by Rob Moseley
A look back at Oregon's month of spring practices that culminated in the spring game on May 3.
Where things stood: The Ducks had a lot of work to do, after the graduation of starting safeties Avery Patterson and Brian Jackson and the early departure by cornerback Terrance Mitchell to the NFL. Fortunately, the best of the bunch, Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, opted to return for his senior season. The other good news was, as is usually the case given Oregon's deep defensive game rotations, the potential new starters have ample experience. Corners Troy Hill and Dior Mathis played extensively in nickel situations over the last couple years, with Mathis really making strides late in 2013. And safety Erick Dargan was a starter late in 2012 after Patterson suffered a knee injury. There were also some new faces figuring to be in the mix, including redshirts Chris Seisay and Tyree Robinson, and JC transfer Dominique Harrison.
What happened in April: Right from the start, the seniors Mathis and Dargan made it clear they were going to fight tooth and nail to win first-string jobs. Mathis might have been the best player on the field the first week of spring drills, and Dargan was good for about an interception a day the first three or four weeks. A couple of young safeties also emerged early on, with Robinson getting the bulk of the reps with the ones to start spring, and Juwaan Williams playing consistently with the twos after redshirting at corner last fall.
Harrison looked increasingly comfortable over the course of the spring, the highlight being a 100-yard pick-six in a scrimmage. But for the most part, the veterans held firm during the five weeks of practice. Midway through April, though, Reggie Daniels began playing alongside Dargan at safety with the ones, and he continued to do so the rest of the month. In the spring game, Robinson had an interception and Daniels broke up three passes, making it difficult for an amateur assessment of which had the edge entering the summer.
Who to watch in August: That being the case, the battle between Robinson and Daniels will be a primary position of intrigue in preseason camp. Robinson is a highly touted young freshman who was a scout-team standout last fall, but Daniels has been waiting in the wings for his chance, and might be poised to break out. Guys like Hill, Harrison and Seisay figure to continue pushing Mathis, and to compete for time at nickel. There's also a talented quartet of freshmen on the way; as always, I'll assume redshirts are in order, but with an open mind to the possibility one or two could be immediate contributors.
PROJECTED DEPTH CHART
CB: Dior Mathis, Sr.; Dominique Harrison, Jr.; Stephen Amoako, So.; Arrion Springs, Fr.
CB: Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Sr.; Troy Hill, Sr.; Chris Seisay, RFr.; Glen Ihenacho, Fr.
S: Erick Dargan, Sr.; Juwaan Williams, RFr.; Issac Dixon, Jr.; Bobby Dunn, Jr.; Khalil Oliver, Fr.
S: Reggie Daniels, So.; Tyree Robinson, RFr.; Eric Amoako, So.; Bronson Yim, Jr.; Mattrell McGraw, Fr.