With Devon Allen out, Oregon Ducks' receivers faced with yet another test – OregonLive.com
EUGENE — Charles Nelson looked to his left. Five feet away from him stood Devon Allen, on crutches with a brace around his right knee. It’s been five days since Allen’s season all but ended on the opening kickoff of the Rose Bowl, with the redshirt freshman telling the Register-Guard it’s going to take a miracle for him to play in the College Football Playoff National Championship game on Monday.
“It’s really tough seeing a fellow receiver and great teammate go down,” Nelson said, shaking his head. “He’s a great athlete. I was just, when I heard about what happened, I was just sad for him. I’ve been in his shoes, I know exactly what he’s going through.”
It was just a few years ago that Nelson had his season ended, the product of a hit to the knee that derailed his junior season at Seabreeze High School outside of Daytona Beach, Fla.
And just as Nelson has been in Allen’s spot on the injury end, he may now be in his position on the field. With Allen out, according to senior Keanon Lowe, for the title game, the Ducks will once again reshuffle the deck to cope with the team’s latest injury.
The receiving corps has dealt with numerous injuries throughout the season, with Lowe missing multiple games and Dwayne Stanford absent for the Pac-12 title game, but none to a more productive player than Allen. The track star leads the Ducks with seven touchdowns and has been one of the Ducks’ most consistent deep threats. It will be a group effort in replacing the production, and Nelson could likely be the next man up.
“Everyone has their own personalities and strengths,” quarterback Taylor Alie said. “In some senses you can replace a guy. We’ve done that this year. We just put the next guy in there and go with what we got. That’s who I would pick is Charles. That’s just raw speed, they’re both super quick.”
In terms of explosiveness, Nelson’s season has had glimpses of Allen’s. Both have top-end speed, can make players miss in the open field and have a knack for finding the end zone. After trying to figure out where to place him for the majority of the season, Nelson came along strong toward the end, recording four touchdowns in Oregon’s final two regular-season games. There are differences, though. Allen primarily played out wide and Nelson said he’s more comfortable in the slot due to his height — 5-foot-9 compared to Allen’s 6-1.
Regardless, the Ducks have potent receivers who can handle duties out wide in Stanford and Darren Carrington. What the players conveyed is that despite the loss of Allen, they have the tools to mix and match a rotation that will still be a threat against the No. 4 Ohio State Buckeyes.
“I don’t think you can replace Devon, he’s a future Olympian,” Lowe said. “…Our receiving crops is unique in the fact that no matter who’s in, it’s basically the next guy that gets thrown in there.
“When I was out, they didn’t skip a beat. When Dwayne was out and I was out, they didn’t skip a beat. And now that Devon’s out, unfortunately, we don’t skip a beat.”
Lowe’s never been one to beat around the bush about how talented he’s thought Oregon’s receivers have been. When they lost numerous players to graduation and the NFL, he wasn’t worried. When Bralon Addison was injured in the spring, he didn’t blink. Now that the Ducks are down Allen, arguably the team’s best receiver, he said it will be just another test for a unit that has aced everything thrown at them.
— Tyson Alger | @tysonalger