Stock Report: Which players proved the most at Oregon spring game?
The Oregon Ducks’ annual spring game came and went this past weekend, and there are a million things to decipher from what we saw.
We’ve already given you our biggest takeaways, and an overall report card for each position group. I also told you my thoughts on QB Ty Thompson, and how after a rough start to the game, I was incredibly impressed at how he turned things around and had a nice outing.
We’ve got attendance numbers, a photo gallery, Twitter reactions, and a look back on how all of the recruits in town enjoyed the experience. One of the last things on the list of things to do in order to properly wrap up this spring scrimmage is to look at the stock report.
Throughout the regular season, the stock report is something we do after each week of the season, determining which players on the roster did the most to help or hurt their metaphorical stock price. Some call it winners or losers, but we put a different spin on it. Of course, it feels a bit strange to say anyone in the spring scrimmage saw their stock go down since it was a glorified practice with split up teams and may not be a perfect indication of what we see this coming season.
For example, neither RB Bucky Irving nor Noah Whittington put up impressive stats on Saturday, but that doesn’t mean either of them saw their stock go down. Rather, it shows that in the spring game, the coaching staff was more interested in getting reps for young guys.
With all of that being said, let’s get into it. Here are the players who impressed the most and saw their stock rise on Saturday:
Stock Up: DB Cole Martin
One of my biggest takeaways coming from the game on Saturday was that true freshman defensive back Cole Martin is a playmaker who can contribute right away as a freshman, based on what we saw at the spring game.
He had at least one recorded pass break-up, but was in on a couple of other coverage plays, and he showed his hard-hitting prowess from the nickel position as well. Later in the game, he also returned a punt for 29 yards on a play that felt like it could have gone for a touchdown had they been playing to the ground on special teams.
All in all, it was an awesome performance from Martin, and one that makes you confident he will be a factor for this Oregon defense going forward.
Stock Up: WR Tez Johnson
If Cole Martin won the metaphorical defensive MVP award for the game, then I think Tez Johnson won the offensive MVP award. In reality, it’s the WR transfer from Troy who we at Ducks Wire decided to call our player of the game after hauling in three passes for 78 yards and a touchdown, including a 63-yard catch and run that left multiple defenders diving at air and Johnson walking into the endzone.
Coming out of spring practice, there was no shortage of buzz surrounding Johnson and what he could bring to this offense. We finally got to see his abilities with our own eyes on Saturday, and it did not disappoint.
Stock Up: QB Ty Thompson
I’ve written extensively about Ty Thompson’s performance on Saturday, so I won’t belabor the point. If you care to read my thoughts on the redshirt sophomore and his encouraging spring game, you can do so here:
In short, I liked what I saw. After a brutal start that saw him go 1-for-8 passing, Thompson settled in and showed some comfortability running the offense. He finished with 274 yards passing and 2 TD, and displayed the level of growth and comprehension that we all wanted to see at long last. Going into the 2024 season next year, Thompson will be in the running for the QB1 spot in Eugene, and I think that his performance on Saturday gave fans some confidence that they might have a talented player at the position.
Stock Up: LB Devon Jackson
Photo Courtesy of Ethan Landa
Someone whose name deserves more recognition after Saturday’s spring game is redshirt freshman linebacker, Devon Jackson. We’ve been hearing good things about him coming out of spring camp, with Dan Lanning saying that the game is slowing down for him, and he’s able to play faster and use his elite speed — how many 6-foot-2 linebackers do you know who can run a sub-10.60 second 100-meter dash — to fill a big role on Oregon’s LB unit.
Jackson tied for the team-high with five tackles on Saturday and looked the part of an every-down player. The Ducks have a need for depth at the position, but Jackson proved that he belongs in the mix once fall comes.
Stock Up: WR Kris Hutson
Kris Hutson is another player who really made the most of his opportunity on Saturday, and has taken the WR competition this spring head-on, not backing down to the incoming pass-catchers trying to take a starting spot. We gave our MVP award to Tez Johnson, but it could have easily gone to Hutson in the end. The redshirt junior led the team with five catches for 143 yards and one touchdown with an explosion play that went for 70 yards and saw No. 1 tackled just a couple of yards before the endzone.
