Gameday: Young wide receivers have Oregon’s offense firing on all cylinders
The consistent question throughout the preseason when discussing Oregon’s offense was: Who was Marcus Mariota going to throw to?
With the loss of Josh Huff and De’Anthony Thomas to the NFL Draft and Bralon Addison to a torn ACL in spring practice, it was undoubtedly an area of concern.
Yet eight weeks into the season, it appears a new line of wide receivers were just waiting to cash in on an opportunity.
“All of us (Oregon’s receivers) just want to be out on the field and make some plays,” Byron Marshall said. “Just because we were new and didn’t have a lot of experience, people had a lot of doubts about us, but that’s just the way it is.”
Halfway through Oregon’s season, the Ducks now have the answer as to who is going to step up, and to no surprise to themselves and the coaching staff, it’s been a committee of young stars who have emerged.
“We all had faith in an another and knew we had the talent. We just had to go out and prove it and we’ve done that so far,” Marshall said.
Marshall was presumed to be beginning the season as a running back, but because of his versatility, he is now Oregon’s leading receiver while taking most of his snaps appearing in the slot. He has 34 receptions for 388 yards and three touchdowns, often becoming Mariota’s outlet and most trusted receiver when the Ducks need a first down.
“I’ve never played receiver before, so it’s definitely different,” Marshall said. “I still have some things to learn, but I’m coming into my own now, getting a lot more comfortable out there and everything is becoming easier.”
In addition to Marshall, redshirt freshman Devon Allen has emerged as the team’s “big-play” threat, with 23 catches for 480 yards (19.1 yards per catch) and six touchdowns. Allen, the reigning NCAA 110-meter hurdles champion, has showed a display of burst and solid hands that have kept opposing defenses honest, thus opening up receiving lanes for Dwayne Stanford and Darren Carrington.
Stanford and Carrington turned in their best performances last Saturday, helping lead Oregon’s offense in last weeks 45-20 victory over rival Washington after they combined for 10 catches, 134 yards and a touchdown.
“We’ve been waiting for Carrington to have a great game — we got a lot of trust in him and he’s got a bright future ahead of him,” Oregon’s offensive coordinator Scott Frost said after the game. “Stanford has got some of the best hands we’ve had around here in a long time.”
Like Frost said, it was just a matter of time.
“When we get the opportunity to make plays, we got to take advantage of that,” Stanford said after the win. “Darren’s catch, we took advantage of that — Byron, that’s what he does by making people miss.”
Those questions about inexperience are long gone now. Mariota found eight different receivers last week and is now feeding the ball to one of the more talented receiving groups in all of the Pac-12.
Follow Ryan Kostecka on Twitter @ryan_kostecka