in practice and doing on game days are two different things. Taggart is hopeful Mitchell will be the guy on Saturdays that he's seen in practice. One aspect of Mitchell that Taggart has noticed is coming along is that he is becoming more of an extrovert as his confidence has grown. 

“I think he’s coming out of his shell,” Taggart said. “He was very similar to Justin (Herbert).  Just a quiet guy and go about his business. But now you see him smiling and talking and being excited to go."

 

Ducks' WR Charles Nelson must be Justin Herbert's security blanket

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USA Today

Ducks' WR Charles Nelson must be Justin Herbert's security blanket

EUGENE - Oregon sophomore quarterback Justin Herbert will frequently be looking for a reliable receiver he can count on when times get tough this season. A target who will get open on time, in the right spot and make the catch, even tough catches should a pass be a bit off target. 

That receiver will be senior slot Charles Nelson. 

“He can do it all,” Herbert said. “I think we’re going to try to get him the ball as much as possible because he’s one of the fastest guys around. He’s a playmaker.”

Nelson is also the only receiver on the team with a proven track record of success. The elimination of senior Darren Carrington Jr. from the mix following his arrest for DUII - he transferred to Utah - thrust Nelson into the No. 1-receiver role where he must produce and help teach a slew of young receivers. 

“I just feel like I have to be more of a mentor for these guys,” he said.

Nelson's career has come full circle. In 2014 he was the lone true freshman receiver in the mix for playing time on a team with little experience at the position after Bralon Addison was lost for the year with a knee injury during spring practices. Fast forward four years later and Nelson finds himself as the lone senior receiver on a team with little experience at the position. 

Gone are six of Oregon's top seven wide receiver/tight end targets from last season. Nelson finished second in receptions with 52 for 554 yards and five touchdowns. Sophomore tight end Jacob Breeland was 10th with six grabs for 123 yards.

Consequently, the Ducks will rely on the rapid development of sophomore Dillon Mitchell (two receptions last year), redshirt sophomore Alex Ofodile (one reception last year), redshirt sophomore Malik Lovette (played cornerback last season), sophomore Brenden Schooler (started 10 games at safety last year, moved to receiver last week), and a host of freshmen receivers led by Darrian McNeal, who had a solid spring. 

Considering that Nelson started eight games at safety in 2015, the Ducks return almost as much collegiate defensive back experience at the receiver position as they do receiving experience. Oregon is hoping for a repeat of 2014 when the team returned just one receiver, Keanon Lowe, with more than 200 yards receiving in 2013.  

That 2014 season turned out just fine. The Ducks saw Nelson, Carrington, Devon Allen, Dwayne Stanford and Byron Marshall (who moved from running back because of a lack of receive depth) all explode as targets for quarterback Marcus Mariota. 

“Back then Keanon was the only guy with experience," Nelson said. "We ended up being one of the best receiving groups in the country and I feel like we can do that with this unit right here.”

For that to happen, Nelson must set the tone for the younger players on field, in the weight room and the meeting room. 

“Charles has been a great leader for us by showing us how it’s done,” Mitchell said.

Herbert has witnessed Nelson the leader in action: “He’s already done a great job with that. He’s already stepped up and put some of them under his wing.”

Oregon coach Willie Taggart said Nelson has taken it upon himself to act as big brother to the younger receivers. 

“We just told Charles to be Charles,” Taggart said. “We’re not going to ask guys to be more than they have to. With Charles, we didn’t ask him to do anything. I think he’s taken it upon himself to be that guy.”

More importantly, Nelson needs to be that guy Herbert can rely on to make plays. 

Utah players welcome former Oregon WR Darren Carrington Jr.

Utah players welcome former Oregon WR Darren Carrington Jr.

HOLLYWOOD, Cal. - Utah defensive tackle Filipo Mokofisi has a message for new Utes' wide receiver Darren Carrington Jr.:

The whole thing about him catching that 17-yard, game-winning touchdown pass with two seconds remaining during Oregon's 30-28 upset win last season at Rice Eccles-Stadium - don't go there. 

"I'm excited to get him," Mokofisi said Thursday during Pac-12 Media Days. Then, with a smile, he added: "Obviously that (touchdown play) hurt. And he can't talk about it. At all. I haven't met him yet, but Darren, if you're watching, you can't talk about it at all."

Carrington could make up for that play by making similar plays for the Utes this season. He is reportedly in the process of transferring to Utah after Oregon coach Willie Taggart dismissed him from the Ducks following a DUII arrest on July 1. 

Losing Carrington, who caught 112 career passes for 1,919 yards and 15 touchdowns during his career at Oregon and would have been the Ducks' No. 1 receiver this season, will hurt the Ducks' receiver depth. 

