Nix's riches: Troy Franklin leads stacked Oregon Ducks receiving corps
The Ducks have their guy at wideout — the hierarchy behind him is a different story.
The Oregon Ducks might have a bonafide No. 1 wideout. And, contrary to what a certain reporter wrote at this time a year ago (hey, everyone loves a good shot down the field, right?), his name is Troy Franklin.
As a true sophomore, Franklin helped make quarterback Bo Nix’s debut season a memorable one, planting his fingerprints across the Ducks’ most inspired performances and racking up 61 catches for 891 yards and nine scores.
Franklin’s the obvious choice to sit atop any pass-catching hierarchy entering 2023. He possesses more finely tuned chemistry with Nix than anyone, after all. And perhaps that’s the best place to start when projecting what this year’s group of receivers may look like.
First, a quick history lesson.
Oregon, a school so often synonymous with skill and explosion on the offensive side of the ball, has a rich history at quarterback. The Ducks have churned out an impressive number of pro tailbacks, too. The weapons out wide, however, haven’t always planted the same, elite-level, marks — neither within the program, nor at the NFL level.
The Ducks haven’t featured a Pac-12 first-team receiver since Jeff Maehl in 2010. It’s been even longer since an Oregon receiver has been drafted higher than the third round (1998). And not since Dillon Mitchell’s breakout 2018 season has a Ducks wideout surpassed 1,000 yards in a season. In fact, only five others have hit that mark in Eugene since the start of the 21st century:
Byron Marshall, 2014
Josh Huff, 2013
Jeff Maehl, 2010
Demetrius Williams, 2005
Sammie Parker, 2003
The only returner with notable production aside from Kris Hutson (44 catches, 472 yards), Franklin has a good shot to do something that hasn’t been done in five years. He’d be the first receiver to accomplish such a feat in Nix’s career, too. And although questions regarding that exact benchmark wove their way into Oregon’s media day last week, there’s some different questions that need answering.
For half a decade now, it’s felt like Oregon has been waiting for “the guy” out wide. Now that it may finally have one in Franklin, the Ducks could have a different problem: Determining the hierarchy behind him.
Talk swirled this offseason about what Nix was paid to return to Oregon. Well, part of his payment came in stud wideouts. The Ducks lost 1,322 of Nix’s 3,593 air yards this offseason. In hopes of replacing those numbers, if not outright bolstering them, they welcome a freshman class headlined by 5-star receiver Jurrion Dickey, and more importantly add a trio of transfers in Traeshon Holden (Alabama), Tez Johnson (Troy) and Gary Bryant Jr. (USC).
The room has been rebuffed, but is this the right mix of personalities, expectations and styles?
“I think we’re one of the best in the country,” Franklin said of the group.
It certainly seems as though this particular unit more closely aligns with Nix’s vision for an ideal group of weapons than last year’s. After all, it was the quarterback, now in year two and with a career-best year in the rearview, who acted as a primary recruiter this offseason, putting together a group predicated on pedigree, familiarity, and depth.
Now comes time to incorporate the new cast into “a bigger picture,” as Nix put it.
Here’s a brief look at the three transfer entrants competing for looks: