Skip to main content

5 Newcomers to Watch for the Oregon Ducks


The 2017 season marked a rebound from the temporary detour on which Oregon football went in ‘16. Getting back to the postseason and finishing above .500 are minor milestones in the Ducks' long-term plans. A program that won four conference championships over a five-year span from 2009-14, played for two national championships, and produced two Heisman Trophy finalists with one winner aims to return to the top of the college football heap.

College Football Top 25 Rankings: Oregon

Oregon begins that road back in unprecedented territory for the Ducks, with their third different head coach in as many years.

Mario Cristobal replaces Willie Taggart, the latter of whom left for Florida State after just one year. Cristobal spent 2017 as the Ducks’ offensive coordinator, and brought a wealth of knowledge and experience to Eugene. The former FIU head coach and Alabama assistant showed off one his strengths in his first months at the helm, signing an impressive recruiting class.

Newcomers will have the opportunity to make immediate impacts for the Ducks in 2018.

Jalen Hall, WR

Quarterback Justin Herbert gets another weapon in the passing game, with the arrival of the highly touted Hall. He joins Dillon Mitchell, Johnny Johnson III and Brendan Schooler to give the Ducks a four-man rotation of targets who stand from 6-foot to 6-foot-4. Hall is the longest of the bunch, giving Oregon a big-bodied, possession style receiver in a vein similar to former standout, Lavasier Tuinei.

Penei Sewell, OL

Oregon's longstanding tradition of outstanding offensive line play continues with the addition of Sewell. The highest-rated prospect in Oregon's signing class, per 247Sports, Sewell spurned his home state (and Oregon Pac-12 counterpart) Utah Utes, as well as defending national champion Alabama, Cristobal's former team.

Sewell's lofty credentials upon arriving in Eugene suggest the youngster will be able to factor into the offensive line rotation immediately.

Steve Stephens, DB

The Oregon defense made considerable strides in coordinator Jim Leavitt's first season, but improving upon a passing defense that ranked 88th nationally and allowed 25 touchdowns will be a point of emphasis this offseason. The Ducks return several 2017 contributors, but both the depth and talent level get a boost with the addition of Stephens, a highly regarded high four-star recruit.

The Under Armour All-American should factor into the rotation at safety, as Leavitt looks to build a turnover-generating machine comparable to the great Oregon defenses of the early 2010s.

Sione Vea Kava, DT

Adding depth and size to the defensive front should prove crucial to Oregon's aspirations in 2018. Enter Vea Kava, a junior college transfer who addresses both concerns. Coming out of East Los Angeles College, Vea Kava's 6-foot-6 frame adds length to the Ducks’ defensive line. He could develop into a disruptive force against the pass.

Spencer Webb, TE

Oregon tight ends boast an impressive track record in recent years. Webb, a four-star prospect has the tools to add his name to the ever-growing legacy. Despite coaching shake-ups, the Ducks have demonstrated a consistent reliance on multiple pass-catching tight ends; Pharoah Brown and Johnny Mundt set the pace much of the way from 2013-16, following on the success the David Paulson-Colt Lyerla combo enjoyed in the early part of the decade.

With Jacob Breeland back, Oregon can throw an impressive rotation of tight ends at defenses – particularly in red-zone situations.

— Written by Kyle Kensing, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a sportswriter in Southern California. Kensing is publisher of Follow him on Twitter @kensing45.