Being a cerebral player gives UO receiver extra oomph

by: TRIBUNE PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - UO receiver Bralon Addison beats the Virginia defense down the sideline for a touchdown in the Ducks 59-10 road victory last week.EUGENE — On a team with two of the country’s best playmakers, a guy like Bralon Addison could be overlooked. But the Oregon Ducks certainly know the talents of their 5-10, 180-pound sophomore from Missouri City, Texas.

Addison has elevated himself to go-to guy status, alongside QB Marcus Mariota, running back De’Anthony Thomas, receiver Josh Huff and tight end Colt Lyerla.

Addison had TD receptions of 30 and 27 yards in the first two games. Heading into Saturday’s 12:30 p.m. game against Tennessee at Autzen Stadium, he is firmly in the Ducks’ receiver plans with returning starters Huff, Daryle Hawkins and Keanon Lowe.

“I’m just more comfortable and familiar with the offense,” says Addison, who had 22 receptions for 243 yards and three TDs last year, including a bomb-for-score against Arizona. “It’s a big plus. I’m able to play faster, not worry about mistakes. Stuff comes natural.”

Addison has earned a reputation as a student of the game in his short time in Eugene, earning praise from Thomas and Huff.

It makes sense: Addison played receiver as a sophomore on varsity at Fort Bend Hightower High in Missouri City, just outside of Houston, and then started at quarterback as a junior and senior. He learned the spread offense and understood all the roles. He led his team to the Texas Class 5A championship game as a senior (losing to Southlake Carroll), and he was selected to the U.S. Army All-American Game — as a receiver. He was recruited by big-time schools, many in the Pac-12 and Big 12, as a receiver or defensive back.

Scott Frost, now the UO offensive coordinator, recruited Addison, as did former coach Chip Kelly and former O-coordinator/current head man Mark Helfrich.

“He’s just a good football player,” Frost says. “It’s not an accident that he took his high school team to the state championship game as a quarterback. He’s a kid who understands the game, knows how to play football. He’s really quick and hard to get hold of in the open field. All those things put together are going to lead to a lot of success.”

Addison joined the Ducks and drew some comparisons to Thomas for his versatility. But Frost says Thomas and Huff fill the “slash” roles well, allowing Addison to be an outside receiver.

“Bralon could do any number of things for us,” Frost says. “He could easily be one of the guys inside. But he gives us another weapon outside.”

Addison joined the Ducks in June 2012, and immediately witnessed first-hand what he had seen on television.

“When I came in, everybody was talking about De’Anthony,” he says. “I watched him on TV, but you never really know until you see him in person on the field. It was amazing. I think he’s helped me grow a lot, seeing stuff he does as an older guy. ... He’s such a dynamic player. He can play running back and receiver and return kicks and punts, pretty much anything you need him to do.”

Coaches worked Addison into games last season, putting him in safe situations “so I wouldn’t have many ‘oopsies’ in the mind,” he says. “It helped getting that experience, going full speed in a game and then coming back the next week and correcting what I messed up on. Then going through spring ball and another camp helped me a lot.”

Addison always has been a cerebral player, heeding the advice of his father: “Study film, study film.”

“Bralon is a competitor, very humble and very smart,” Thomas says. “He’s a team player, and he likes to make plays. He’s very exciting to watch.”

Says Addison: “(Being smart) has been my edge since I was a young guy playing varsity as a sophomore. Coaches liked how I studied film, and I was able to translate it onto the field. There’s a lot of things you don’t see on the field, that you see on film.”

Frost, who played QB at Stanford and Nebraska and defensive back and special teams in the NFL, says going from quarterback to receiver is a natural transition “if you’ve got a guy who has those kind of tools.”

Hawkins took some QB snaps for Oregon in 2010, before he solidified his spot at receiver. He and Addison and the coaches have joked about who would be called on as an emergency quarterback, should something happen to Mariota, Jeff Lockie, Jake Rodrigues and Dustin Haines. (Don’t laugh, losing all scholarship QBs to injury has happened at Oregon before).

“I haven’t seen (Hawkins) throw it around, but I’ve seen film from his freshman year,” Addison says. “He throws a good ball. I think he can still play quarterback now.

“I could throw it a little bit (in high school). I throw it pretty well now, but probably not as good as Marcus, Jeff or Jake.”

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