Utah is willing to take the chance that Carrington can put his checkered past behind him for four months, motivated by the fact that his NFL Draft stock has been sinking like a rock since he tested positive for marijuana prior to the 2015 national championship game, leading to a six-game suspension. 

A strong season for Carrington could help him recoup some of the future NFL money he has undoubtedly squandered with his antics. Such a performance could also help Utah, which will play at Oregon on Oct. 28. 

"We're all about second chances," Mokofisi. "We've had a lot of players in the past that have that. So, I feel like we'll be fine."

"I think we will do a great job embracing him as a player and as a person," Utah offensive tackle Salesi Uhatafe added. 

Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said accepting Carrington onto his team wasn't an easy decision. 

"It's always a tough decision when you're talking about a player that you're going to add to your program that potentially has a checkered past," he said. "You have to make a decision based on all the information you can gather. Based on the athlete's attitude. You know, is he remorseful? Does he understand that he's done some stupid things and ready to put it behind him and move on? There is so much that goes into it. It's a judgment call. You're not always right. But I feel in this case it was the right thing to do to give Darren another opportunity."

According to Whittingham, Carrington is on campus but not yet cleared to practice as he goes through the transfer process. Once completed, Whittingham said Carrington would be on a "short leash."

"He's a terrific talent on the field," Whittingham said. "One of the common denominators that came back from all the people I talked to about Darren was his fierce, competitive drive on the field, on the practice field. He's just a guy that is the ultimate competitor. Brings a toughness to that receiver position that will help us out."

Whittingham said he spent a lot of time talking to Carrington and his parents about what he must do to succeed at Utah. 

"You know, it was very apparent that he'll be the first to admit that he's done some dumb things, made some bad decisions," Whittingham said. "But he's got the right attitude right now. He's bound and determined to put this behind him, move forward. Try to have a successful senior year, and then hopefully have a chance to move on to the next level."

Oregon QB Justin Herbert reacts to loss of Carrington, thin WR depth

Oregon QB Justin Herbert reacts to loss of Carrington, thin WR depth

HOLLYWOOD, Calif. - Oregon sophomore quarterback Justin Herbert might be the most impacted by the departure of senior wide receiver Darren Carrington Jr. 

But Herbert said he is standing by coach Willie Taggart's decision to remove Carrington from the team following a DUII arrest in the early morning hours of July 1

"I think Darren has moved on and we have too," Herbert said. "We have a lot of great receivers still on the roster, so we're going to get those guys ready and let them make plays."

Carrington would have been the team's unchallenged No. 1 receiver. Now he will look to do damage with Utah after transferring there this week. Taggart warned the team when he took over in December that breaking rules would have consequences. Following through with Carrington, who has a track record of sketchy behavior, reinforced that mantra. 

"I don't know if he was trying to send a message," Herbert said. "He's a man of his word. He's the leader of this team. He's the head guy. We've just got to listen to him because he knows what he's talking about."

Herbert said he is confident in the pass catchers that remain, starting with senior slot Charles Nelson. 

"Charles is going to be a huge name this year," Herbert said.

The man to likely replace Carrington on the outside will be sophomore Dillon Mitchell, who last season caught one pass for nine yards. 

"He's going to be a great receiver," Herbert said. 

Nelson and Mitchell won't hardly be enough. Oregon has a history of seeing receivers get injured. Depth will be a concern unless younger players rise to the occasion. 

"But I think the main focus is getting the younger guys ready," Herbert said. "They gotta get the offense down and just have timing with them and gain confidence with them."

Freshman on the spot will be Jaylon Redd, Johnny Johnson III and Darrian McNeal, who might have earned a spot in the rotation during spring drills after arriving early to campus. Redshirt sophomore Malik Lovette could start now that Carrington is gone. 

"Fortunately we've had enough workouts where I think we have a lot of promising guys," Herbert said. 

Tight end depth will be an issue after losing three seniors, but the starting position should be fine with sophomore Jacob Breeland. 

"I know where he's going and he knows where I'm going," he said. "Just the entire year we've spent has been a huge bonus."

Despite the positive spin, losing Carrington's talent certainly will hurt. But losing the distraction he often brings could prove to be a blessing. 

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

Taggart would send lasting message by cutting Carrington loose

Taggart would send lasting message by cutting Carrington loose

TAMPA, Fla. - Oregon coach Willie Taggart can send a lasting message to his team and future players by removing senior wide receiver Darren Carrington Jr. from the Ducks, or at the very least issuing an extended suspension that makes him an afterthought. 

Carrington's DUII arrest early Saturday morning was a slap in the face to Taggart and the program. The very talented wide receiver during his career has displayed mostly self-destructive behavior that has hurt the team and his future. Taggart must not allow Carrington to take him down with him. 

Everyone who covers, follows or has been involved with Oregon football knows that Carrington has been a discipline issue. But Taggart, who took over for former coach Mark Helfrich last December, held out hope that the Carrington could turn things around under a new regime and with his NFL future clearly hanging in the balance. 

Through six months, all appeared well.  Taggart expressed extreme pride in Carrington's progress as recently as Friday afternoon. 

CSN is in the Tampa area this weekend to report on Taggart and his family for a television special that will air later this summer. While riding along with Taggart on Friday from Tampa to his home town of Palmetto, Fla., the new Oregon coach talked briefly about how well Carrington had been doing on and off the field since under the new regime.

"He's been great," Taggart said. "Academically. As a leader. He's been doing all the right things."

About 13 hour later, Carrington betrayed Taggart's belief in him when he was arrested at 3:15 a.m., Saturday morning and cited for DUII. According to reports, Eugene Police have accused Carrington of driving into a pole at a McDonald's drive-through before being arrested.

Taggart suspended Carrington indefinitely and said he would gather more information about the incident before making a decision about Carrington's future. 

This will be a tough decision for Taggart. Carrington is Oregon's best receiver on a team thin at the position. Losing him could cost the Ducks a win, or two next season. He is that good. He's also probably more trouble than he is worth.

In 2014, Carrington was suspended before the national championship game after testing positive for marijuana use. The six-game suspension extended into the following season and another game was tacked on after he violated a team rule during the fall. Last year, Carrington was accused of shoving and injuring a man in Eugene. 

At this point, Taggart must decide if keeping Carrington around is worth the headache. He clearly has learned nothing from recent Oregon examples of blown opportunities displayed by former star players, Cliff Harris and Colt Lyerla.

Carrington, a sure-fire NFL prospect, repeatedly makes bad decisions that are costing him millions of dollars. At this point, there is no reason to believe that he won't mess up again over the next six months. 

Keeping Carrington, if proven to be guilty, could hurt Taggart's credibility with the team as a disciplinarian, especially if the receiver were to mess up again down the road. Carrington has received numerous chances to fly straight and his transgressions have been quite serious. He repeatedly places his desires and impulses ahead of the team and his own career. 

By removing Carrington from the team, Taggart would be telling the entire Ducks community that he won't tolerate players who put themselves ahead of the team, no matter how talented and gifted they might be. 

Keeping Carrington around could have the opposite effect. How could Taggart tell young players to fly straight or else if Carrington were to have been allowed to smoke weed, allegedly commit assault, get arrested for DUII and a commit a host of other minor offenses by breaking team rules, etc., yet still remain on the team?

Taggart giving Carrington a chance under a new staff was admirable, even though many who knew the receiver believed him to be incapable of not being a problem. 

Now Carrington has directly betrayed Taggart. 

When former co-offensive coordinator David Reaves was arrested for DUII back in January, it took the university all of a day or so to begin the process of terminating him. Former wide receivers coach Jimmie Dougherty, with Reaves that night, was encouraged to leave the program, as well. He landed at UCLA. 

A coach should be held to a higher standard than a player. But this is not Carrington's first brush with trouble. So it would be inconsistent to let him stick around after getting rid of Reaves so quickly.

However, Taggart must also weigh the fallout for Carrington if he were to be removed from the team. There is a chance Taggart goes the same rout that former UO coach Chip Kelly took with LeGarrette Blount after he punched a Boise State player following a season-opening loss on the road. 

Kelly initially kicked Blount off of the team before having a change of heart and ultimately suspending the star running back for what amounted to 10 games. Blount remained on scholarship and on the team but still paid a severe price for his actions. 

By remaining on the team, Oregon allowed Blount to salvage his future, and although he wasn't drafted into the NFL the following spring, he has carved out a nice career that includes a Super Bowl championship. 

Does that happen if Kelly had completely ended Blount's college career following the Boise State incident? Tough to say. But Blount certainly benefited from Kelly's compassion. 

Carrington could do the same if Taggart shows some mercy. Carrington clearly needs help and would benefit from remaining within the structure of the program. At the very least he must be hit with at least a very lengthy suspension, one that makes Carrington an after-thought as practice fodder on the scout team for most of the season while he gets help. 

Or, maybe it's best for the Oregon program to simply let Carrington go. He could transfer to an FCS program and rehabilitate his image there if an FBS program won't take him. Carrington, who has alredy graduated, could go anywhere as a graduate transfer. 

This won't be an easy decision for Taggart to make. But it's clear that the decision he makes could have a lasting impact on the program, for better or worse. 

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

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

 

Oregon Spring game: Herbert and Team Free win 34-11

Oregon Spring game: Herbert and Team Free win 34-11

Team Free 34, Team Brave 11

How Team Free won: For starters, Team Free had quarterback Justin Herbert, who threw for touchdown passes to lead his team to the win Saturay at Autzen Stadium. 

While it's unfair to judge a quarterback competition based on a spring game, the fact is that the sophomore, who started seven games last season, appeared to be vastly superior to Team Brave's quarterbacks, redshirt sophomore Travis Jonsen and freshman Braxton Burmeister

Herbert threw two touchdowns in the first half. The first went for 13 yards on a throw to senior receiver Darren Carrington II that ended a 75-yard opening drive for Team Free. 

In the second quarter, Herbert found Carrington for a 30-yard touchdown to make the score 14-3. 

On the other side, Jonsen had a couple of highlight plays in the first half. He escaped pressure and then flipped a pass into the left flat to redshirt junior running back Tony Brooks-James for a gain of 19 to the Team Brave 47. Later, Jonsen threw deep down the left sideline to sophomore wide receiver Dillon Mitchell for 44 yards to the Team Free 30. That set up 36-yard field goal from redshirt freshman kicker Zach Emerson.

But other than that, Jonsen wasn't very impressive. He misfired on a couple of passes and had a deep ball intercepted when Team Free senior cornerback Arrion Springs snatched the ball out of the sky and fell to the ground at the 16. 

Burmeister flashed some serious running skills and certainly has a quality arm, but he also looked like a freshman. In the first half, he threw too early on a pass to senior receiver Charles Nelson, the pass was tipped and intercepted by freshman defensive back Billy Gibson.  

Herbert went 16 of 26 for 327 yards and three touchdowns. Jonsen was 5 of 15 for 86 yards with one interception. Burmeister was 3 of 7 for 63 yards and was sacked four times. He did rush for 57 yards on 

The game was limited to 24 minutes of running clock in the second half. 

Top performers: Brook-James gained 71 yards on 18 carries in the first half but was banged up on a pass play when Burmeister hung him out do dry on a deep ball and Springs hit him as the ball arrived. 

Brooks-James returned to action and in the fourth quarter scored on a one-yard run. He finished with 84 yards rushing and caught three passes for 43 yards. 

Freshman wide receiver Darrian McNeal caught four passes for 54 yards for Team Free.

Punter Blake Maimonte averaged 45.2 yards on four punts with a long of 49. 

Mitchell had three receptions for 75 yards for Team Brave. 

Carrington had three touchdown on four receptions for 116 yards. 

Royce Freeman rushed for 43 yards on 12 carries and a 1-yard touchdown for Team Free.

Plays of the game: Senior running back Kani Benoit, who finished with 105 yards on five carries,  took a hand off in the third quarter, cut left to open field then turned it up before crossing at an angle to the right side of the field to finish off a 95-yard socring run for Team Free to make the score 28-3. 

In the fourth quarter, Herbert heaved a deep pass down the right sideline toward a well-covered Carrington. But he leaped over the defender to haul in the pass for a 44-yard gain to the 17-yard line. 

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. 

Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert goes all Joe Namath before spring game

Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert goes all Joe Namath before spring game

Oregon sophomore quarterback Justin Herbert laid down a bit of a prediction for the Ducks' spring game, which will be played at 11 a.m. on Saturday at Autzen Stadium.   

Herbert, who went No. 1 overall to Team Free in the spring game draft, dropped a few names of players on his team. They include senior wide receiver Darren Carrington II and senior running back Royce Freeman. Essentially, the Ducks' best three offensive weapons from last season are on the same team.

Team Fire should score plenty of points. But will it win the game?

"Yeah," Herbert said while barely cracking a smile. "We'll win."

Team Fire is being coached by special teams coordinator Raymond Woodie while safeties coach Keith Heyward will head Team Brave, to be quarterbacked by redshirt sophomore Travis Jonsen. 

Oregon coach Willie Taggart said he likes to see the players get a little trash talk rolling but also wants them to focus on the main goal of the game. 

"Once everything happened and the teams were picked, you start to hear guys talking a little bit of trash about the game and what they're going to do," Taggart said. "You hear coaches talking a little trash. It's all fun and dandy but we also want to get better."

Taggart said he hopes to see a lot of plays being made by his young team after four weeks of installing a new offense and a new defense. He also wants to see which players will rise to the occasion in a game atmosphere. 

"I'm excited to see our team go out and actually play in front of people," Taggart said. "I've always said, 'the spotlight does strange things to some people.'  Some people show up and show out. Some people hide. We want those guys that are going to show up and show out. The guys that are going to hide, we probably need them to stay in the locker room."

Herbert, the odds-on favorite to be the starter next season, said he likes how the team has progressed during spring drills, especially after everyone became more comfortable within Taggart's offense. 

"I thought we did a lot of good stuff near the end," he said. "I think we started slow."

As for the game, Taggart recognized that Team Fire might appear to be a bit loaded. But, he added that he doesn't believe that means they are going to win. 

"(Fire's roster) looks stacked but the best team usually wins, not the best players," Taggart said.