Charles Nelson chose number six.
It’s a sign of confidence and a glimpse of the kind of player he wants to be, choosing DAT’s old number, also his high school number, and he backs it up with preparation and intensity.
He’s already made an impression at practice. Rob Moseley reported yesterday at goducks.com that the true freshman from Florida made a couple of nice plays as a tackler in a kick coverage drill, hustling past a blocker to make a tackle. Mark Helfrich singled out the true freshman for being one of the guys who’s studying the playbook on his iPad in the break between practices.
Charles ran a 10.58 100 in high school, 21.88 in the 200. He long-jumped 24 feet, one inch, triple-jumped 45 feet 2 inches. He’s been clocked in the 40 at 4.3, vertical jumps 37 inches and lifts 300 pounds in the bench and 405 on the squat. That’s phenomenal athletic ability.
In his highlight film he shows a terrific burst, but what jumps out is how he receives the football: very, very smooth. Keep in mind, he did all this coming off a knee injury.
The ACL tear dampened recruiting interest, but the Ducks still had to outduel Notre Dame, USC and West Virginia to get him to Eugene. He visited just a week before Signing Day, an under-the-radar addition that could play big dividends.
The true freshman wants to play right now, and with 10.5 speed in the 100, he has the talent and athletic ability to do it. The fact that he’s so dialed-in and focused just boots up the iPad that much faster.
The Ducks got the Seabreeze high school star at a discount in last year’s recruiting cycle. He’d injured his knee as a junior, and didn’t get the recruiting attention his skills warranted. Nelson attacked his rehab with that characteristic toughness, returning as a senior to catch 37 passes for 512 yards and 7 touchdowns, while adding 3 more scores on kickoff returns. The Duck have vacancies at both returner slots with The Black Momba gone and Addison injured, and Nelson, very sure-handed and poised, is a top candidate to land one or both of those jobs.
His willingness to stick his helmet in there on punt coverage at 5-9, 170 pounds makes a powerful impression on coaches. After one week he already sounds like a veteran, telling Andrew Greif of the Oregonian, I feel like it went well,” Nelson said of the first week of camp. “Pretty successful first week for us, and (yet) I feel like we’ve got a lot more to do to get better, and we’ll handle that.”
Offensive coordinator Scott Frost told Greif that the Ducks have several players who could fill the multi-purpose TAZR role for the Ducks, lining up in the slot, taking a pitch or a handoff or running a pass pattern. “We still have a bunch of athletes like that,” he said. “Keanon Lowe is that type of athlete, Byron Marshall’s that type of athlete. I think Thomas Tyner’s that type of athlete, Charles Nelson’s that type of athlete. So we have a bunch of guys — even Devon Allen can do some of those things. We’ve got quite a few guys who are good with the ball in their hands and good in space.”
It’s significant that the coach named Nelson among all those veterans. Any time a young player has speed and soft hands coupled with seriousness and an exceptional work ethic, it gets the right kind of attention right away. Nelson could be a vital part of the solution for the Ducks at receiver, a deep threat who studies hard.
Twenty years ago the Webfoots had a young defensive back who played as a freshman, another guy who excelled at film study: a cornerback named Kenny Wheaton.
Maybe Nelson will be the guy who makes Oregon’s next history-making play. Chances are, he’s already visualized doing so.