At its peak, Oregon grabbed the nation's attention thanks to its offense. The rapid pace of play, running backs screaming up the Autzen sideline like sprinters at Hayward Field, and excellent quarterback play throughout the 2010s made the Ducks must-see football.
Oregon WR Dont'e Thorton
Oregon Ducks sophomore wide receiver Dont'e Thornton reels in a touchdown pass during the 2022 spring game.
Oregon's wide receiver group, however, hasn’t quite enjoyed the same spotlight.
Duck fans complained for years that offenses under Mario Cristobal were too conservative, focusing on interior running and screen passes.
Last season saw frustrations boiled over in the receiver room when Mycah Pittman entered the transfer portal in the middle of the season due in part to his diminishing role. By the end of the season, with Pittman out and injuries to veteran pass catchers like Johnny Johnson III and Jaylon Redd, Oregon was struggling to fill the depth chart.
Oregon WR Seven McGee
Seven McGee racked up 116 yards and a touchdown in Oregon’s 2022 spring game.
That's when freshman running back Seven McGee was asked to switch over to slot receiver. It took him out of his comfort zone, and he only saw two catches over the final three games of the season.
McGee even entered the transfer portal on Dec. 13 but was brought back just hours later thanks to Dan Lanning.
"Just bringing that mentality to Oregon that we're gonna be a tough-ass team," McGee said of his conversation with Lanning. "Just to utilize me everywhere on the field, which is something that we didn't do last year."
The decision to stay has already paid off for McGee, as he was a standout performer in Oregon’s spring game, alongside another wide receiver who’s already generating a lot of excitement.
Oregon WR Chase Cota
Chase Cota explodes off the line of scrimmage against cornerback Trikweze Bridges.
McGee is ready to hold down the slot receiver role, along with Kris Hutson, where the quicker and undersized player can burn a defender and turn a short route into a long gain.
And for the more physical outside receiver role, the Ducks can look to Chase Cota. Hailing from South Medford High School, Cota made a grand return to Oregon in the spring game with six catches for 100 yards.
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At 6-foot-3 and 209 pounds, Cota brings size and experience -- two qualities that every football team needs.
It's hard to look away from the exciting additions to Oregon's receiver room after an underwhelming passing game limited the offense last season. But Oregon's returning wideouts are nothing to sneeze at.
Dont'e Thornton is a prime example. A true freshman last season, Thornton didn't get many opportunities. In the Alamo Bowl, however, he made the most of his touches by hauling in four catches for 99 yards and a touchdown.
Thornton also played excellent in the spring game, grabbing three catches for 116 yards and two touchdowns. The 6-foot-5 Baltimore native is turning into a seriously scary deep threat -- with the beloved blend of strength and speed.
Second-year receiver Troy Franklin also grabbed a touchdown in both the Alamo Bowl and the spring game. In both games, Oregon didn't have much to play for, and therefore opened up the playbook more than usual.
The experiment revealed some flaws, like poor decision-making from the quarterbacks, but it also revealed a big strength in Oregon's depth and talent at wide receiver moving forward.
This season is crucial for the future of Oregon’s wideouts. The Ducks have attracted three four-star wide receiver recruits under Lanning, along with three-star Justius Lowe who is already enrolled.
A strong season for the Ducks' passing game and the wide receiver recruits will continue to pour in, but another underwhelming passing season could spell more uncertainty for the future of the offense.
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