Wednesday, March 23, 2011

An Intriguing Future Duck Who Could Have a Big Impact in a Year or Two

Drop end of the future could be Christian French, 6-6 230, a former basketball player with 4.4 speed, but likely to redshirt this fall.  French has only played three years of football, and has to learn the defense and adjust to school.  But his physical tools are amazing.

French was listed as a tight end coming in, but watching video of him on both sides of the ball, he looks like a better fit on defense.  Lindsay Schnell of the Oregonian reported he had only had 10 catches his senior year, but 71 tackles as a linebacker.  His high school coach said French has loads of potential, a natural athlete with good size and great speed who has never spent any time in the weight room.  If he applies himself and listens to Jim Radcliffe, he could blossom into an exceptional player.

In the early days of spring practice, the first thing to get a read on are his hands.  It takes soft hands, good blocking skills and comfort running routes over the middle to be a tight end in the Oregon system.

In the past, all of the Ducks' best athletes have wound up on offense.  Kenyon Barner, Jeff Maehl, Dante Rosario, and Terrence Whitehead all could have been fierce defenders, but at Oregon, tie goes to the offense, always.  On Letter of Intent Day Coach Kelly indicated he allows players to pursue their preference, and that was a big selling point with Lyerla, the Black Mamba, and French, among others.  Still, fans have to hope a few of these fast, gifted, agile types choose to be the hitter and not the hittee.  Lylerla's already declared for wide receiver, and he could become a tremendous player at that position.

On defense, a great athlete can impact 50 plays a game.  On offense, sometimes it's six to twelve, unless he's the feature running back, then no more than two dozen.

French has the physical tools and upside to be a game changer at the defensive end hybrid.  It wouldn't be a mismatch for him to cover most receivers, speed-wise.  Whether he has the wisdom to pursue the position, and the heart to do the work, we'll learn over the coming months.

It would be incredibly fun to be the fly on the wall during the evaluation and assignment process for this group of incoming Ducks.  Best candidates to make an immediate contribution?  Jared Ebert and Rahsaan Vaughn, certainly.  After that, Lyerla, Blackmon and Wallace.  Most of the class will redshirt, including those promising offensive linemen, unless pressed into service by injuries.

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