Originally posted on The Duck Stops Here  |  Last updated 1/28/12

This is the season of hype and hysteria in college football. Recruiting is such a compelling part of the game because it encompasses so much hope. Everybody's a potential superstar in February. Every high school phenom is can't-miss, and every program is sure to land four or five plays that will return Beloved U. to the glories of the past.

Read message boards from Southern California to Syracuse, Texas to Tennessee, and the story is the same: we've got to have this guy. Joe Bob Briggs is the player we need. He's a stud.

Back in the eighties the Ducks recruited an all-world talent  from the Sacramento era named Kevin Wilhite. He was sprinter-fast and could bulldoze people like a combination  of Bronko Nagurski and Jonathan Stewart. Five-star, can't miss, Parade All-American, number one in the country, instantly famous. Running track in the spring Wilhite tore a hamstring that never healed right. He floundered in and out of the lineup before becoming a capable fullback, nothing like the 2,000-yard wonderkind everyone projected.

A lot can happen on the way to greatness. All potential means is you haven't done anything yet. For every LaMichael James, with roadrunner quickness and the heart of a champion, there's a Dillon Baxter or Bryce Brown, lazy, spoiled and unmotivated, bouncing in and out of schools. Recruiting evalations and ratings are far from an exact science, no matter how many 5.1 ratings or stars or 100-point scales the websites concoct. You can't measure homesickness, the potential for future injury, or the capacity to sulk. Still, a quick study of the rosters of national championships quickly reveals they are dotted with four and five-star players who panned out, like Trent Richardson and Dontae Hightower of Alabama.

As the signings come in and the glowing reviews of the classes are posted, it's important to remember that the impact and proof of a given class comes in two or three years. Only a handful of players will contribute immediately. Most are not physically or psychologically ready for an immediate leap to big-time college football.

Looking at the 2012 Ducks, however, there are a few clear opportunities for freshman and redshirt freshman to make an immediate contribution and compete for early playing time.

Depth at tight end.

David Paulson is gone. The reliable, glue-fingered leader is missing after three solid seasons, and Chip Kelly and tight ends coach Tom Osborne have a huge challenging in replacing him, not just his productivity and knack for the clutch play, but his inspirational consistency and maturity. His teammates voted him one of the team's MVPs along with De'Anthony Thomas.

Colt Lyerla is the obvious choice for the bulk of the reps at tight end, but the Ducks desperately need some depth behind him at a physical position that's vulnerable to bumps and bruises. The hope is former Churchill High four-star sophomore Curtis White can stay healthy and fine the line up, but after that, the coaches have to find a dependable contributor among three tall, fast, rangy candidates: redshirt freshmen Christian French, or verbal commits Evan Baylis and Pharoah Brown.

Forming a solid rotation in the offensive line

The Ducks have three returning starters from an offensive line that powered them to over 7000 yards of offense, but they lose valuable seniors Mark Asper, Darrion Weems and Ramsen Golpashin. Redshirt freshmen Andre Yruretagoyena and Tyler Johnstone will vie for playing time, and junior college transfer Kyle Long, with a mature body and good technique, is a strong candidate to play right away as he has just a year of eligibility remaining.

Shoring up the numbers at linebacker

Oregon is blessed with three very athletic playmakers in returning linebackers Michael Clay, Kiko Alonso and Bo Lokombo. After that, there are holes and question marks. Position coach Don Pellum likes to rotate six to eight, and reserve linebackers form the backbone of Oregon's special teams. The Ducks need some solid rotational players to emerge among sophomore Derrick Malone, or Anthony Wallace and Rodney Hardrick, who played a little as true freshmen, plus redshirts Carlyle Garrick and Tyson Coleman. Among the newcomers, Plano, Texas product Bryce Cottrell is mosting intriguing, a blitzing terror who has a mature body at 6-3 225.

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