It’s no surprise that Daewood Davis considered returning to Florida when the coach who recruited him to Oregon made that move in December.
Davis was ready to leave the Ducks even when Willie Taggart was still on the job.
The wide receiver signed with Oregon expecting to join classmates Johnny Johnson III, Darrian McNeal and Jaylon Redd on the field as a true freshman. Yet when the Ducks finished fall camp, Davis was told he would not be suiting up on Saturdays.
“Last year, my mindset was really down,” Davis acknowledged during his first interview as a Duck on Tuesday. “I was super frustrated, I wanted to go home. I talked to my mom every day and she told me that I waited four years of high school for this and it was my dream school, so why quit.
“I was the first in my family to come to college and I wanted to set an example for my brothers and sisters. She told me to fight through it.”
Davis did that, but then dealt with the shock of Taggart leaving for Florida State before his first season at Oregon was over. Davis talked with McNeal, Demetri Burch and the three other freshmen Taggart pulled in from Florida.
“That was a huge decision when he left, I used to think about that every night,” Davis said. “We asked ‘What are we going to do?’ He just ran us out here and left.”
Davis expressed his concerns to Mario Cristobal when he was hired as Taggart’s replacement.
“He told me all the coaches were going to stay so I would have the same people around me,” Davis said. “I thought my receivers coach was going to leave and I like coach Johnson a lot because he taught me a lot so I didn’t want him to go.”
Cristobal kept Marcus Arroyo as offensive coordinator and Michael Johnson stayed on to coach receivers. All six Floridians who arrived under Taggart originally stayed to play for Cristobal, but McNeal left the team this week.
“It is a long way from home, but I think this place kind of sells itself,” Johnson said. “I don’t think we have to sell anyone to stay here. Anyone who decides to leave will be on their own choice, but I think this is a great place to go to school and play football.”
Davis arrived at Oregon weighing 160 pounds and was redshirted due to concerns he wasn’t physically ready to play. Eight months later, he is up to 185.
“I was dedicated to gaining weight because at 160, I wasn’t digging that,” Davis said. “I was getting thrown around and had to get my weight up. ... I feel more comfortable. I can take on blocks better and move a little better. That weight helps a lot.”
Known as one of Oregon’s fastest players, Davis said he gained speed while getting bigger. “I can fly, definitely,” he added.
“Daewood has gained 25 pounds and he’s still slender and can still run well, but he’s grown up a bit and learned the offense better,” Johnson said.
One of the ways that Davis did that was by watching junior Dillon Mitchell, Oregon’s leading receiver with 42 catches last season.
“Watching how he gets off the ball, his movements, and how he attacks people, that played a key in how I came out this spring,” Davis said. “I came into spring saying that I am going to step up my game right now. I want to establish that dominance right now going into fall camp.”
The 6-foot-1 Davis, a three-star recruit who averaged 25.8 yards per catch as a senior at Deerfield Beach High School, struggled with drops in practice last year.
“Over the break, I caught 100 balls a day and came out with the mindset that I am not going to drop any,” he said, adding that he had two drops in the first five spring practices.
Oregon is looking for depth at wide receiver with Mitchell’s 44 career catches leading the team. While Davis and Burch redshirted last season, Johnson ranked third on the Ducks with 21 catches and Taj Griffin and Redd had 11 and five receptions, respectively.
Juniors Brenden Schooler and Malik Lovette are both converted defensive backs while Jalen Hall became the first receiver from this year’s recruiting class to arrive for spring practice on Tuesday.
“Young guys like Daewood, Jaylon Redd, Brenden with a year under his belt, Johnny Johnson lost 16 pounds so he is a little smoother, faster and quicker but still the same aggressive guy he has always been,” Michael Johnson said. “I am excited about the entire group.”
After twice debating whether to stay at Oregon or head home, Davis is getting used to his new climate.
“Florida is great, sunshine and palm trees, and then I came here and it is cold,” he said. “But now you see me going to practice and I am wearing no sleeves so I am getting used to it.”