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Oregon Football’s 5 Most Intriguing Players Heading Into 2014

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5 Oregon Football Players To Keep An Eye On

5 Oregon Football Players To Keep An Eye On
Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

The Oregon Ducks had their eyes set on a National Championship in 2013, but with numerous key players returning, the stakes are even higher in 2014. They finished last year with an 11-2 record and huge bowl victory over the Texas Longhorns, but it was still a disappointing season, given the fact they didn’t even make a BCS Bowl despite deserving one.

The college football playoff system is different this coming season, and instead of needing to be one of the top two teams in the country, now the top four advance to a playoff to determine the ultimate National Champion.

Oregon should be an early favorite to reach the four-team playoff, as they not only have their star quarterback Marcus Mariota returning, but their ground game appears stronger than ever, despite the loss of De'Anthony Thomas to the NFL.

The Ducks are all about having a fast-paced offense, and with 2014 being head coach Mark Helfrich’s second season in charge, I expect the Oregon offense to be even better, which will lead to continued success on the backs of the following five players I’ll be keeping my eye on.

Nick Baker is a contributing writer for Rant Sports and you can follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and add him to your network on Google.

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5. Bralon Addison, WR

No. 5 Bralon Addison, WR
Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports

Although giving most of the spotlight to fellow wide receiver Josh Huff, Bralon Addison was second on the team with 61 receptions for 890 yards and seven touchdowns. It was a solid sophomore season for the 5-foot-10 speedster, and as the team’s No. 1 receiver for this upcoming season, I expect No. 11 to eclipse the 1,000-yard marker and be Mariota’s go-to guy through the air.

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4. Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, CB

No. 4 Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, CB
Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports

Ifo Ekpre-Olomu was a near lock to be taken in the first-round of the upcoming NFL Draft, yet he decided to return for his senior season and be the leader of the Oregon defense. Olomu is one of the top man-to-man coverage corners in the nation, and with three interceptions last season, I would expect him to be even more of a playmaker in 2014. Oregon lost quite a few defensive starters to graduation or the draft, so it will be imperative Olomu comes back stronger than ever if the Ducks hope to compete for a championship.

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3. Byron Marshall, RB

No. 3 Byron Marshall, RB
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

When De’Anthony Thomas missed time due to a nagging injury, it was sophomore Byron Marshall who stepped up and ran for more than 1,000 yards and 14 touchdowns. Oregon averaged 273 yards on the ground per game last season, and with Marshall and Mariota back in 2014, I wouldn’t be surprised in the least to see that number rise. This may be Marshall’s last year in Oregon, but if he puts up big numbers again, this Oregon team will see plenty of success.

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2. Thomas Tyner, RB

No. 2 Thomas Tyner, RB
Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

As a true freshman last season, Thomas Tyner ran for 711 yards and nine touchdowns on a 6.2 yards per carry average. He did this despite starting the season third on the depth chart, but now as a sophomore, he will be the No. 2 guy behind Byron Marshall. Tyner was the college recruit who ran for 644 yards and 10 touchdowns in a single high school game, and after proving to be successful as a freshmen at Oregon, this is a player who could be very special for the Ducks during his time in Eugene.

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1. Marcus Mariota, QB

No. 1 Marcus Mariota, QB
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Nobody is more deserving of the No. 1 spot than redshirt junior Marcus Mariota. Mariota now has two impressive seasons under his belt, with a total of 63 touchdowns and just 10 interceptions. Like Ekpre-Olomu, Mariota would likely have been a first-round pick had he entered the NFL Draft, but a desire to accomplish more at the college level brought him back for at least one more season. Mariota is the complete package, as he’s a proven playmaker with both his arm and legs, and watching him in 2014 will be a treat for all college football fans.