Some football teams struggle to find 11 capable players on each side of the ball. For the Ducks, the wealth is overwhelming at some spots, with quite possibly the nation’s most explosive player in De’Anthony Thomas not even listed at a top spot on the depth chart.
Recently for the Ducks, the problem hasn’t been finding premier talent, it has been keeping it around and out of the hands of others.
For athletes who don’t think they will get the chance they deserve or don’t think they will break out of a pack of equally-skilled cohorts, transferring has become a popular option across college football, and Oregon has seen some premier talent head for the door, with one player in particular now set to face his old team on the grandest of stages.
Chris Harper, former Oregon quarterback then wideout, was the Kansas State Wildcats’ leading receiver this season, with 50 catches for 786 yards and three touchdowns. A Kansas-grown, highly versatile athlete, Harper played tailback and quarterback in high school and came to Oregon in 2008 first listed as a passer, but he played a utility role.
In the Ducks’ season opener that year against Washington, Harper rushed the ball 12 times for 60 yards and a score, mostly from the quarterback position after taking over for injured Oregon quarterbacks Nate Costa and Justin Roper and then relieving Jeremiah Masoli in garbage time. In week two he threw for the first time, passing for 40 yards and a touchdown on four of six attempts while also rushing for 25 yards and a touchdown.
In week three in overtime against Purdue he rushed from the shotgun for a total of 14 yards on the final possession to setup a game-winning LeGarrette Blount score.
Week four against Boise State was the beginning of the end for Harper as a quarterback. He was zero of three passing with two picks and just 21 rush yards on nine attempts in an injury-forced relief role, and Oregon opted for fifth-string redshirt quarterback Darron Thomas in the fourth quarter due to Harper’s inability.
Harper would switch to receiver after the Boise State loss and by seasons end he tallied nine catches for 122 yards and two receiving scores, 35 rushes for 135 yards and two touchdowns, logging no more passing stats after Boise State.
He left Oregon after the ’08 season for close-to-home Kansas State. In his three seasons there, he has improved as a pass-catcher, having caught a total of 115 passes for 1,663 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Harper will line up as starting receiver against the Ducks in the Fiesta Bowl, but will not see any familiar faces on the field, as no active Ducks’ players shared the field with Harper during his time at UO.
Another former Duck that has seen success after leaving Eugene is current Baylor starting tailback Lache Seastrunk. A product of Texas who also moved closer to home in favor of staying at Oregon, Seastrunk has come on strong in the last five weeks of his debut year with Baylor, grabbing the starting role while rushing for over 138 yards per game with six total trips to the end zone. Baylor will face UCLA in the Holiday Bowl later this month.
Other former Ducks who are currently playing, or soon may, include: Dontae Williams, Tra Carson, Tacoi Sumler, Nick Cole and Mike Bowlin.
Williams left the crowded UO backfield just like his recruiting classmate Seastrunk and played this last season at a junior college. Rumor has it he may transfer to San Diego State for next year. Carson, who came to Oregon as Seastrunk and Williams left, rushed for 254 yards and a score in 2011 for the Ducks but left for Texas A&M in 2012 and will be eligible to play next year. His transfer made him the third tailback from Texas to transfer away from Oregon in the last two years.
Sumler, a touted receiving recruit, redshirted in 2011 and has left for Appalachian State to play next year. Cole played receiver for Northern Arizona this year and Bowlin handled kickoffs and punting for Washington State.