UO football: Oregon wide receivers accept their role in offense

2011-12-20T00:01:00Z 2011-12-20T00:08:28Z UO football: Oregon wide receivers accept their role in offenseBy JESSE SOWA, Albany Democrat-Herald Corvallis Gazette Times
December 20, 2011 12:01 am  • 

EUGENE - Oregon's wide receivers have always been blockers first and foremost under coach Chip Kelly.

Running the ball comes first.

The players have bought in, often at the expense of putting up big receiving numbers.

That's certainly been the case in 2011, with senior Lavasier Tuinei as the leading wide receiver with 40 catches for 441 yards and eight touchdowns.

"I just came here to help this team win," Tuinei said, disregarding the idea that he might want to catch more passes.

"Whatever they want me to do, I'll do it. If they want me to block, I'll block. We're probably the best team blocking in the nation. I'll take that credit."

In 2010 the Ducks had Jeff Maehl, who accounted for nearly one-third of the team's receptions with 77 for 1,076 yards and 12 touchdowns.

The emergence of true freshman running back De'Anthony Thomas as a multi-purpose threat in the offense has filled some of that gap and also lowered the number of passes going to the wide receivers.

Thomas has a team-high 42 catches for 571 yards and nine scores.

Sophomore Josh Huff is second on among the wide receivers with 29 catches for 416 yards and two touchdowns.

"Everybody on the team knows their role and we were able to work around it," Huff said. "I'm kind of a guy when they need yards or need somebody on the outside. Just going in and blocking the safety or blocking the corner."

Tuinei said being a receiver in the Oregon program is all about understanding what the coaches want.

Catch the ball when it comes to you and make a play, but also be a good blocker.

"Not a lot of receivers can block," Tuinei said. "I think that's our mindset. If you can block, you're a whole receiver. There's not just one thing you focus on."

Kelly said he entered the season not sure of how newcomers Thomas and junior college transfer Rahsaan Vaughn would fit in.

Oregon decided to redshirt highly recruited wide receivers Devon Blackmon, B.J. Kelley and Tacoi Sumler, which meant other unproven players would have to step up and fill the gaps.

It also meant Tuinei's role as a leader among the receivers jumped a couple notches.

"They all know they need to step up, and that's where me and Josh come in and try to help them get into the groove of things and get ready to play," Tuinei said.

"I think my focus this year was trying to help out the freshmen and to get them to understand they have a good chance and a good opportunity to help this team."

Tuinei said his new role was made easier by the example Maehl and D.J. Davis set before him.

"I put in my two cents once in a while. Learning from them for two years and stepping up for this year, I feel like I learned a lot," Tuinei said.

Not only were Davis and Maehl considered good leaders, but they were the receivers that coaches pointed to on film as the way to block.

Statistics bear out that the locking by the wide receivers on the edge and downfield has been on par with last year.

Running backs LaMichael James and Kenjon Barner have better per-game and per-carry averages than 2010.

"I think we've done our standard. I think we've done a good job springing them and making plays for them," Huff said.

Tuinei says his unit has been consistent in its blocking and singles out Huff for his improvement in that area.

As Huff said, roles needed to be filled, whether it was catching the ball or blocking for somebody else.

"We try to have a little competition between me and him," Tuinei said of Huff. "We always try to pancake those (defensive backs). That's our job."

Copyright 2015 Corvallis Gazette Times. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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