Kent discovers a silver lining in UO injuries
Thin, but recovering, receiving corps lets one Duck show what he can do
You can call Jordan Kent many things - smart, savvy, personable and athletically talented with height, speed and jumping ability - but opportunistic needs to be added to the Oregon receiver's list of attributes.
Injuries have slowed four UO receivers; an academic issue has sidelined another receiver, Kyle Weatherspoon, all season; and even Kent's fellow starters, Jaison Williams and Brian Paysinger, have been dinged up.
There at every practice has been Kent as the healthiest and arguably hardest working player for Oregon receiver coach Robin Pflugrad. In only his second year of organized football, Kent clearly has earned the opportunity to play.
'You hate for (injuries) to be one of the reasons you play, but you have to take advantage of it,' says Kent, who has 15 catches for 193 yards, including a 100-yard game against Cal and a touchdown catch against Arizona State.
The receiving corps is getting healthier. James Finley (ankle) has reached near full health, and Garren Strong (groin) and Cameron Colvin (hamstring) could make the trip to Saturday's 2 p.m. game at Washington State. Derrick Jones (ankle) also could be available.
Other receivers have much more football experience, skill and instincts. But Kent has worked hard to catch up.
'You have to be patient and play the game. My responsibility is helping the team win,' says Kent, a senior who may or may not play basketball or compete in track and field during this UO athletic year; it depends on his NFL prospects.
Consistency in football, he says, comes from having a second nature on the field.
'That's why you have to put in that much more extra work,' says Kent, whose first career touchdown came at WSU last season, a highlight-reel 68-yard bomb from Dennis Dixon.
'You can't use 'New at this' as an excuse anymore, because they've given you the opportunity at playing time,' Kent says.
Most Duck fans assumed that Colvin and Finley would continue as starters this season, joined in the receiver rotation by others. But injuries have them off their games.
Colvin had an offseason quadriceps injury, followed by various injuries in training camp and the bothersome hamstring. Jones, a freshman who finally earned NCAA eligibility, skipped UO's summer workouts and then had an ankle injury limit his practice time.
Receiving line goes shallow
Both skilled and fast receivers, they would have battled Kent for playing time. Instead, they fall behind Kent with each missed or limited practice. What could have been?
'I ask myself that question about every morning when I come into work,' Pflugrad says. 'It's sad we haven't had the depth or the ability to really see what those players bring to the team. Injuries have been extremely disappointing. … You can't evaluate (players).'
Injuries have affected each of the three starting positions. Williams, the super sophomore, took over from Strong and has 36 catches for 546 yards and five scores. Paysinger has started in front of Finley and has 13 catches for 232 yards and two TDs, including the game-winner against Oklahoma.
Kent's work-in-progress list: catching the ball in motion, working on moves and routes 'with the right body posture,' making quicker cuts, and blocking. He hasn't been overpowered, strengthwise.
'It's been kind of baby steps, I'll definitely say,' Pflugrad says. 'He's really a blue-collar guy who wants to play football. He's become passionate about the game, although he's very naive about the game.'
Work ethic, team feeling rule
Pflugrad says Kent's work ethic compares to three former players he coached at Arizona State: Jake Plummer, Pat Tillman and Adam Archuleta. And Kent has been a great team player.
'He doesn't have issues or distractions that make coaches old,' Pflugrad says.
On scholarship for football, Kent says he probably will pursue an NFL career and skip the Oregon basketball season, with or without any guarantee about his draft status.
But, 'I literally can't say 'yes' or 'no,' only that I'm making myself available for basketball,' he says. 'We'll honestly just see what happens at the end of football season.'