Oregon’s depth chart at wide receiver dwindled again Thursday.
One day after Oregon confirmed that sophomore receiver Darrian McNeal left the program, true freshman Jalen Hall missed what would have been his second practice with the Ducks.
“Jalen had to go home to handle a personal matter,” Oregon coach Mario Cristobal said. “He should be back and be fine.”
Hall, a true freshman from Los Angeles, enrolled in school for spring term Monday after missing the first five practices of the spring. McNeal, who had two catches for 10 yards last season, did not return to the team following spring break.
“Everybody has their own decisions in life,” Cristobal said. “He left in good academic standing and we certainly wish him the best. He’s a good young man.”
With junior Malik Lovette limited in practice because injury, the coaching staff had to adjust some rotations on offense for Thursday’s practice.
“Tight ends will get extensive work and we will take the running backs and move them around,” Cristobal said. “We want to make sure we spread the ball around and still pass it and not deter from the development of our quarterbacks. We want to make sure those guys are not limited because of our lack of depth.”
Oregon does not have a senior receiver on scholarship as junior Dillon Mitchell is the veteran of the group after leading the Ducks with 42 catches last season.
Juniors Brenden Schooler and Lovette are both converted defensive backs while sophomores Jaylon Redd and Johnny Johnson III played last year when Demetri Burch and Daewood Davis each sat out a redshirt season.
J.J. Tucker and Isaah Crocker will join Hall as true freshmen in the fall.
“We want to continue to develop guys at that position,” Cristobal said.
Winston vs. Winston?
Oregon won’t play USC in 2018, unless the two teams meet in the Pac-12 championship game on Nov. 30.
But junior linebacker La’Mar Winston junior is already looking forward to possibly playing the Trojans in 2019. The conference’s future schedule rotation has not been released.
Winston’s younger brother, Eli’Jah, is a member of USC’s 2018 recruiting class after being flipped from his verbal commitment to the Ducks.
“I’m just excited that he’s starting his life and that I’ll be able to play him,” La’Mar Winston said before Oregon’s practice Thursday. “Hopefully we’ll get them in a game and I’ll be able to hit my brother on special teams.”
La’Mar Winston emerged as a productive starting outside linebacker in Jim Leavitt’s defense last season, finishing sixth on the team with 49 tackles, including eight tackles for loss and two sacks.
Eli’Jah Winston, another four-star linebacker prospect from Portland’s Central Catholic High, decommitted from Oregon on Feb. 6 and signed with USC less than 24 hours later.
“Regardless of where he lines up, I will find a way to be against him specifically,” La’Mar Winston said.
Jake Hanson remains a limited participant while recovering from an injury. Cristobal expects Oregon’s starting center to be fully healthy next month, but not likely before the spring game on April 21.
“I don’t know if he will be back for spring ball,” Cristobal said. “He will be working some drills, he’ll be doing some stuff. … I would love for him to be in right now, but it’s certainly best for him and the team if he continues his progress and be ready to go a couple weeks after spring.”
Calvin Throckmorton, who started 10 games at right tackle and three games at right guard last season, has been filling in for Hanson at center.
The Ducks were outside in the rain during Thursday’s morning practice, the seventh of the spring. Cristobal said the team was a little rusty during Tuesday’s session in the Moshofsky Center after taking time off for spring break.
The players were given an opportunity to stay mentally sharp with optional football homework assignments while away.
“We have the iPad system the way that we can push actual footage of our practices and our installs to them,” Cristobal said. “They have access to that 24-7 on the iPads that we have for them. They also had a pretty defined workout of what they need to be doing.”
Many of Oregon’s players, including first-team academic all-American Justin Herbert, have bonded by playing Fortnite together in their spare time. La’Mar Winston was asked what his longest session playing the addictive video game has been.
“Well we just had spring break, probably 13 hours, something like that,” Winston said. “Start in the morning, play until my girlfriend makes me get off.”