By Rob Moseley
CB: Terrance Mitchell, Jr.; Troy Hill, Jr.; Stephen Amoako, RFr.; Juwaan Williams, Fr.; Michael Manns, RFr.
CB: Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Jr.; Dior Mathis, Jr.; Chris Seisay, Fr.; Eric Amoako, RFr.
S: Brian Jackson, Sr.; Issac Dixon, So.; Reggie Daniels, RFr.; Tyree Robinson, Fr.
S: Avery Patterson, Sr.; Erick Dargan, Jr.; Ben Butterfield, Sr.; Bronson Yim, So.; Bobby Dunn, So.
Starters: With everybody back from the unit that finished the 2012 season, at least one analyst (Ted Miller of ESPN) thought the Ducks came into 2013 with arguably the nation's best secondary. Whether Oregon's defensive backfield lived up to that billing or not, the Ducks were darn good. Though they couldn't repeat 2012's national-best 25 interceptions, the 2013 secondary also allowed fewer touchdowns and a lower completion percentage. Oregon's pass rating allowed of 105.55 was seventh-best in the country, eight places higher than in 2012. And the 26 completions of 20 yards or more that Oregon allowed were sixth-fewest in the country, as Ekpre-Olomu, Mitchell, Jackson and Patterson denied opposing offenses many game-changing big plays.
Individually, Ekpre-Olomu's big 2012 season meant that opposing quarterbacks looked more often to Mitchell's side of the field, and he answered with a team-high five interceptions and seven passed defended. Ekpre-Olomu had three and six, respectively, and was Oregon's second-leading tackler with 84 stops, amazing output from a corner. Patterson recovered from his 2012 knee injury to finish with 80 stops and a much-deserved pick-six in the Alamo Bowl, and Jackson wrapped up a steady, unheralded career with 71 tackles.
Reserves: The primary reserves most of the season were Dargan and Hill, who would enter when Oregon went to its nickel package, taking Jackson and a front-seven defender off the field. Each was suspended for the Civil War and bowl game, with Jackson and Mathis taking over their duties in the nickel package. Dixon, Daniels and Butterfield got some spot duty on defense and special teams, and Stephen Amoako worked in the two-deep after Hill's suspension but wasn't called upon in the games. Manns, Yim, Dunn and Eric Amoako were scout-team players.
Redshirts: As at linebacker, there's a lot to be excited about from the 2013 signing class. Seisay was a bubble player all season, practicing with the travel squad but able to preserve his redshirt due to the overall good health of the cornerbacks. He's a big defender with really good ball skills. Williams worked with the scout team but also showed promise at cornerback. And Robinson really looks like something special. He's a long, lean ballhawk who can cover a ton of field on the back end. If the staff could replay the season knowing then what they know now, Seisay and Robinson might have worked their way into the two-deep over the course of the season, and played key roles down the stretch.
CB: Dior Mathis, Sr.; Dominique Harrison, Jr.; Stephen Amoako, So.; Michael Manns, So.
CB: Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Sr.; Chris Seisay, RFr.; Juwaan Williams, RFr.; Eric Amoako, So.; Troy Hill, Sr.
S: Issac Dixon, Jr.; Reggie Daniels, So.; Bobby Dunn, Jr.
S: Erick Dargan, Sr.; Tyree Robinson, RFr.; Bronson Yim, Jr.
Seniority rules when making these projections, but just like at linebacker, the young guys have a chance to really shake things up come April. With Mitchell off to the NFL a year early, it wouldn't be shocking to see Seisay push Mathis for a starting job (Hill is awaiting adjudication of an off-the-field incident, so we'll set him aside for the time being). Likewise, Robinson figures to assert himself at safety, where Dargan is the only guy with meaningful experience. Dixon and Daniels have had their moments the last couple years, and need to take the next step soon if they're going to hold off the up-and-comers. Harrison is a JC transfer who enrolled in January and will have the benefit of a quarter on campus to do strength-and-conditioning and learn the defense. And finally, let's not ignore the biggest storyline of them all — the fact Ekpre-Olomu will be on hand in April, when he could easily have justified a jump to the NFL a year early. He's a lockdown defender, a fearless hitter, a respected leader and a mature Man of Oregon, another one of those guys any young player would be wise to try to emulate in all facets.