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Long: Ducks diversify the passing game, for the better



Six feet, three inches, packing 190 pounds and a 40-yard dash time of 4.5 seconds. That is the archetype for a traditional go-to receiver in college football. But if we know anything about Oregon’s offense, it’s that the Ducks are nowhere close to traditional.

On a team in which the leader in receptions is 5-foot-9, 176 pounds and doesn’t even play receiver, not much emphasis is put on looking the part of a conventional wideout.

In the past, Oregon has had at least one pass-catcher that somewhat fit the mold of a customary receiver. Jeff [email protected]@http://espn.go.com/nfl/player/stats/_/id/14590/[email protected]@ stood 6-foot-1, 185 and was the team’s leading receiver in 2009 and 2010 while D.J. [email protected]@http://www.goducks.com/ViewArticle.dbml?DB_OEM_ID=500&[email protected]@ ranked second in receptions for receivers in those same years and was 6-foot-1, 205. Lavasier [email protected]@http://espn.go.com/nfl/player/stats/_/id/15440/[email protected]@ was on both of those squads and then led the Ducks in catches last season as the biggest Oregon receiver in recent memory at 6-foot-5, 215 pounds.

Heading into this season, there was a lot of talk about Oregon’s receiving corps. The good was that the Ducks seemed loaded with speed and talent. The bad — a lack of experience and size. Josh Huff and Rahsaan [email protected]@http://oregon.gridirongirl.org/meet-ducks-part-iii-receivers/@@ both seemed set to play out wide as the most experienced and well-sized options, but Huff has struggled with injuries and inconsistency and Vaughn wasn’t insanely impressive in the spring and fall.

When Chip Kelly released the depth chart a week before the season, many were shocked to see that Vaughn was not listed in the top six for receivers, while 5-foot-9, 181 pound Keanon Lowe @@http://www.goducks.com/ViewArticle.dbml?DB_OEM_ID=500&[email protected]@was listed as a starter. Guess what? Chip Kelly couldn’t care less about a depth chart.

The Ducks list a ridiculous 17 receivers on their roster and incredibly, so far this season, 11 of them have caught at least one pass.

In tossing the depth chart out the window, Oregon this season has truly become the ultimate spread-option. Not only are the Ducks spreading the field, they are spreading the wealth — 16 different players have caught the ball in just four games, which is tops in the Pac-12.

The leading hands man has been De’Anthony Thomas, who has recorded 13 receptions for 165 yards and three touchdowns. He is a running back.

True freshman Bralon Addison and Dwayne [email protected]@[email protected]@ have 11 catches apiece but could not be more different. Addison, used in the slot and the backfield, (much like Thomas) is a 5-foot-10, 189-pound dynamo who is averaging 14.7 yards per catch, which is a team-best for players with more than five grabs. Stanford, on the other hand, plays out wide exclusively, using his lanky 6-foot-5, 195-pound frame as a possession receiver, with 9.6 yards per reception.

Lowe, virtually unknown to Duck fans last season, now has nine catches for 93 yards, while converted quarterback Daryle [email protected]@http://www.goducks.com/ViewArticle.dbml?DB_OEM_ID=500&[email protected]@ snagged his first touchdown of the season last week and now has a grand total of seven caught passes for 83 yards.

Do-it-all beast Colt [email protected]@[email protected]@, who is listed as a tight end but is now playing some tailback, has the body of a cage fighter and the leaping ability of a cat that he has used to seize eight passes for more than 100 yards and two touchdowns.

Huff has played in just one and a half of the Ducks’ four games, hampered by a knee injury. If he returns to action and meets his potential that has been lauded since day one, the Ducks would truly have a sizable, strong and deep threat.

Four games into the 2012 season, Oregon has displayed unprecedented diversity in size and skill set of who the quarterback is throwing to. The Ducks have guys ranging from 170-something pounds to 250, 5-foot-9 to 6-foot-5, catching the ball on the regular.

No defense can be ready for these matchup nightmares. How can even the most capable linebackers in the nation be asked to cover 6-foot-5, 246-pound Colt Lyerla on one play and on the next, 5-foot-9, 176-pound De’Anthony Thomas?

The new everybody-is-eligible mentality that the Ducks are employing is dangerous for defenses and serves as another example of Chip Kelly’s brilliance. If you have a ton of talent, why take the conventional route and try to distinguish the best while the rest are wasted on the sideline? Opponents are used to having to ask themselves who the ball is going to. Now they have to wonder — who isn’t it going to?


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Jackson Long

Jackson Long