EUGENE — Malik Lovette is back where he started for Oregon.
The sophomore joined the Ducks as a wide receiver in 2015 and switched to cornerback for two seasons before moving back to offense when Willie Taggart was hired as coach.
Lovette was a slot receiver to begin the spring, but moved outside for the spring game and has remained there throughout fall camp as Oregon looks to fill an inexperienced position.
“Coach told me I was one of those guys who had to learn to play both receiver spots,” Lovette said. “I don’t mind doing that because at the end of the day, it only benefits me and helps me stay on the field more.”
Lovette played 11 games on defense last season as a freshman, including two starts, but will take his experience from cornerback to the other side of the line of scrimmage.
“Being able to play both sides of the ball, there are hints in there,” he said. “I know what coverage they are going to be in and that allows me to read the defense easier so I know how to adjust my route and get off the ball. I know certain angles to take when blocking or running routes.”
The 5-foot-10, 200-pounder was a running back at East Valley High in Redlands, California, who ran for 985 yards and 23 touchdowns as a senior while also catching 70 passes for 1,154 yards and nine scores. He was recruited to Oregon as a wide receiver, but switched to cornerback shortly after the Ducks decided to sit him out for a redshirt year before moving back to offense this season.
After spending most of the spring in the slot where Oregon has its most experienced receiver in Charles Nelson, Lovette moved outside where his path to playing time opened up after Darren Carrington was dismissed from the team.
Alex Ofodile and Dillon Mitchell are Oregon’s only outside receivers with a catch in a college game but both sophomores battled injuries or illness early in fall camp as Lovette spent time with the first unit.
“With the new system, I have gotten a pretty good grasp of the offense,” he said. “Playing outside is new to me because I never played it. There are little kinks, but overall I am getting it.”
Lovette is working to navigate his way through significant differences between playing inside and outside at receiver.
“It is more about releases and being a technician against the defensive back,” Lovette said. “Being able to catch the ball at different angles and attacking the ball rather than getting it instantly as a slot receiver.
“On the outside, you have to be willing to go get the ball. That’s the difference. I have been doing my best to work on catching balls at different angles so I can get used to the perspective of being an outside receiver now.”
Lovette’s new role calls for being more physical as well.
“Blocking is definitely a key part of the game,” said Lovette, who repeated co-offensive coordinator Marcus Arroyo’s line about “no block, no rock.”
“We do our best taking pride in knowing which way the run is going to go and knowing the different options there are and how we need to block the defensive back.”
Wide receiver is the biggest question on offense for Oregon with Nelson having 92 receptions while the rest of the group has just three combined from Mitchell and Ofodile. Five true freshmen have joined the mix with sophomore Brenden Schooler following Lovette from defensive back to receiver.
“I want to do the best I can to learn the whole offense and I want all of us to know each position so they can keep us on the field as much as possible,” Lovette said. “Get four wide as often as possible and go from there.”