These 5 WILL step up!
The Oregon Ducks will find themselves without Darron Thomas and LaMichael James next season, but don’t expect the offense to show any signs of slowing down.
Their two stars of the past are gone, but with a talented roster remaining in Eugene, there are a handful of player to watch out for when the season begins Sept. 1 against the Arkansas State Red Wolves.
5) Marcus Mariota
If named the starter, he’s going to be a dual-threat quarterback whose skill set and intangibles will help lead the spread-option offense to success right away.
If named the backup, Mariota will be the one looming whenever Bryan Bennett slips. Bennett will be a solid player if chosen to start, but with the talk surrounding the quarterback competition this summer, Mariota will be ready to step in should the time come next season.
4) Colt Lylerla
With a new quarterback in the lineup, having a tight end who can make plays is going to be hugely important to the team’s offense next year.
Colt Lyerla proved he can be a playmaker last season.
His five touchdowns on seven catches was impressive as a freshman, and with David Paulson gone, he becomes one of the most important pieces on the offensive side of the ball.
3) Daryle Hawkins
It will be very interesting to see who steps up at wide receiver next season.
Daryle Hawkins came to Oregon to be a quarterback, but after converting to wide receiver, his athleticism and playmaking abilities will be highlighted in the open field moving forward.
Josh Huff, Rahsaan Vaughn and B.J. Kelly will all have opportunities to step up next year, but if Hawkins is given the chance to succeed, he could become a big-time playmaker in Oregon’s offense.
2) Kenjon Barner
With the departure of LaMichael James to the NFL, this season will be Kenjon Barner’s time to shine.
Barner recorded 939 yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground last season as a backup. In games where James was unable to play in the past, Barner stepped in and put together great performances as a starter on more than one occasion.
Barner will be the No. 1 option on offense next season and will be heavily relied upon to take the pressure off a new quarterback.
1) De’Anthony Thomas
As a freshman All-American last season, De’Anthony Thomas led all freshman with 18 total touchdowns and was the only player in the nation with 500 yards or more rushing, receiving and returning kicks.
Thomas is a big-play threat on virtually every possession. Whether it be in the slot or out of the backfield, the ultra-talented player makes plays with not just his speed and agility, but with his incredible field vision.
Don’t be surprised if Thomas becomes the team’s best player next year, as he could very well find himself a Heisman Trophy finalist by the end of the 2012 college football season.