If you’re looking for a comprehensive list of players I'm excited to watch and hear about in fall camp, I would simply direct you to the updated full team roster over on GoDucks.com.
For a roster nerd like myself, I could write about the outlook for almost every guy in the program. But there isn’t room to fit all of that in one story, so I’ve had to limit the scope a bit.
So, what are the qualifications to make this fall camp watch list? First, they can’t be a known commodity. You won’t see Johnny Johnson III on this list, he’s been a contributor since 2017 and well he will certainly impact the 2021 season. Ducks fans already have a pretty good idea of what they will see from him this fall.
Second, their reputation has to be capable of shifting based on fall camp performances. You won’t see Kayvon Thibodeaux either, he already has the profile of a superstar and anything more we learn about his unique talents won’t come from practice.
Third, their performance has to be capable of significantly impacting an outcome this season. It’s always fun to see the progress of young players, but this list is more geared towards the present. I want to highlight impact players who could potentially deliver a game-changing moment this season if they take a leap in fall camp.
For this article, I’ll focus on the offensive side.
Seven McGee-Freshman running back
McGee has the potential to be one of the most electric playmakers we’ve ever seen in Eugene, but he also has some uncertainty attached to him after not playing high school football for the better part of two years. When we last saw McGee on the field, he was in the conversation for 5-star status and drawing comparisons to Oregon legend De’Anthony Thomas.
If McGee can regain that form, he could be an immediate contributor. As Oregon’s history shows, an explosive play at the right moment can completely change a game. Think of LaMichael’s cutback at Tennessee, De’Anthony’s breakaway as the first quarter ended in the 2012 Rose Bowl, or Verdell’s punctuation in the 2019 Pac-12 title game against Utah. We could find out if Seven has the potential to deliver one of those moments based on the rumblings out of preseason camp.
Troy Franklin-Freshman wide receiver (early enrollee)
Expectations are sky high for Troy Franklin after a buzz-worthy performance in spring football. Seriously, there are already some fans talking about Franklin being an all-time great receiver at Oregon. You can include me in the group that won’t be surprised if he is. Fall camp will be the time we see whether Franklin can separate himself and carve out a consistent spot in the Ducks five to six man receiver rotation.
Kris Hutson-freshman wide receiver
Hutson has been a bit overlooked during his time at Oregon. Many have defaulted to grouping him with the backups, but in the shortened 2020 season I saw some signs that he could be a more valuable rotation piece. The way I see it Johnson, Redd, Williams, and Pittman have clear roles outlined heading into this year and I think Hutson and Franklin will turn some heads in fall camp and join that group.
Steven Jones-sophomore offensive lineman
Steven Jones cut down a bit on weight in the updated roster and I think that the work this offseason could pay off. Last year was a transitional year for the offensive line, but 2021 represents the opportunity to put all the pieces together both for the unit as a whole and for Jones individually. We know “Big Grizz” has the size and physical tools to get it done, it’s just about things clicking into place and the game slowing down with experience. Fall camp could be the first sign of that happening.
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TJ Bass-junior offensive lineman
Bass is a fascinating candidate because of his success at the JUCO level and then immediate transition into the Ducks’ starting group without a real offseason to settle in. JUCO experience can certainly help with development, but it can also build some bad habits. Bass has Power 5 size and ability, but now his opponents do as well. That means that sound technique and fundamentals are necessary on every single rep. If Bass can adjust and follow Mirabal’s high standards then he has the makings of a special player.
Kingsley Suamataia-freshman offensive tackle
Suamataia is another highly-touted freshman and for good reason. Cristobal and Mirabal have turned Oregon into an offensive line factory and Suamataia is pretty much as good of a prospect as you can have to enter it. Because of his close relationship and shared background with Penei Sewell, the two have drawn plenty of comparisons.
For Penei, we learned early in his career that he had the making of a special player, when he stepped into an established O-line group and carved out a spot for himself at left tackle. Now will Suamataia be the next Penei Sewell?
Probably not. That would be an unfair expectation to put on any freshman. He spoke to Ducks Digest about the comparisons at media day and emphasized that he wants to become his own player. Still, Kingsley will make his own legacy at Oregon and that could very well start with an impressive showing in fall camp.
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