Things could have gone a lot better for Oregon in last weekend’s 35-32 loss to Nebraska. The Ducks were penalized 13 times and missed four different two-point conversions that ultimately cost them the game.
It was just one game, a non-league game, and the young Ducks should learn from those mistakes… but the young Ducks are about to get even younger.
Beyond the loss of a game, Oregon lost two very prominent offensive pieces for the season. Wide receiver and Olympic hurdler Devon Allen tore an ACL in his knee and will miss the rest of the 2016 campaign. What’s even more frustrating for the Ducks is that the injury occurred on special teams in a non-contact situation. It was just a freak accident — Allen just stepped the wrong way and the knee gave out.
Oregon came into the season with what was thought to be its best and deepest receiver corps. They’re about to find out if that’s true with the loss of Allen. Coach Mark Helfrich has a lot of young talent at that position to choose from. It all depends on who stands out in practice in the coming weeks.
It could be said that Allen was the No. 4 receiver behind Darren Carrington, Dwayne Stanford and Charles Nelson, so finding his replacement isn’t a high priority. Besides those three receivers, tight ends Pharaoh Brown and Johnny Mundt play key roles in the offense.
Allen provided experience. He was someone the young receivers in the system could go to for advice when things got tough. Helfrich hopes Allen will stick around the team even after his surgery to provide just that, acting like an extra coach on the sideline. Receivers Jalen Brown and Alex Ofodile are sure to get a lot of looks in practice to fill Allen’s shoes.
Quarterback Dakota Prukop still has plenty of targets to throw to, but Oregon also lost offensive lineman Tyrell Crosby for the season due to a foot injury. The loss of Crosby, a junior, makes the line even younger when that didn’t seem possible. The Ducks were starting four redshirt freshmen on that offensive line, which is responsible for protecting Prukop and opening running lanes for the host of tailbacks Oregon can throw at opponents.
With Crosby out of the mix, Oregon will rotate and switch up its linemen. Redshirt freshman Brady Aiello, who started the season opener, will now get even more snaps, along with Doug Brenner, Shane Lemieux, Jake Hanson and Calvin Throckmorton.
The loss of Crosby is a big one, according to line coach Steve Greatwood.
“I’m confident the younger guys are getting better every day,” he said in Rob Moseley’s practice report. “We’ll move forward. I still feel we have better depth at the tackle positions than last year.”
Oregon did suffer one more injury — Lincoln — and the Ducks got to show off their tailback depth, even though they probably don’t want to make that a habit.
Heisman hopeful Royce Freeman went down in the first quarter with an ankle injury and the Oregon offense could have halted to a complete stop without him. Instead, tailbacks Kani Benoit, Taj Griffin and Tony Brooks-James combined for 205 yards and four touchdowns behind that inexperienced offensive line.
Oregon doesn’t talk about injuries unless they are severe enough to end seasons. It looks like Freeman will be good to go this week against Colorado. His three backups showed that together, they can be a handful for any defense, which has to give the Ducks some relief knowing that if something dire should happen to Freeman, they’ll be all right.