Winning the off season one weekend at a time

Winning the off season one weekend at a time

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Winning the off season one weekend at a time

Two news updates on Saturday made yesterday’s column a lie or a jinx. The Eugene Register-Guard’s Rob Moseley blogged running back Tra Carson is transferring (confirmed by a team source), and in another story Jack Moran of the Guard reported that wide receiver/slot back/running back Josh Huff was arrested for DUII and driving without a license.

Those new wide receivers had better be good, because walkon Ayele Ford is now the number three running back in spring practice behind fleet but smallish returning starters Kenjon Barner and De’Anthony Thomas. Running backs get nicked up. Barner has missed games in each of the last two seasons, and Thomas has electrifying talent but weighs just 173 pounds. The Ducks may be in five wides by October. New recruit Byron Marshall arrives in August, and he has the speed, strength and potential to be very good in the Oregon offense. He’ll have loads of motivation to come into camp fit and acclimated, and he’s a workout warrior with a mature body at 5-11, 205. His father is the trainer for Santa Clara University, and his brother Cameron starts at tailback for Arizona State. Marshall has the bloodlines, the athletic background and work habits to play early and excel. They’ll need him.

Photo right: youth, wasted on the young, who think they’ll be young forever: Josh Huff got into some trouble this weekend, and who hasn’t? But the issue creates some problems and challenges for his coach and his team.

The news also accelerates the time table for Bralon Addison, a versatile athlete from Texas who played quarterback in high school. Addison, 5-10, 180, passed for 2158 yards with 22 tds, 1625 yds rushing with 20 tds as a senior. He’s also a star point guard, fast, athletic and smart, with good moves and vision in the open field. 

In size and running style Addison and Marshall are fit complements to Kenjon Barner. Marshall is even a little bigger and likely to get stronger over the summer given his regimen and the arc of nature. Enjoy it, kid. The metabolism slows down every seven years, and the six-pack abs will be a pony keg by the time you’re 36, unless you are exceptional and disciplined.

Chip Kelly is an innovator and a forward-thinker. Trust and guarantee he’s sorted through the depth chart by 10 a.m. yesterday on this, made a couple of calls on j.c. guys and called two or three sophomores into his office. Another intriguing possibility is Colt Lyerla. Too rangy and a step slow to be a feature back in college, and the Ducks need him at tight end, but he’s said he misses carrying the ball a little, and in a goal line or short yardage situation motioning Lyerla into the backfield, at 6-5, 240 with a 40-inch vertical, suddenly becomes an act of serendipity. The Ducks recruited a quiver of talented tight ends this cycle in Pharoah Brown, Evan Baylis and Cody Carriger, after adding Christian French  and Curtis White the two years before. White’s a former four-star prospect from Sheldon High who’s been dinged up frequently as a young Duck, but with a healthy camp, he’d give Kelly, Helfrich and position coach Tom Osborne some breathing room on Lyerla. Someone has to carry the football. Hard to remember a season Oregon hasn’t needed at least three running backs. In the last year LaMichael James left early for the the NFL while Lache Seastrunk and Dontae Williams transferred: it’s been a mass Texodus, another illustration of why recruiting stars are a flimsy indication of future success. They have to stay in school, and stay out of squad cars.

Huff continues to be one of the guys that makes you clench your teeth and open your mouth in amazement in successive weeks. He was fabulous on the field as a freshman, with an 85-yard touchdown run, an 80-yard kickoff return, and 54-yard receiving td, on the way to 1,086 all-purpose yards, second on the team in a BCS title game season. Banged up as a sophomore with a stress fracture on his leg, he still made some big plays and tough catches, but with a maddening tendency to drop an occasional ball that would have gone for a big play. He was an enigma off the field also, tweeting his frustration about not getting the ball enough, his relationship with the coaches and criticism, openly mulling a transfer. Now this, an arrest for DUII from a junior leader who had a chance to be the feature receiver for team with 31 catches last year. He makes big plays when he’s right, but this was a bonehead one.

In football and well as life, we’ve all known or been the guy who can’t get out of his own way. We squander talent. We make dumb decisions or fail to take care of the basics. Insurance and a driver’s license are part of the basics. I’ve been that guy. Josh Huff doesn’t want to wake up at 27, his body no longer chiseled, his uniform eight designs old, wondering what became of the promise and cocksure certainty he had at  20. Don’t do it Josh. Don’t let bitterness or inattention rule your head. Let someone like James Harris or Gary Campbell counsel you, take your punishment like a man, and recommit to using your talent and harvest its brilliant potential. Don’t do that to yourself or your family. The Oregon family wants to love you; all they ask is effort and a reasonable attention to the basics. We’ve all screwed up. It’s what you do next that matters.

Mike Wines of Oregon Duck Soup has the Josh Huff highlight reel cued up. Forgive him his lowlights, and wish him the best as he gets back on track. A two-game suspension is likely, and with luck, he’ll come out of it determined to be a better and more directed man. His teammates need him, because they could accomplish great things this year.

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