clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Which players will be the hardest for Oregon to replace in 2015

The Ducks lost a ton of talent and experience after the 2014 season.

Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

The Ducks came up just short of winning a national championship in 2014 and now with the loss of a ton of talent and experience, the Ducks face at least a minor rebuilding project in 2015 if they hope to stay on top of the Pac-12 and in the Playoff chase.

Obviously everyone knows that replacing Heisman winner Marcus Mariota is going to be a nearly-impossible task, but that's far from the only big shoes that will need to be filled in Eugene.

Let's break down the hardest players for Oregon to replace and take a quick look at how they might replace them.

1. QB Marcus Mariota

No need to breakdown too much why the Heisman-winning number two pick in the draft who didn't miss a game for the Ducks the past three seasons is the biggest loss for the Ducks.

I have actually been in the lonely camp that downplays Mariota's impact at Oregon a tiny bit (they actually had a better win percentage with Darron Thomas) but there is no denying how big a loss he is, especially because of his feel for the Oregon offense. We had never seen a quarterback get to his third year as a starter in Chip Kelly's system and seeing Mariota in that position with his physical tools was simply unfair.

How might the Ducks replace him?

The consensus seemed to be that FCS star transfer Vernon Adams would step in and immediately replace Mariota, but an impressive spring by Mariota's former back-up Jeff Lockie and the fact that Adams won't be available until summer have really opened things up. Right now I think it is 50/50 whether Adams or Lockie replaces Mariota.

2. LT Jake Fisher

The gap between Mariota and Fisher is not that big in my opinion. Anyone who saw how atrocious Oregon's offensive line became when Fisher was out against Washington State and Arizona last year knows just how big of an impact he made.  As left tackle, he protected Mariota exquisitely and was was the perfect long, athletic tackle to get out in the run game for the Ducks and spring plays down field. Also, he was the tough guy on the Ducks' offense that did a lot to turn around the image of the Ducks.

How might the Ducks replace him?

The key here is whether senior Tyler Johnstone can come back 100 percent from two knee injuries that sidelined him for all of 2014. Johnstone is a first-team All-Pac-12 player who could slide in right back at left tackle if he is healthy and make the loss of Fisher nearly seamless.

3. C Hroniss Grasu

An All-American and longstanding centerpiece of a great Duck offensive line, Grasu is arguably the most-decorated offensive lineman to ever play for Oregon. His ability to pull and bust open runs will be greatly missed.

How might the Ducks replace him?

It looks like Grasu will be replaced by one of two sophomores, Doug Brenner or Jake Piscarcik who periodically filled in along the line in 2014 due to injuries. Both players got better as the season went on, but it will be a major test to see how they can perform without stalwarts like Fisher and Grasu around.

4. DE Arik Armstead

The first round draft pick may have been often injured but the Ducks's run defense went to another level whenever he was in the lineup. Armstead's outrageous size and ridiculous versatility was a big part of why the Oregon front was sneakily one of the best in the conference in 2014.

How might the Ducks replace him?

Getting fellow standout and giant monster DeForest Buckner to come back for his senior year was a major score the Ducks. Getting a 6'6+ 295-pound player with first round potential to come back will really help aide the loss of Armstead, but Buckner will need help. Senior Tui Talia will get a shot at filling Armstead's role, but he is nowhere the physical presence Armstead and Buckner are. The more-interesting player who might fill the role is five-star true freshman Canton Kaumatule, a 6'7 290-pound defensive end who looks like the Armstead/Buckner.

5. CB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu

I tend to think that Ekpre-Olomu is one of the most overrated players in Pac-12 history, but as a three-year starter at a position where Oregon now has little to no proven depth and talent, his loss is very big.

How might the Ducks replace him?

Sophomore Chris Seisay stepped in a bit when Ekpre-Olomu was injured in 2014, but he is going to have to adjust to likely being the Ducks' top cornerback this year. He is a great athlete with nice at 6'1 190, but the likelihood that he can immediately step in for Ekpre-Olomu or Troy Hill right away isn't that good.

6. CB Troy Hill

Hill showed his worth when he excelled when Ekpre-Olomu was out of the line-up. He may not be a household name, but his worth for the Ducks' defense in 2014 was huge.

How might the Ducks replace him?

The Ducks moved over talented young receiver and special teams star Charles Nelson to cornerback to address the loss of Ekpre-Olomu and Hill, but it looks like sophomore Arrion Springs might end up winning Hill's starting spot. Springs saw limited action in 2014, but is a big time recruit with great size that has the potential to be the next All-American for Oregon at corner.

7. G Hamani Stevens

Stevens wasn't an All-American like Fisher or Grasu, but he was simply a rock on the line for the Ducks as a starter the past two seasons at guard.

How might the Ducks replace him?

Brenner and Pisarcik are likely candidates and senior Matt Pierson is also in the hunt to step in as well. Regardless of who it is, all three of these candidates will have a tough time replicating Stevens' consistency and power.

8. S Erick Dargan

Dargan was a turnover machine for the Ducks with seven interceptions last season and was also a tackling machine who had almost 100 tackles in 2014. His presence at the back of the Duck defense will be almost impossible to replace.

How might the Ducks replace him?

It looks like sophomore Tyree Robinson will step in for Dargan in 2015. Robinson is a nice 6'4 rangy athlete that looked good in spot duty in 2014, so he should project well as a starter.

9. LB Tony Washington

Washington has been a heater off the edge for the Ducks the past two seasons with 13.5 sacks and 23.5 tackles for-loss.

How might the Ducks replace him?

6'5 250 senior Christian French had a breakout season in 2014 with 6.5 sacks and 7.5 tackles for-loss. With his size and proven pass-rushing ability, he should be able to slide in to Washington's hybrid role fairly easily.