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Oregon Football: 5 Newcomers to Watch for the Ducks

Oregon Football: 5 Newcomers to Watch for the Ducks

Oregon Football: 5 Newcomers to Watch for the Ducks

Expect anticipation for Oregon football's 2019 season to reach a fever pitch. After winning nine games for the first time since 2015, the Ducks welcomed back leaders on offense (Justin Herbert) and defense (Troy Dye) to lay the foundation for a possible Pac-12 title run.

Adding to the mounting excitement for Year 2 of the Mario Cristobal era, Oregon welcomes the top-rated recruiting class in the conference. A bevy of veteran experience returning on both sides of the ball means the Ducks will not be as reliant on newcomers as in recent years, but opportunity for some first-year players to make a splash won't be lacking.

Kayvon Thibodeaux, DE

The facet of Oregon's game most negatively impacted by departure after the 2018 campaign is its pass rush. Linebacker Justin Hollins and defensive lineman Jalen Jelks graduate, leaving considerable production to be made up in 2019. Enter Thibodeaux.

The five-star jewel of Oregon's loaded 2019 signing class, Thibodeaux racked up 14, 20 and 18 sacks in his sophomore, junior and senior seasons at Oaks Christian in suburban Los Angeles. At about 6-foot-5 and 240 pounds, Thibodeaux has the size to play immediately, and his length could prove comparable to what Oregon loses from Jelks.

Mycah Pittman, WR

The departure of 2018 leading receiver Dillon Mitchell presents opportunities for some new faces to emerge as Justin Herbert's primary targets. Pittman, a high-four-star recruit, is a name to remember as Oregon seeks new weapons for its passing attack.

His older brother, USC's Michael Pittman Jr., may end up being the most productive receiver in the Pac-12 in 2019. Mycah does not have the same frame, standing about three inches shorter, but the younger Pittman can be an explosive weapon in the slot should Ducks offensive coordinator Marcus Arroyo choose to use him there.

Mase Funa, LB

Funa, another high-four-star prospect, comes to Oregon from southern California football factory Mater Dei, where ranked him the nation's No. 1 linebacker in the 2019 class. He spurned Pac-12 counterpart USC, which has a strong historic pipeline into the Orange County school.

At 6-foot-2, 245 pounds, Funa has the size necessary to jump right into the defense. The departure of TFL machine Justin Hollins leaves a void in the linebacker corps that a talented youngster like Funa could help fill.

Lance Wilhoite, WR

Reinforcements are on their way for the wide receiver corps. Three of Oregon's 2019 signees rated four stars or higher play the position, and all three might have an impact. The most intriguing might be Wilhoite, who the Ducks lured out of SEC territory.

Wilhoite comes to Eugene from Tennessee, and he stands out from the crowd in a literal sense. At about 6-foot-5, he's a long, rangy target reminsicent of 2012 Rose Bowl Game MVP Lavasier Tuinei.

Mykael Wright, CB

The Oregon defense has made considerable strides in the last two seasons, but the Ducks were not great against the pass in 2018, ranking No. 82 nationally. 

Oregon skewed young in the secondary in 2018, thus returns a lot of experience. However, with the need for nickel-and-dime packages against pass-happy offenses, there's plenty more room for playmakers. Wright is one such player who can make an impact. The high-four-star prospect from southern California garnered interest from across the nation, including Cristobal's former home of Alabama.

— 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.