DALLAS -- As news rippled through the country on Friday night that Oregon wide receiver Darren Carrington had been ruled ineligible for the national championship game, the redshirt freshman's teammates and coaches did their best to simply shrug their shoulders.
If you ask them, there's no such thing as an irreplaceable player on the Ducks' roster, expect for Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota. Perhaps no team in the country has been through as much adversity as Oregon when it comes to replacing players on the field, given that key starters at wide receiver, on the offensive line and at tight end and cornerback have already been lost for the season. Speaking at the College Football Playoff Media Day on Saturday, there was simply no fretting over the loss of Carrington in the lineup, but rather a purposeful focus on who would be catching passes on Monday night.
"I don't think our guys feel let down, I think our guys feel bad for Darren," said receivers coach Matt Lubick. "We're excited for who's going to be out there. We're really excited for how our guys prepared. We've got great depth there."
Offensive coordinator Scott Frost echoed those sentiments.
"These guys have been rising to the occasion all year long," Frost said. "We've had games where Dwayne Stanford has been our leading receiver and others where Keanon Lowe is our leading receiver, some where Charles (Nelson) was. Marcus trusts those guys and feels good about them and they're all in shape so they can play a long time."
Carrington, who is ineligible for the game after reportedly failing an NCAA-administered drug test, was Oregon's second-leading receiver in terms of yards and was expected to keep his prolific finish to the season going against a Buckeyes secondary that had stifled Alabama star Amari Cooper in the Sugar Bowl. The speedy receiver was viewed as an important piece of the team's game plan following a breakout Rose Bowl performance. Plus, the Ducks are already dealing with the loss of their fastest player in slot receiver Devon Allen, who suffered a knee injury early in the Rose Bowl win.
Based on talk from several of the coaches and players, Oregon might look to shorten its rotation up with just a handful of players instead of liberally rotating them in for snaps in the fast-paced offense. Stanford is expected to see the largest increase in playing time, while veterans like Lowe and former running back Byron Marshall will likely be on the field more than usual. Nelson, a true freshman, and basketball-player-turned-receiver Johnathan Loyd will see time in the slot as well.
"Guys are excited for the opportunities," Lowe said. "We've lost a lot of important pieces but it's always next man up."
Experience when it comes to the speed of the game and on the practice field is typically one of the things a replacement player does not have when pressed into duty like some of the young Ducks will be, but that does not appear to be the case with this group based on something the program has been doing ever since the days when Chip Kelly was calling plays for Oregon.
"In practice, we emphasize reps. So we have a ton of guys that are even redshirting that get a ton of plays," Lubick said. "That's helped us because we've got guys who've missed games all year long due to injuries and the next guy knows what he's doing because of the way we practice.
"This is actually the healthiest we've been at wide receiver in a long time."
The Ducks will certainly put that theory to the test against the Buckeyes in the national championship game.