Oregon: Receiver's absence due to failed drug test won't be distraction

Oregon: Receiver's absence due to failed drug test won't be distraction
With two key offensive players suspended and two others injured, quarterback Marcus Mariota (8) and Oregon will have to rely on Charles Nelson (6) and others to pick up the slack. (Thearon W. Henderson / Getty Images)

Oregon has overcome a rash of injuries this season by clinging tight to its motto of "Next Man Up."

The Ducks will be tested again in Monday night's College Football Playoff championship game, although this time it's not because of injury.


Oregon Coach Mark Helfrich confirmed at Saturday's media day that receiver Darren Carrington will miss Monday's game after failing an NCAA drug test for marijuana.

"It will not be a distraction," Helfrich insisted.

The Associated Press reported reserve running back Ayele Forde would also miss the game, although the results of his drug test were not immediately clear.

Carrington's loss means Oregon will be without two of its top receivers when it faces Ohio State at AT&T Stadium.

The Ducks are already missing Devon Allen, the NCAA 110-meters hurdles champion, who injured his knee on the first play of the team's 59-20 win over Florida State in the Rose Bowl.

Carrington stepped up for Allen and had a huge day, catching seven passes for 165 yards and two touchdowns.

Carrington and Allen have combined for 78 catches and 1,388 yards this season, with 11 touchdowns.

Oregon has been surprisingly deep at the wide receiver this year, with 12 different players catching touchdown passes.

That depth, though, will now be tested in the season's biggest game.

"Distractions are distractions if you let them be," Helfrich said. "How you manage those things is what matters most, and our guys have managed them very, very well."

Oregon still has plenty of options. The return of a healthy Thomas Tyner at running back could allow Byron Marshall to shift even more of his attention to pass catching.

Tyner returned from an injury to rush for 124 yards and two scores in the Rose Bowl.

Marshall was Oregon's leading rusher last year but moved to receiver this season because the Ducks were so deep at running back.

Tyner and freshman Royce Freeman have combined for 1,854 rushing yards and 23 touchdowns. Marshall led Oregon with 66 catches but also gained 383 yards, and averaged 7.5 per carry, as a runner.


"We just have to keep working," Marshall said of picking up the slack for Carrington. "You can't harp on who's not here, who's not playing. We just have to focus.… None of us like to make excuses."

With Carrington out, Oregon figures to lean even more heavily on emerging freshman Charles Nelson, who has grown from a special teams star to one of the Ducks' key offensive weapons.

Eighteen of Nelson's 21 catches this season have come in the last six games. Nelson had four catches for 40 yards in the Rose Bowl and also added a 16-yard run.

Nelson said Oregon receivers are prepared to play multiple positions during the course of the game.

"Everybody has to learn all the roles," he said.

He said it also helps having Marcus Mariota.

"He learns what we do best, that's why he's a great quarterback," Nelson said.

Helping hand

Players said they were appreciative of the College Football Playoff's decision to help defray travel costs for their families.

The stipend is capped at $1,250 per parent, or guardian.

"I know my mother is doing everything she can to get here," Oregon linebacker Tony Washington, who is from Rancho Cucamonga, said. "The reimbursement will help us out a lot."

Center Hroniss Grasu, who is also from the Los Angeles area, agreed.

"For my parents it is very nice and it is a very generous offer," he said. "They are going to take advantage of that and we really appreciate it."

Twitter: @DufresneLATimes