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Oregon Football

6 Role Players Pivotal to Success

August 10, 2019
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These six players may not see their names listed in the starting lineups, but that doesn't detract from how crucial they are to the Ducks.

As with any team that hopes to win its conference and make the playoffs, coaches can't just rolling out the best starting lineup and hope for the best. You need your second unit to be able to provide much-needed depth, and for individual backups to be able to step up when called upon.

Establishing depth is how you become an elite team, and it’s exactly what head coach Mario Cristobal has been emphasizing. You have to recruit the best guys for your team, and then let them go out each and every practice and compete against each other. It may be a cliché, but iron does sharpen iron.

So without further ado, here are six role players who are key to a successful 2019 Oregon football season.

Tyler Shough: While I didn’t include Shough in my original top 5 list, I feel as if he’s important enough to be an honorable mention.

Oregon fans remember seeing their starting QB go down and watching just how easily it is for a team to fall apart. Remember the (2015) Alamo Bowl?

Oregon needs a backup quarterback who can execute the offense at a high level, and they might just have that in redshirt freshman quarterback Shough. Clearly, a Shough-led offense wouldn’t be the same as it would with Justin Herbert, but having a reliable safety net shouldn’t be taken for granted.

Now, we’re all hoping to mostly see Shough taking knees and handing the ball off to running backs to chew off clock at the end of games. But Oregon fans should be thrilled that they may have a high level backup quarterback for the first time in a while.

Bryan Addison: With the loss for 6-8 weeks of senior wide receiver Brenden Schooler, the wide receiver situation just got a lot more interesting. It was already one of the most-discussed position groups in the off-season, especially after losing junior wide receiver Dillon Mitchell to the NFL draft.

Between Schooler's injury, the departures of Mitchell and grad transfer Tabari Hines and Daewood Davis switching to defense, the wide receiver room has lost almost 68% of its total 2018 wide receiving yards. That creates an opportunity for younger guys to step up.

Addison is a perfect candidate for that. Listed at 6-5 and190 pounds, the 4-star defector from UCLA has all the tools to be highly productive – speed, length and athleticism. He came into his freshman campaign a bit undersized, withstood a midseason suspension, and ended the year with just 1 catch for 12 yards.

But after a full off-season of strength coach Aaron Feld's 4th Quarter Program, the hope is he has bulked while staying just as dangerous as an outside threat. Does he end up starting Week 1 against Auburn? Probably not. But we still can expect to see him get tons of snaps.

If Addison puts it all together this season, especially lining up opposite fellow tall pass catcher Juwan Johnson, he could be an absolute matchup nightmare for opposing defensive coordinators.

Mykael Wright: Wright comes into his first season at Oregon as a highly decorated recruit. He was the nation's No. 1 cornerback, according to ESPN, and he would’ve been Oregon’s highest rated player in the 2019 class if not for Kayvon Thibodeaux.

Many were worried about how sitting out his senior year might affect Wright's game, but he silenced the critics with his outstanding play in the Under Armour All-American Game. Now, he a cornerback unit led by juniors Thomas Graham Jr. and Deommodore Lenoir, two guys who took massive steps forward in their sophomore campaigns.

In fact, Wright already has one big fan: Graham suggested Wright could be a freshman all-American. And Wright has all the tools to do so.

Wright is a fluid athlete with great hip movement. Enrolling early gives him a huge boost, as he’s been able to dive into the playbook and work extensively with coach Donté Williams.

This cornerback unit is top-loaded with two upper-class stars. But Wright's combination of ball skills and athleticism make him a perfect candidate to see plenty of action. And it doesn't hurt that he's playing in a conference where teams that love to spread the ball all over the field.

Having a third cornerback of Wright's caliber will be massive if Oregon wants to take the next step under new defensive coordinator Andy Avalos.

Brady Breeze: Staying in the secondary, expect veteran safety Breeze to see the field more often alongside breakout star Jevon Holland.

The second safety position is one of fall camp's biggest battles, with guys like Breeze, Nick Pickett and freshman Jamal Hill hoping to impress. Last year, Pickett got most of the starts, but Breeze is pushing him to stand alone at the top of this group.

If Pickett regains his job to start the year, I’d still expect Breeze to see significant playing time. With more depth in the secondary, coaches will be able to keep guys fresher against air raid offenses like WSU and USC.

Breeze plays hard and with passion, and that’s exactly the what this Oregon defense wants in the secondary. I’d expect Holland to play most snaps, but I wouldn’t be shocked to see Breeze and Pickett rotate in, at least early in the season.

Regardless of who’s starting, expect Breeze to play an increased role in the Oregon secondary.

Dru Mathis: Rounding out role players on the defensive side of this list is this junior college transfer linebacker.

Mathis joins a linebacker room filled with young talent, but outside of Troy Dye no other player has seen the field consistently. Coming in at 6-3 and 240 pounds, Mathis has ideal size for an inside backer, yet he offers enough versatility to play across the width of the field.

It’s difficult for any first-year player to crack the starting rotation, but Mathis comes in mature physically and drawing on his JUCO experience. That gives him a leg up on some other guys.

With his size, Mathis has the ability to stop the run but also be able to cover tight ends and running backs. While guys like Isaac Slade-Matautia and Sampson Niu have been in the program longer, Mathis certainly looks to be a big-time contributor for a unit that boasts its best depth in years.

Mathis should see some meaningful snaps early in the year. But as he continues to improve his skills and learn the defensive scheme, expect to see him push his way onto the field more and more come Pac-12 time.

Travis Dye: After Baby Dye ran the ball 33 times for 199 yards and 2 TDs against the Beavers in the 2018 Civil War, he instantly became a fan favorite.

The Norco (Calif.) standout ended his freshman campaign strong, rushing for 370 yards on 50 carries -- an outstanding 6.17 yards per carry – in his final three Pac-12 games. He was a player who everyone knew going into last year -- he is standout linebacker Troy Dye’s brother, after all -- but most fans probably didn’t think he would contribute so much, so early.

Dye had flashed potential in the Cal game, carrying 20 times for 115 yards and 1 touchdown, but he didn’t see consistent carries in a backfield led by C.J Verdell. Still, Dye flashed his speed during absolutely electric runs that reminded Oregon fans of the days of LaMichael James, Kenjon Barner and De'Anthony Thomas.

Dye goes into 2019 in a little bit of a different situation. In addition to Verdell, Darrian Felix is fully healthy and ready to contribute, and two highly touted freshman running backs (Jayvuan Wilson and Sean Dollars) are in the mix.

Dye offers a unique blend of attributes. He’s a bit undersized at 5-10 and 192 pounds, but he follows his blockers well and is very slippery when running through holes. He’s quick, and he offers a nice burst of speed that gets him to the second level in the flash of an eye.

Everyone has high hopes for Felix, TD machine Cyrus Habibi-Likio and the freshmen. But some might forget that Dye was able to record 739 yards and 5 touchdowns, averaging 5.3 YPC.

Expect Dye to be once again be a key contributor out of the backfield.

Tags: Football, Oregon
 
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