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Ducks hope to catch in bunches

New faces plan on becoming prime targets for Mariota


Photo Credit: TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Keanon Lowe, a senior with 40 catches over the past two seasons, is the University of Oregons top returning receiver. EUGENE — Most offenses — except maybe the ones at Washington State and Cal — seek balance in their attack, throwing passes to offset the run, or vice versa.

Even with QB Marcus Mariota returning, the Oregon Ducks also will seek balance this season, what with Mariota, Byron Marshall, Thomas Tyner and Royce Freeman poised to put up big numbers running the ball.

But, who will catch the passes from Mariota?

The four top receivers from the 2013 team have departed (or, in Bralon Addison’s case, been injured). This makes the receiver corps as the big unknown for 2014.

Senior Keanon Lowe, from Jesuit High, has played in 25 games the past two seasons, catching 40 balls for 477 yards and six TDs. B.J. Kelley has played in 19 career games, registering seven catches for 126 yards and two TDs.

But the real contributions this year could come from the receiving foursome of Devon Allen, Dwayne Stanford, Chance Allen and Darren Carrington.

Most Duck followers know the story of the 6-0, 185-pound Devon Allen, the redshirt freshman from Phoenix who rose to fame by winning the NCAA and U.S. hurdles titles this year. He’ll be the go-deep, speed guy among the receivers; the Ducks expect big things from him.

The other three? They’re big, and they come with some promise.

Two of them have played.

Chance Allen, a 6-2, 200 sophomore from Missouri City, Texas, had five catches for 98 yards and a TD against Nicholls State last year. Stanford, a 6-5, 200 sophomore from Cincinnati, sat out last season with an injury after catching 11 balls for 106 yards in 2012.

Then you have 6-2, 190 redshirt freshman Carrington, from San Diego. He’s the son of Darren Carrington Sr., a safety who played eight NFL seasons.

“I think we’re good,” Stanford says of the group. “I think there is a lot of anticipation. I see a lot of guys making plays (in practice). We have fast guys, we have big guys. We’re really versatile.”

After Saturday’s warmup game at home against South Dakota, the Ducks and their receivers will play one of the best defensive teams in the country, Michigan State, on Sept. 6 at Autzen Stadium.

“We got a lot of guys who can really go,” Chance Allen says, of the UO corps. “It’ll be exciting to be out there, getting our feet wet, playing with one of the best quarterbacks in college. It’s going to be fun. Just listening to the captain (Mariota) and everything else will be good.”

Mariota says the talent is there at receiver and the players are versatile — and big, which provides a bigger target.

“For them, it’s understanding where they can find soft spots in zones, because once they have their big body in that zone it’s an easier throw,” he says.

As always, the UO receivers will be counted on to block. Asked whether opponents will try to be physical with the receivers, the Ducks say they’ll

be physical first — with their blocking.

“When we come off the line and they see our presence,” Chance Allen says, “the (defensive backs’) eyes will get big, and they’ll try to give us their best shot. That’ll be a good asset for us this year.”

Carrington says UO receivers coach Matt Lubick “wants us to always come off the ball hard and smack the other guy. If we have to make contact, we’ll make

contact and attack it as hard as we can.”

Chance Allen adds that the Ducks see a lot of “blanket” coverage in the Pac-12, or “Cover 2” where two safeties play deep. If defensive backs want to play “press” coverage, they risk

getting beat at the line of scrimmage.

Whatever opponents do, the UO receivers vow to be ready. They’re confident.

“I don’t think it’s really that big of a deal,” Stanford says. “As an athlete, once you get out there, you get into a zone and rely on your training, stuff you did at practice. As long as you do the right stuff at practice, once you get out there on the playing field it’ll be natural.”