The Oregon Ducks don’t expect to have a healthy Bralon Addison this season. The wide receiver has completely different expectations.
Addison, who tore an ACL in his left knee during spring practice, expects to be back on the field and contributing by September.
“His goal is Michigan State,” Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota told SI.com.
The Michigan State contest is set for Sept. 6 at Autzen Stadium and occurs less than six months after Addison suffered the injury. It would be a remarkable recovery for any athlete, but he’s already impressed his teammates during his rehabilitation.
“He looks good,” Mariota said. “I’m excited. Hopefully he gets ready for that second game.”
If — and we’re stressing IF — Addison returns for Michigan State, he would only miss one game against the South Dakota Coyotes.
Until Addison is cleared by the doctors, the Ducks have to replace their leading-returning receiver. Last season, Addison caught 61 passes for 890 yards. Without Addison in the lineup, the Ducks have very little experience at wide receiver. Senior Keanon Lowe then becomes the Ducks’ top target by default. Lowe finished sixth on the team last season with 233 receiving yards. Dwayne Stanford and Darren Carrington are expected to start alongside Lowe. Tight end Pharoah Brown should be expected to be a much bigger part of the offense this season, particularly until Addison is ready to contribute.
And Addison may be able to contribute sooner rather than later.
Oregon’s offense used to be compared to a video game offense, but nobody is making those comparisons this spring in Eugene.
“It’s not as easy as you might think,” senior receiver Keanon Lowe said after the first practice of spring, per The Oregonian. “It’s not like a video game where you can plug and play.”
Don’t get caught off guard. Oregon’s offensive numbers did not fall off a giant cliff last season after losing Chip Kelly to the NFL and seeing Mark Helfrich step in as head coach, but the Ducks lost twice last season and were reduced to playing in a non-BCS bowl for the first time since the 2008 season. The pedigree of the program took a minor hit but it will not take much to strike back in Helfrich’s second season at the helm. This spring Helfrich is coaching a team is focusing on stepping things up from a competition standpoint, perhaps preparing the Ducks for a fight back to the top of the Pac 12 in 2014.
“I’m really really excited about the competitive nature of how things are going,” Helfrich said. “Execution is up and down in every phase but I think the effort and the communication, our competitiveness, is really good.”
One of the positives going for Oregon this spring is continuity. As The Oregonian notes, only four new players are practicing with the team this spring, which means most players practicing now are already on the same page, although there is still a learning curve for some players.
“We’ve still got some of the young guys were doing a couple more drills that they’ve never done before,” Helfrich said. “You see some heads spinning, and one guy running one way and 105 going the other way so there’s a little less of that but we’re starting to learn how to practice.”
Oregon has the look of a team that could easily begin the season ranked in the top ten of the polls, and with quarterback Marcus Mariota back in the fold the Ducks should have an offense that will be difficult to slow down once again in the fall.