With the departure of Lavasier Tuinei and David Paulson, Huff returns as the most experienced pass-catcher on the roster. The 5-foot-11, 200-pound wideout sat out most of spring ball in order to completely recover from a stress fracture in his leg that he played through most of 2011. He also ran “a-fowl” of the law when he was arrested for driving under the influence in early March. He could still face a short suspension. Huff caught 31 passes for 430 yards and two touchdowns last fall.
The highly-touted cover-man from Sacramento, Calif., took no time at all to prove he belonged in the starting line-up for Nick Aliotti. He started 12 games as a freshman, leading the team in pass breakups (10) and finishing third amongst defensive backs with 45 total tackles. He posted 3.0 tackles for a loss and intercepted two passes. The 6-foot, 185-pound redshirt sophomore should press for All-Pac-12 honors in 2012.
The menacing 6-foot-4, 246-pound tackler has dealt with some issues off the field — including a bad knee injury that cost him the entire 2010 season — but finally settled into a stable role in 2011. The physical freak from Los Gatos, Calif., posted 46 total tackles, two interceptions, 6.0 tackles for a loss and 2.5 sacks. His 5-tackle, 1.5-sack, one-INT, 2.5-TFL performance against the powerful Wisconsin Badgers offense earned Alonso Rose Bowl Defensive MVP honors.
The senior offensive guard’s status heading into the fall might be the biggest story other than the quarterback battle the entire summer up in Eugene. The Ducks need the stud blocker to recover from his shredded knee, which he suffered in the Rose Bowl victory over Wisconsin. The injury was so vicious, however, that he may not be ready to roll until mid-season. York, when he returns to full strength, gives Oregon a tremendous baseball-style mid-season addition.
The junior nose guard started all 14 games along the defensive line a year ago and is one of the most dependable players in the conference. The 6-foot-6, 289-pounder registered 44 total tackles and 2.5 sacks en route to an honorable mention All-Pac-12 a year ago. He is fundamentally sound and never takes a snap off. His toughness and leadership makes him one of the most underrated players in the conference.
The career backup enters his final season in Eugene with a shot at being the primary ball carrier in one of the nation’s most explosive offenses. Doak Walker winner LaMichael James missed three games over the last two years and Barner proved he could be more than capable. Try 58 carries, three receptions, 433 yards rushing, 102 yards receiving and eight total touchdowns in those three starts. In 36 career games, 33 as a backup, the Riverside, Calif., runner averaged over 60 yards from scrimmage. The only thing that will keep Barner from a massive 2012 campaign will be, either De’Anthony Thomas or nagging injuries. Because it certainly won’t be Pac-12 defenses.
John Boyett certainly deserves plenty of praise for his ability to lead this defense and protect the back end, but Clay is the heart and soul of the front seven. The “cat-quick, cerebral player” lines-up at the most important position on the field with 36 games of collegiate experience. The San Jose, Calif., native is a bit undersized at 5-foot-11 and 219 pounds but is also incredibly productive. He finished 2011 with 102 total tackles, including 13 against Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl, 8.5 tackles for a loss and three sacks. Look for another steady, dependable, leadership-laden season from the senior linebacker.
Few players in the nation at any position have as much raw physical talent as Jordan. The converted tight end is listed at 6-foot-7 and 241 pounds, was a first-team All-Pac-12 performer last year after leading the team with 7.5 sacks and possesses the range and length NFL scouts crave at the end position. The Chandler, Ariz., star plays the hybrid end/linebacker “drop end” position that lends itself to big plays, sacks and overall disruption of the offense. Jordan finished with 42 total tackles in 14 games, and, with improved consistency, could find himself on several All-American teams by the year's end.
There may not be a more dependable free safety in the nation than the 5-foot-10, 202 pound Napa, Calif., product. Boyett has protected the back-end of the Oregon defense for 39 career games — missing only one game in his career (Missouri State, 2011). He led the team in tackles a year ago with 108 total stops while adding six pass breakups and one key interception of Matt Barkley. He was honored with a second-team All-Pac-12 award by the coaches and will be a unanimous first-team all-league selection this summer. He has 276 total tackles, nine interceptions and 20 pass breakups over the course of his three-year Ducks’ career.
There may not be a more versatile, more explosive player in the nation than The Black Mamba. He proved his big-time play-making ability as only a freshman by earning first-team All-Pac-12 recognition as a kick returner and Co-Pac-12 Offensive Freshman of the Year award. He finished with 2,235 all-purpose yards and 18 total touchdowns. The 5-foot-9, 173-pounder averaged nearly 11 yards per carry on 55 attempts (595 yards) and caught 46 passes for 605 yards. His highlight reel talents were on full display in the 45-38 Rose Bowl win over the Badgers in which he touched the ball six times on offense for 189 yards and two touchdowns. Thomas is listed as a wideout and running back and fans can bet Chip Kelly is much more confident in his open-field dynamo. Expect a heavy increase in touches in 2012 — and keep eyes on his return home to the City of Lights when Oregon visits USC.
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