Who will replace Dillon Mitchell’s production for the Ducks?
It’s one of the most important questions Oregon faces entering the 2019 season, and coach Mario Cristobal has found an assistant to come up with the answers.
Oregon will hire Jovon Bouknight to coach wide receivers, according to a FootballScoop.com report.
Bouknight spent the previous 10 years coaching various positions at Utah State, including wide receivers, before following Matt Wells to Texas Tech to be the outside receivers coach in Lubbock.
Cristobal, who said during last Wednesday’s signing day press conference that the search was down to a handful of qualified candidates, has chosen Bouknight as the replacement for Michael Johnson Sr., who left for Mississippi State.
Oregon opens the 2019 season against Auburn at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. The Ducks are also scheduled to play at Texas Tech in 2023 and host the Red Raiders in 2024.
“Being that the state of Texas, we haven’t done much there in the past couple of cycles,” Cristobal said. “It is an area where we’re going to be playing, it is an area with an abundance of talent and great high school coaching. Something like that always figures into a coaching hire.
“Is it the deal breaker one way or the other? I don’t know. It depends how tight the race is between a couple of candidates, but it certainly is something that’s looked at and I always take into consideration.”
Utah State finished 11-2 overall and 7-1 in the Mountain West last season, which led to Wells moving on to the Big 12 and taking Bouknight with him.
Last year under Johnson’s tutelage, Mitchell led the Pac-12 and set a single-season Oregon receiving record with 1,184 yards and 10 touchdowns. The junior decided to enter the NFL draft instead of returning for one more season with quarterback Justin Herbert.
The Ducks return three receivers with starting experience — Jaylon Redd (433 yards, five touchdowns), Johnny Johnson (215 yards, four touchdowns) and Brenden Schooler (203 yards, one touchdown).
Bryan Addison, a talented 6-foot-5 freshman, retained his redshirt after playing in only four games in 2018.
Cristobal previously replaced two staffers who left for Louisville — outside linebackers coach Cort Dennison and director of recruiting Stephen Field — with respected Washington State assistant Ken Wilson and Penn State director of player personnel Kenny Sanders.
The attrition on the staff did not slow down the program’s momentum on the recruiting trail as Oregon signed the nation’s No. 7 overall class last Wednesday.
“In college football and any kind of football, maybe sports in general, transition is part of it,” Cristobal said. “Really it’s almost like, hey, this is going to happen. It’s a matter of when. A year ago the transition was difficult because a year ago our assistant coaches recruited positions specifically. So when there was a loss at that position a relationship with a certain position group was lost as well. That was hard to resuscitate.
“This year’s approach was that multiple guys were assigned to certain recruits to make sure that if something like that happened, the relationships were still strong to be able to maintain that trust and integrity and everything that was told to that family and household.”
Oregon’s incoming recruiting class includes wide receivers Josh Delgado, Mycah Pittman, JR Waters and Lance Wilhoite.
Penn State graduate transfer Juwan Johnson, who had 54 receptions for 701 yards and a touchdown last year, visited Oregon last month.
Tyrese Cooper, a state champion sprinter in Florida who will run track at Oregon, said at his signing day press conference that Cristobal will also give him an opportunity to play wide receiver on the football team.
Bouknight, who had 3,626 yards receiving and 5,921 all-purpose yards during his playing career at Wyoming, will be on the field with Oregon’s receivers when spring practice begins March 7.