Who will be the Oregon Ducks' starters? Here's a possible depth chart as fall camp nears

During his introduction as Oregon’s new head football coach in December, Willie Taggart was clear about his goal for the program.

“We want to win a championship,” Taggart said. “And we’ve got to make sure that everybody’s going in the right direction to achieve that.”

With a new coaching staff in place, the Ducks are starting over, and that includes open competitions at every position.

However, some positions will be more competitive than others, especially with several players leaving the program, including quarterbacks Travis Jonsen and Terry Wilson, and wide receiver Darren Carrington.

Oregon opens its first fall camp of the Taggart era on Monday, and the Ducks have less than five weeks to develop a depth chart for the season opener Sept. 2 against Southern Utah.

Here is an unofficial look at Oregon’s possible depth chart as fall camp begins:

Quarterbacks

Analysis: Oregon returns starting quarterback Justin Herbert, who threw for 1,936 yards and 19 touchdowns last season. But after Herbert, the Ducks are thin. Freshman four-star talent Braxton Burmeister is the backup, and senior Taylor Alie is the third-stringer. Alie was used mostly as a wide receiver in the spring, but with the departures of redshirt sophomore Travis Jonsen and redshirt freshman Terry Wilson, Alie could be needed at quarterback again if things go bad. After Jonsen left the program in June, Taggart said incoming freshman Bruce Judson could also be used at quarterback if it came to that. If Herbert stays healthy all season, Oregon’s lack of depth won’t become an issue. But if he goes down, this could become a disaster.

Unofficial depth chart: 1. Justin Herbert (So., 6-6, 225); 2. Braxton Burmeister (Fr., 6-0, 196); 3. Taylor Alie (RSr., 6-0, 186); 4. Bruce Judson (Fr., 5-9, 203).

Running backs

Analysis: The Ducks are loaded at running back, with Royce Freeman, Tony Brooks-James, Kani Benoit and Taj Griffin all returning. With a ton of speed and experience, the running backs will make the offense run, especially with an inexperienced group of wide receivers. Freeman has the talent to be in the Heisman Trophy conversation, but with how deep Oregon is, he likely won’t get the ball enough to put up Heisman numbers.

Unofficial depth chart: 1. Royce Freeman (Sr., 5-11, 231); 2. Tony Brooks-James (RJr., 5-9, 185); 3. Kani Benoit (RSr., 6-0, 211); 4. Taj Griffin (Jr., 5-10, 176); 5. Cyrus Habibi-Likio (Fr., 6-1, 211); 6. CJ Verdell (Fr., 5-9, 195); 7. Darrian Felix (Fr., 5-11, 194)

Wide receivers

Analysis: Darren Carrington was supposed to be the go-to, deep-threat receiver, so his arrest and dismissal from the team really hurts the offense. The Ducks still have Charles Nelson, a reliable playmaking senior, but after him, there is almost no experience. Nelson had 554 receiving yards last season; second-most among this returning group was Dillon Mitchell, who had 9 receiving yards.  Oregon fans should be worried about this position, but with so many young and talented receivers, there is a huge opportunity for somebody else to step up.

Unofficial depth chart: 1. Charles Nelson (Sr., 5-8, 177); 2. Dillon Mitchell (So., 6-1, 195); 3. Malik Lovette (RSo., 5-11, 205); 4. Alex Ofodile (RSo., 6-3, 211); 5. Jaylon Redd (Fr., 5-9, 180); 6. Casey Eugenio (RJr., 5-8, 170); 7. Darrian McNeal (Fr., 5-9, 160); 8. Daewood Davis (Fr., 6-2, 175); 9. Johnny Johnson III (Fr., 6-0, 194); 10. Demetri Burch (Fr., 5-11, 181); 11. Alfonso Cobb (R-Fr.); 12. Kyle Buckner (RSo., 6-3, 186); 13. Chayce Maday (RJr., 5-11, 179).

