Who will step up for the Ducks in 2012?
Last season, the Oregon Ducks won their first Rose Bowl in 95 years, but with playmakers such as LaMichael James, Darron Thomas and Lavasier Tuinei no longer with the team, they’re going to need big performances from the rest of the roster next season.
Head coach Chip Kelly knows how to get the best out of his players, so if you’re looking for someone to step it up next year, watch closely for these players in 2012:
5) Terrance Mitchell
The Oregon Ducks found themselves without cornerback Cliff Harris last season, and as a result, struggled at times defending the pass one on one.
Terrance Mitchell, a true freshman a year ago, struggled in the season opener against LSU, but improved throughout the season.
With a year under his belt, and likely the No. 1 or 2 corner on the team, the sophomore could spark the rest of his career with a breakout season.
4) Kiko Alonso
Kiko Alonso’s time at the University of Oregon has been an up-and-down one at best. While Alonso has been seemingly plagued with legal trouble and underwhelming play, his final performance as a junior was worthy of Defensive MVP honors in the 2012 Rose Bowl.
If Alonso can keep his head on straight, his senior year could be a breakout one next season.
3) Daryle Hawkins
Daryle Hawkins, the one-time quarterback, should have an opportunity to make a name for himself at wide receiver next season if Josh Huff endures a serious enough penalty following his recent DUI charge.
Hawkins, a 6’4”, 198-pound athlete, had a decent spring game, recording 55 yards and one touchdown on four catches.
The junior from Omaha, Nebraska had a receiving average of 20.4 yards last season, and while his name still isn’t widely known by most Ducks fans, that could change by the end of the 2012 season.
2) DeAnthony Thomas
De’anthony Thomas had a fantastic freshman season. A freshman All-American, Thomas was a co-recipient of the CFPA Kick Returner Trophy, led the nation’s freshmen with 18 total touchdowns and was the only player in the country with 500 or more yards rushing, receiving and returning kicks.
As incredible as his freshman year was, expect Thomas to come out of the gates flying next season.
An all-purpose performer if there ever was one, Thomas will be expected to make plays all over the field.
He is a big-play threat on seemingly every possession, and he could very well be considered one of the best players in the nation by the time the year is done.
1) Kenjon Barner
Barner rushed for 11 touchdowns and nearly 1,000 yards last year behind James, and was a great No. 2 option the past few seasons.
In games where James has been hurt or struggling to impact the game, Barner has been able to use both his speed and strength to have major impacts running on both the outside and between the tackles.
Barner has been very good at Oregon so far, but as the new No. 1 option, expect nothing less than greatness from the senior back next season.