A couple of months ago, I expected Hutson to enter the portal. On Saturday, he proved that he is sticking around and plans to be a major player for this offense. I’m happy to have been wrong.
Stock Up: LB Jamal Hill
Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports
Jamal Hill was one of the guys that media members most wanted to watch on Saturday, since his position change from safety to linebacker has been one of the biggest points of conversation over the past month. He looked the part playing up in the box, leading the green team with four tackles and making a number of nice plays in the field, including an impressive open-field tackle on RB Bucky Irving that ended up causing the back to lose yardage — something that rarely happens.
Again, the Ducks could stand to add a linebacker or two, but Hill proved on Saturday that he figures to be a core piece of this unit going forward.
Stock Up: RB Dante Dowdell
The running game was relatively quiet for both teams on Saturday, but true-freshman RB Dante Dowdell looked really good with the opportunities he was given. Dowdell led the team with 7 rushes for 36 yards and had an impressive 13-yard scamper up the middle at one point that felt like it took half of the team in order to bring him down.
Won’t show up in the highlight reels, but this run from @DanteDowdell deserves more recognition. 13 yards up the gut, and I count at least 5 defenders before he goes down.
Put him in those 14J goal line packages and see what happens. pic.twitter.com/bG6ih3WQxI
— Zachary Neel (@zacharycneel) May 1, 2023
Based on his size and his physicality, we expect Dowdell to serve some sort of role this season. Saturday’s performance helped that case.
Stock Up: P Ross James
Going into the spring game, we were told that the punting competition was still open between Luke Dunne and Ross James, though I’m not sure many of us truly believed that. Based on what we’d seen in practice, Dunne had the stronger leg and was more consistent, while James was capable of some nice bombs, but was streaky at times.
On Saturday, though, James really showed that this could be a competition going into the fall. He had four punts that went an average of 41.8 yards with a long of 62 yards. In comparison, Dunne had six punts go an average of 42.8 yards with a long of 56. The fact that we now view this as a competition is credit to James, he played well on Saturday.
Stock Up: WR Justius Lowe
Photo Courtesy of Ethan Landa
Another WR who showed a bit of what he was capable of on Saturday was redshirt-freshman Justius Lowe. He was targeted early and often, and though he had just three catches for 17 yards, the stat line could have looked a lot better if it weren’t for a semi-controversial drop in the endzone — a regular-season replay review arguably would have ruled it a touchdown.
You could say that Lowe was utilized so often because it was a spring game, and there is a relative lack of depth at the WR position, which is expected to change soon via the transfer portal. However, he was near the top of most lists when it comes to players who might be processed or enter the portal this spring, so his showing some talent and proving that he can be an impactful player was good to see.
Stock Up: Dan Lanning
Photo Courtesy of Ethan Landa
It may seem weird to say that a head coach saw his stock rise after a spring scrimmage, but Saturday was a major success for the Oregon program in general, which means it was a major success for Dan Lanning.
The weather was perfect, the fans showed out, and the team on the field looked good. The best recruiting visitor list in program history turned out for the weekend, and no major injuries occurred. From a grand scheme of things, I credit Lanning with all of that — save for his ability to make it an 80-degree day without a cloud in sight; I’m sure he had some help there.
There were two things that happened on Saturday in particular that made Lanning’s stock rise in my opinion, though.
First, Oregon’s defense looked great. After the porous unit drew criticism a year ago, and Lanning’s defensive prowess was at times thrown into question, it seems that the “year two in the system” mantra really does mean something. I think the Ducks will be a great defensive team this year.
Second, it was impressive to see a large number of alumni and former players in attendance. The spring game acted as a virtual reunion for Oregon players, which was awesome to see after the whole “letter” situation upon Lanning’s hiring. The Ducks’ head coach preaches family whenever he gets the chance, and he’s shown how valuable it is to have the guys who built the program into what it is, stay a part of things. The culture is strong in Eugene, and after a few years of coaching turnover and questions about buy-in, I think you have to credit Lanning with his ability to bring everyone together.