Related: Ducks wide receiver Darren Carrington kicked off team after DUII arrest

Tight ends

Analysis: With the loss of seniors Pharaoh Brown, Johnny Mundt and Evan Baylis from last season, the Ducks have little experience returning at tight end. Jacob Breeland, who had 123 receiving yards last year, is their best option. Cam McCormick and Ryan Bay also should see quite a bit of playing time.

Unofficial depth chart: 1. Jacob Breeland (RSo., 6-5, 237); 2. Cam McCormick (RFr., 6-5, 241); 3. Ryan Bay (RSo., 6-4, 229); 4. Drake Brennan (RSo., 6-7, 252); 5. Matt Mariota (RSo., 6-2, 225); 6. Ivan Faulhaber (RSr., 6-2, 220); 7. Taylor Stinson (RJr., 6-5, 246); 8. Jalontae Walker (RFr., 6-2, 238).

Offensive linemen

Analysis: The injury to Tyrell Crosby last season hurt this group, which was largely inexperienced with a large group of freshmen. This season, the Ducks lose only Cameron Hunt to graduation, so Oregon has a wealth of experience, including the return of Crosby, now a senior. In addition to Crosby, look for Shane Lemieux, Jake Hanson, Calvin Throckmorton and Brady Aiello to start on the line. The Ducks also have longtime backups Jake Pisarcik and Doug Brenner to provide experienced depth.

Unofficial depth chart: 1. Tyrell Crosby (Sr., 6-5, 320); 2. Shane Lemieux (RSo., 6-6, 316); 3. Jake Hanson (RSo., 6-5, 307); 4. Calvin Throckmorton (RSo., 6-6, 310); 5. Brady Aiello (RSo., 6-7, 302); 6. Jake Pisarcik (RSr., 6-2, 300); 7. Doug Brenner (RSr., 6-2, 321); 8. Jacob Capra (RFr., 6-5, 306); 9. Zach Okun (RSo., 6-4, 337); 10. George Moore (So., 6-7, 308); 11. Evan Voeller (RSr., 6-5, 298); 12. Logan Bathke (RFr., 6-6, 292); 13. Sam Poutasi (RFr., 6-4, 319); 14. Alex Forsyth (Fr., 6-5, 310); 15. Cody Shear (Fr., 6-4, 285); 16. Charlie Landgraf (RSo., 6-2, 286). 

Defensive linemen

Analysis: With Jim Leavitt now at defensive coordinator, the Ducks are returning to a base 3-4 defense after just one season of using Brady Hoke’s 4-3 scheme. The front-seven has had many transitions over the past two seasons, so the depth chart is certainly not set in stone. Expect Henry Mondeaux and Jalen Jelks to be the top guys at defensive end. There could be a battle at nose tackle, where freshman Jordon Scott looked impressive during his many spring practice reps. Scott could be challenged by senior transfer Scott Pagano, who is coming into the program from defending national champion Clemson, where last season he finished with 31 tackles and two sacks. The Ducks might decide to use Pagano at defensive end.

Unofficial depth chart: Nose tackle — 1. Jordon Scott (Fr., 6-1, 335); 2. Scott Pagano (RSr., 6-3, 295); 3. Gary Baker (RSo., 6-4, 306); 4. Austin Faoliu (Fr., 6-3, 285); Defensive end — 1. Henry Mondeaux (Sr., 6-5, 288); 2. Jalen Jelks (RJr., 6-6, 252); 3. Hunter Kampmoyer (RFr., 6-4, 270); 4. Drayton Carlberg (RSo., 6-5, 291); 5. Popo Aumavae (Fr., 6-4, 315); 6. Elijah George (RSr., 6-5, 288); 7. Jordan Kurahara (RJr., 6-8, 265); 8. Riley Greene (RFr., 6-3, 294).

