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Will Marijuana Use Cost the Ducks the National Championship?

Saturday, January 10, 2015

 

Oh, the irony.

Weed is soon to be legal in Oregon, right? Can’t a blossoming wide receiver at State U. be forgiven for getting a head start on the festivities?

Apparently not. Multiple reports surfaced late Friday that freshman Darren Carrington would be ineligible for Monday’s national championship against Ohio State for failing a random drug test, supposedly registering a positive for marijuana. 

Ducks coach Mark Helfrich only confirmed Saturday that Carrington (and running back Ayele Forde, also reportedly for a failed drug test) will not available against the Buckeyes, refusing to divulge why at his team’s media day while while insisting “it will not be a distraction.”

It also won’t be a problem.

Certainly, Carrington was a weapon as of late for UO, who recorded 14 receptions for 291 yards and three touchdowns in the past two games. But it bears reminding that, for the season, Carrington had 37 catches for 704 yards and four touchdowns.

Someone else will emerge - it’s what happens in elite programs.

Heck, Ohio State had to deal with the loss of two starting quarterbacks, but here the Buckeyes are, albeit underdogs on the national stage.

No one is going to feel sorry for the Ducks, who will likely counter the loss of Carrington by beefing up the utility role already employed by Charles Nelson, who isn’t quite as electric as De’Anthony Thomas, the man who used to wear No. 6 for Oregon. But Nelson, who has caught 21 passes for 306 yards and five touchdowns and ran the ball 11 times for 101 yards, might be poised to have the same type of big-game impact as “DAT” had.

That’s a natural solution, as is pushing the ball to Dwayne Stanford, another big target. Expect to see tight end Evan Baylis involved heavily as well.

But here’s the spoiler - the guy under center, you know, Mr. Heisman? As long as Marcus Mariota is upright, the Ducks remain dangerous. Yes, he needs weapons, but he’s the ultimate weapon after all. 

He’s the reason Ohio State defensive coordinator Luke Fickell has been working overtime as of late, not Darren Carrington. 

 

Related Slideshow: Slideshow: Ten Injuries That Could Have Cost The Ducks and Bucks Their Season

Here are 10 injuries that could have cost the Ducks and Buckeyes their season: 

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Oregon Ducks

Tackle Jake Fisher

Jake Fisher has been a three-year-starter on the Ducks’ offensive line. He plays left tackle - a position often reserved for a team’s best pass-blocker (if a defender were to tee-off on a quarterback’s blind side, the result could be season-ending). 

The AP All-American went down in September against Wyoming, and quickly proved how important he was to the Ducks’ success. In two games without Fisher, Mariota was sacked twelve times and the Ducks lost a home game against Arizona. When Fisher returned to the lineup against UCLA, Mariota was not sacked.

Fisher is projected to be a first-round-pick in the NFL draft in May.

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Oregon Ducks

Cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu

Ifo Ekpre-Olomu went down with a season-ending injury during one of the Ducks’ December practices.

Having an All-American taken out of your defensive secondary, especially before facing-off against a pocket-passer like Jameis Winston, can be enough to end a playoff run. 

However, losing Ekpre-Olomu was a non-issue for the Ducks. Although Winston passed for more yards than Mariota in the Rose Bowl (Winston threw for 348 vs. Mariota’s 338), Winston scored only one passing touchdown.

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Oregon Ducks

Tight End Pharaoh Brown

Pharaoh Brown went down with a season-ending knee injury during the Ducks’ 51-27 win at Utah Nov. 8. 

The injury was so severe enough to threaten Brown’s career. It was so violent, in fact, that ESPN refused to replay the injury during its broadcast of the game. 

A tight end is an important outlet for any QB. At the time of his injury, Brown has 25 receptions, while his replacements had only registered a total of three receptions. 

The loss of Brown was not a setback for Mariota, who became the first QB in school history to register 50 more touchdowns than turnovers in a season (56 TDs to 6 turnovers).

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Oregon Ducks

Receiver Bralon Addison

Bralon Addison went down with a season-ending injury in August after being the team’s second leading receiver in 2013. He was the Ducks’ “taser,” a Chip Kellyism that refers to a speedy player who lines up in the slot as well as in the backfield. 

In a way, Addison’s injury left the Ducks without two players: a wide receiver and a backup running back. 

The Ducks' receivers, along with a group of young running backs, stepped up in Addison's absence. 

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Oregon Ducks

Center Hroniss Grasu

Like Brown, Oregon Center Hronnis Grasu also went down with a leg injury during the Ducks’ Nov. 8 game at Utah. Losing a center would be a big loss for any team - the center is often referred to as “the quarterback of the offensive line,” because he’s the one tasked with making most of the line’s pre snap reads and calls. 

The injury forced the Ducks to move a guard over to play center, and have a number of guards play musical chairs in the then-vacated guard spot. 

Coaches voted Grasu to the First Team All Pac-12 list for the thirst consecutive year.

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Oregon Ducks

Tackle Tyler Johnstone

An All-American as a junior, Johnstone started 26 games for the Ducks before suffering a knee injury in the Alamo Bowl in December 2013. Prior the start of the 2014 season, Johnstone injured his knee again, requiring season-ending surgery. 

The Ducks its most-consistent pass blocker when Johnstone went down. If he had remained healthy, there’s no doubt that the Ducks could have avoided their mid-season disasters on the o-line.

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Ohio State Buckeyes

Quarterback Braxton Miller

After being voted First Team All Big-10 for two consecutive seasons, Miller went down with a season-ending injury in August. 

Losing your quarterback is never an easy obstacle for any coach to overcome. 

Urban Meyer, however, had a contingency plan. His Bucks went on to have an impressive season on its way to the first-ever College Football Playoff.

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Ohio State Buckeyes

Quarterback J.T. Barrett

When Quarterback Braxton Miller went down, J.T. Barrett stepped in. Despite a loss against Virginia Tech and an overtime scare against hated Penn State, Barrett was able to put himself in Heisman contention. 

Barrett passed for over 2,800 yard while rushing for 938 before injuring his ankle in the Michigan game. 

Third-string QB Cardale Jones, a third-year sophomore, stepped in for Barrett when he went down late in the year and preserved the Buckeye’s season - including the Bucks' Jan. 1 upset win against Alabama in the College Football Playoff semifinals.

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Ohio State Buckeyes

H-Back Dontre Wilson

Dontre Wilson went down with a foot injury that required season-ending surgery. The heralded running back had contributed more as a blocker and receiver than as a rusher - he had 21 catches for 300 yards before he went down Nov. 8 against Michigan State.

His impact as a blocker was huge - although difficult to measure. The Buckeye offense didn't miss a beat - Ezekiel Elliot still rushed for over 200 yards against the Alabama defense. 

When playing with backup QBs, even losing one check-down option is a huge blow.

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Ohio State Buckeyes

Wide Receiver Johnny Dixon

Freshman receiver Johnny Dixon, a Florida-native, was a four star recruit coming out of high school. With an inexperienced receiving corps, fans expected Dixon to find his way into the rotation later in the year, hopefully prove to be a big play maker. 

With losing their first two QBs, we’ll never know how big of a year Dixon could have had for the Bucks had he stayed healthy. 

 
 

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