With an opening game against an FCS school where you put up a program-record 81 points and win by a margin of 74, it feels wrong to say that anyone saw their stock drop on the day.
For the Oregon Ducks, there was a long list of players — mostly young players — who got onto the field Saturday afternoon in the 81-7 win against the Portland State Vikings who showed what they could do after a long and hard offseason. We want to highlight them.
Throughout the season, we will bring this Stock Report to you every week after Saturday’s game, singling out the players who performed the best and saw their stock rise the most, and also identifying a few players who may have had a tough day.
As you would expect in the season-opener, there weren’t any players who saw their stock fall in Oregon’s dominant win over the Vikings.
Here are the guys whose stock rose the most in my mind:
Stock Up: LB Bryce Boettcher
The two-sport athlete is becoming a star on the gridiron, and he earned his first career start on Saturday at linebacker. Boettcher finished the day with four total tackles and a fumble recovery and was all over the field throughout the day.
“Bryce has been really productive through our football scrimmages, through our practices,” head coach Dan Lanning said. “He’s a guy that loves Oregon. It means a little bit to him stepping on that field. I think you see that in the way that he plays, right? So he’s earned that right, he’s earned that opportunity, but he knows he has to battle for it every day.”
As a Eugene native and a former start at South Eugene High School, Boettcher became the first walk-on player to start for the Ducks in over five years. If he continues to play at a high level, he will certainly earn his spot on the field going forward.
Stock Up: QB Ty Thompson
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Oregon fans have been dying to see QB Ty Thompson on the field with other starters and given the full extent of the playbook for a couple of years now, hoping to see a semblance of comfortability and confidence so that fans themselves can feel good going into the future. They finally got it on Saturday.
Thompson finished 7-for-8 passing for 81 yards and 1 TD. He added 2 rushes for 25 yards. He looked calm and collected in the pocket, and he delivered his passes with some zip on the ball and great accuracy.
“I think that’s a sign of what Ty’s capable of, right? Because Ty performed exactly how we expected him to perform today,” Lanning said. “He did a really good job. Like I said I think he first started his first drive off 3-for-3, was really efficient and made some tough runs, played with some toughness at quarterback which we loved to see. And I think he proved everybody that can operate in this offense really well.”
We hopefully won’t see Thompson much more this season while Bo Nix is still in Eugene, but I think that Saturday was the best Thompson has looked in Eugene, and his stock amongst Oregon fans definitely went up.
Stock Up: EDGE Emar'rion Winston
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Did you expect Emar’rion Winston to get the start on Saturday? I can’t say that I did. That’s not to say anything bad about the sophomore edge rusher, but I just thought there were other players higher than him on the depth chart. Shows what I know, because Winston looked great on defense, earning a 69.5 defensive grade on Pro Football Focus.
“He’s a playmaker that’s smart and understands his role and takes his job really seriously,” Lanning said. “He does the extra work, you know, he’s done a lot this offseason. I don’t think anybody in our program was surprised to see him out on the field for us because of the way that he works every single day in practice.”
Hand up, I was surprised to see him on the field to start the game. After watching him play, though, I won’t be surprised to see him going forward.
Stock Up: WR Gary Bryant Jr.
(Photo Courtesy of Ethan Landa)
Gary Bryant Jr. was named our Ducks Wire Player of the Game for a reason.
In his first game with the team, Bryant hauled in 7 catches on 7 targets for 100 yards and 2 touchdowns. He was a constant target for both Bo Nix and Ty Thompson, and he made a good case for becoming the WR2 behind Troy Franklin in this offense.
With the unlimited depth that Oregon has at the WR position, I wasn’t sure which player was going to step up and be the No. 2 option for Nix. After Saturday’s game, I would put my money on Bryant.
Stock Up: S Tysheem Johnson
Safety play was not a strength for this team a year ago, but there were a few instances on Saturday where the Ducks’ secondary showed that they could play a big role going forward. In particular, Tysheem Johnson impressed me with his speed and physicality.
Johnson had 4 tackles on the day, and there was one play in the second half where his pass break-up saved what likely would have been a TD for Portland State after LB Jeffrey Bassa got burned on a wheel route.
The secondary didn’t get tested a ton in this game — PSU attempted only 20 passes — but Johnson did well with the opportunities that he was given.
Stock Up: RB Jordan James
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Bucky Irving stole the show with his 4 rushes for 119 yards and 2 TD on Saturday, but the most impressive RB in my eyes was Jordan James, who had 10 rushes for 86 yards and 3 TD.
As a true freshman, James was productive in his role as a short-yardage back. On Saturday, though, that role expanded to more of an every-down back, and he showed that he can be just as productive with more responsibility. While Noah Whittington didn’t play vs. Portland State, Duck fans should feel confident that they have a trio of RBs who are capable of dominating whenever they get the rock.
Stock Up: LB Connor Soelle
(Photo Courtesy of Ethan Landa)
A lot of fans overlooked the addition of Connor Soelle in the transfer portal from Arizona State this offseason as nothing more than a special teams addition. However, Soelle proved on Saturday that he is capable of much more, leading the team with five total tackles on the day.
The Ducks are still figuring out their rotation at the LB spot, and until Jestin Jacobs is back on the field and healthy, we won’t have a great feel for what the position looks like as a whole. After Saturday, though, you can have a pretty good feel that Soelle will be a part of the rotation.
Stock Up: P Ross James
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One of the position competitions that we’ve been tracking throughout fall camp is at punter, where both Luke Dunne and Ross James have been going back and forth. The Ducks punted just once on Saturday, but it was James who took the field and kicked a booming 58-yarder down the field.
Punting is all about consistency, so the key will be for James to have that success repeatedly as the season goes on. Still, though, I think most people who were interested were expecting Dunne to come out as the starting punter, but it was James instead. With that opportunity, he made the most of it.