Linebackers

Analysis: After a stellar freshman season, Troy Dye will be a starter at inside linebacker. The rest might fluctuate during fall camp and the season. A.J. Hotchkins, who transferred to Oregon last year, will likely be the other starting inside linebacker. Dye had a team-high 91 tackles and 6.5 sacks last season for the Ducks. There could be a battle at outside linebacker, including Jimmie Swain, who trailed only Dye last season with 77 tackles.

Unofficial depth chart: Inside linebackers — 1. Troy Dye (So., 6-4, 225); 2. A.J. Hotchkins (Sr., 5-11, 230); 3. Jimmie Swain (Sr., 6-2, 243); 4. Sampson Niu (Fr., 6-1, 217); 5. Kaulana Apelu (Jr., 5-11, 210); 6. Blake Rugraff (RSo., 6-2, 223); 7. Isaac Slade-Matautia (Fr., 6-1, 206). Outside linebackers — 1. Justin Hollins (RJr., 6-6, 237); 2. Jonah Moi (RSr., 6-4, 240); 3. La’Mar Winston Jr. (So., 6-3, 215); 4. Keith Simms (So., 6-3, 244); 5. Bryson Young (So., 6-5, 238); 6. Gus Cumberlander (RSo., 6-6, 255).

Defensive backs

Analysis: Oregon has a good mix of returners and newcomers at defensive back, but this also is a group that has been dreadful the past two seasons. The Ducks ranked 113th out of 128 FBS programs in passing defense, allowing 271.9 yards per game through the air. Expect Arrion Springs and Ugochukwu Amadi to start at cornerback, but newcomers Thomas Graham Jr. and Deommodore Lenoir could push them. At safety, Brenden Schooler was a pleasant surprise last season as a freshman, finishing with 74 tackles and a team-high four interceptions. Senior Tyree Robinson could start at safety alongside Schooler. Oregon also could use a “Duck” position, which was a hybrid linebacker/defensive back position used primarily to pressure the quarterback. The Ducks experimented with that in the spring.

Unofficial depth chart: Cornerbacks — 1. Arrion Springs (Sr., 5-11, 205); 2. Ugochukwu Amadi (Jr., 5-10, 195); 3. Thomas Graham Jr. (Fr., 5-11, 188); 4. Deommodore Lenoir (Fr., 5-11, 183); 5. Jihree Stewart (RSo., 6-0, 182); 6. Ty Griffin (RSr., 6-0, 200); 7. Sean Killpatrick (RSo., 5-11, 197). Safeties — 1. Brenden Schooler (So., 6-2, 197); 2. Tyree Robinson (RSr., 6-4, 199); 3. Khalil Oliver (RJr., 6-0, 210); 4. Brady Breeze (RFr., 6-1, 200); 5. Juwaan Williams (RSr., 6-0, 200); 6. Fotu Leiato II (Jr., 6-1, 200); 7. Billy Gibson (Fr., 6-1, 174); 8. Mattrell McGraw (RJr., 5-10, 179); 9. Nick Pickett (Fr., 6-1, 187); 10. Pou Peleti-Gore (RJr., 5-11, 212).

Special teams

Analysis: Aidan Schneider is back for his senior season as kicker, and freshman Adam Stack likely will handle kickoff duties. Ian Wheeler left the program, so Blake Maimone will be the Ducks’ punter. Tanner Carew is back at long snapper for his senior season. 

Unofficial depth chart: Kicker — 1. Aidan Schneider (Sr., 6-4, 240); 2. Zach Emerson (RFr., 6-2, 216). Kickoff — Adam Stack (Fr., 6-2, 178); Alec Hallman (Fr., 6-2, 200). Punter — 1. Blake Maimone (RSo., 6-6, 227). Snapper — 1. Tanner Carew (Sr., 6-2, 240); 2. Devin Melendez (Sr., 6-2, 207).

Video: With a few weeks leading up to start of fall camp, here are a few Ducks players to watch. Julius Lasin / Statesman Journal Wochit

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