Top Secret: Oregon's 2013 Passing Game

“I’m definitely looking forward to any changes that we may have on the offense”-Daryle Hawkins, Oregon Reciever

If you are like me, you’ve probably been waiting and waiting…and waiting to see more action from the Ducks’ Receivers. I know, I know, it’s been great to watch our beloved Lamichael James, Kenjon Barner and DAT do their thing- powering through seams in the defensive line and sprinting to the end zone- but there’s something to be said for a beautiful pass floating perfectly into the hands of a wide-open receiver. Oh how I miss watching (more than a couple times a season) a guy like Jeff Maehl save an over-thrown pass with just one hand.

In recent years, the Ducks’ offense has been dominated by the run game- rightly so with a talented running back depth chart.  This year however, there’s a sense things may shift ever so slightly. Unfortunately, this “sense” won’t likely be confirmed until the season begins. I’m not kidding when I say questions pertaining to an increased passing game are almost as “top secret” as the NCAA investigation. I, and all the other media outlets at Spring Practice, have tried relentlessly to get even just a hint- ain’t happening. I have tried every angle- asking creative questions of the receivers, playing the dumb “girl”, everything! Turns out there are just some things a team’s gotta keep top secret, leaving the rest of us to speculate. I could cite reasons why I think we’ll see more of a passing game, but I won’t…

OK fine; I will.

1. There’s less depth at Running Back than in years past. Although De’Anthony Thomas is incredibly talented, there’s a lot of concern about his size and whether or not he can take the continued hits being the featured running back will require. Byron Marshall is also really good and will help carry the load, but isn’t as experienced. Beyond those two, depth is pretty limited.

2. There’s more talent at Receiver than in years past. For the first time in a couple of years, the Ducks are DEEP at the receiver position. The ability to recruit top talent in recent years seems to be paying off. Some of the anticipated break-out receivers this year came very highly touted. In particular, there are a few newer names you should get to know: Bralon Addison, B.J. Kelley, and Chance Allen. All three of these names have surfaced in post-practice interviews with Coach Helfrich, Mariota and veteran receivers.

3. Finally, the Ducks have a balanced QB and solid Receivers. Oregon is known for it’s duel threat quarterbacks (ones that can both Run and Pass well), but Mariota seems to edge out the others in his ability to throw a beautiful pass. Match that with an upcoming bunch of talented receivers, and well…I’m seeing Roses- or a Natty.

4. It’s a secret. If things are going to stay the course, why is everyone avoiding the question?

So, while we wait for the cat to be let out of the bag, we might as well get to know one of my personal favorite Receivers, Daryle Hawkins. As I told him last week, I’ve been waiting for that Jeff Maehl-esque play-maker for a couple of years now and I definitely think he could be the guy.  (Don’t worry, he was as nice as could be, so I don’t think that will go to his head.)

Wide Receiver, Daryle Hawkins, talks with gridirongirl. Photo Credit- Russ Long

Because I have to, I made sure to ask about some X’s and O’s, but don’t think for a minute I got the scoop on an increased passing game, despite my best efforts.

Me: There’s a lot of anticipation about an increase in the passing game this season. Obviously, Coach Helfrich isn’t wanting to say a whole lot about that. What improvements would you say need to be made before you guys step up the passing game should that happen?

Daryle: Well obviously in order to improve the passing game, you have to have good route running efficiency. If you’re guys aren’t open, it’s really hard to pass the ball and be good at it. So as far as us getting better at our routes, we gotta make sure our route tops are clean, make sure we’re getting in and out of our breaks. The biggest thing with most teams is that if they press us, we have to be able to win every single time they go man to man, so that’s the most important part as far as being efficient route running. Because we’re so good at running the ball, a lot of teams try to zone us out, therefore we kind of have to sit out in the holes; and that’s a whole other aspect to route running- being able to get open in the holes in the zone. So I feel like that’s the most important thing- really having that mental awareness along with seeming up how you run your routes.

(Don’t worry ladies, I didn’t catch all that either.)

Me:I Know you played a lot at Quarterback in high school and initially came here to play at that position. How do you think that experience helps you now as a Receiver?

Daryle: It definitely helps in terms of knowing what the Quarterback is looking for. I mean being able to present yourself in a way that’s appealing to your Quarterback is most important as a Receiver because that’s how you get the ball. Obviously establishing a good relationship with your Quarterback is good too, so that way if you are covered, they can just hack it up to you and you can make plays.

Me: I asked Marcus last week about what he would work on with you guys if he were the Receiver’s coach for a day. He said, “Blocking”. Would you agree with that or…?

Daryle: I mean Marcus is a duel threat Quarterback so therefore blocking is always important. But at the same time, it’s also really important to be good at blocking because it adds that extra threat because that DB doesn’t know if you’re going to block or run. And if he’s anticipating you  blocking him,  because that’s your guys’ strength, it’ just that much easier to run right by him.

Me: I will tell you a little secret. I’ve been sort of waiting for another “Jeff Maehl-esque” receiver to come up and I’ve sort of pinned you as that guy. So, I’m wondering what you are most looking forward to this season, and if you think you can be that breakout guy?

Daryle: Well, I’ll tell you what,  I’m definitely looking forward to any changes that we may have on the offense. You know we have kind of new staff, but not really new staff. And kind of new system, but not a new system. I think it’s just going to be really interesting with the type of key players we have and how we make it run. Obviously, every year is different and there’s always a chance to make plays on the field, so I’m really looking forward to it.

(Hmmm? Any hints in there ladies?)

Me: What do you like to in your off time?

Daryle: I’m a Product Design major, so a lot of that includes drawing and sketching so that’s kind of one of my big hobbies. Obviously with every guy, you get a fair amount of video game action in, so that’s always a good way to de-stress. But when I’m not incredibly tired, my second love is basketball.

Me: I know you’re from Nebraska, and obviously you’re a long way from home. Is there anyone that has helped you deal with homesickness; or is there anyone you’ve gotten pretty close to?

Daryle: I mean, I’m close to most of the guys on my team, especially our receiver group. We are all really close. Of course, I have Scott Frost who’s another Nebraska kid also.  And he was the Receiver’s coach for a long time, so I think that really bonded our group really closely in general. And it’s been nice to have coach Lubick. We’re trying to break him in still but he’ll catch on to us real quick. We’re a fun loving group.

Me: Last but not least, how do your girlfriends, or friends that are girls, into the game?

Daryle: Oh, into the game? Honestly, I haven’t really had that problem. Most of the girls that are coming to hang out with me already know a little about football. But you know, once they meet the type of people we are and understand how nice we are and how conservative we are, they take care into a little bit of what we do.

What isn’t captured in this interview is Daryle’s very humble and cheerful demeanor. I know I may be sounding like a broken record at this point, but I have to say I’ve been very impressed with each of the guys I’ve interviewed. Each have been very friendly and gracious to this rookie reporter.

Next up: Previewing this weekend’s Spring Game and why you should definitely tune-in, or better yet, BE THERE!

Go Ducks!



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