by Rob Moseley
Photo: Eric Evans
Reviewing Oregon’s 2015 season and looking ahead to spring drills.
CB: Chris Seisay, So.; Ugo Amadi, Fr.; Mattrell McGraw, RFr.; Malik Lovette, Fr.; Tyler Reid, Fr.
CB: Arrion Springs, So.; Ty Griffin, So.; Michael Manns, Jr.; Jihree Stewart, Fr.; Sean Killpatrick, Fr.
S: Tyree Robinson, So.; Juwaan Williams, So.; Khalil Oliver, RFr.; Dylan Kane, Fr.
S: Reggie Daniels, Jr.; Charles Nelson, So.; Glen Ihenacho, RFr.; Fotu Leiato, Fr.; Austin Daich, Jr.
Starters: A roller coaster of a season for the defensive backs was reflected in the constantly shifting lineup. Oregon came into 2015 down three starters and reliant on underclassmen to step up, and the unit learned some hard lessons over the course of the season. Perhaps the most consistent bright spot was Tyree Robinson, who led the defensive backs with 64 tackles and a team-high three interceptions. Robinson began the season at safety, moved to boundary corner as position coach John Neal tinkered with the lineup, then shifted back to safety by the end of the season.
Reggie Daniels was the group’s most veteran player, and he had 56 tackles and 10 passes defended. But consistency on the back end was enough of an issue that receiver Charles Nelson moved to safety at midseason, and sophomore Juwaan Williams broke into the lineup. Williams only made one start before being lost for the season to injury, however, and another promising sophomore, Chris Seisay, also saw his year wrecked by injury. The player who showed the biggest development over the course of the fall was Arrion Springs. He was picked on early in the year, and lost his starting job, but returned to lead the Ducks with 13 passes defended and was thrown at much less often by season’s end.
Reserves: Several other players were pressed into action over the course of the season as Neal sought consistency in the secondary. Freshman Ugo Amadi had a promising fall camp and ended up starting a handful of games, and Glen Ihenacho entered the lineup for three midseason starts at corner. Given their youth, they probably needed more seasoning before being thrust into those roles; Ihenacho was back at safety by the latter half of the season. Ty Griffin played a little on defense early on but was used primarily on special teams, as was Fotu Leiato, a mainstay all season on kickoff coverage. Khalil Oliver played himself into more reps as a backup safety late in the season, while Mattrell McGraw spend another season developing on the scout team.
Redshirts: Despite the pressing need for playmakers early in the year, the Ducks did manage to retain redshirt status for some talented young guys. Malik Lovette also came over from receiver, and flashed a lot of potential in the weekly scout-team scrimmages. He’s a hard-working, high character player and a sure-fire future leader once he cements a role in the rotation. There’s another big-time potential playmaker coming up the track in safety Dylan Kane. Nobody on the roster forced more turnovers by Vernon Adams Jr. in practices over the course of the season. Kane calls to mind Erick Dargan, with his ability to be around the ball and come up with interceptions. Jihree Stewart’s development was hampered early on by injury, but he was able to begin his development around midseason. Tyler Reid and Sean Killpatrick enrolled as walkons and were mainstays with the scout team.
CB: Chris Seisay, Jr.; Ugo Amadi, So.; Jihree Stewart, RFr.; Mattrell McGraw, So.; Tyler Reid, RFr.
CB: Arrion Springs, Jr.; Malik Lovette, RFr.; Ty Griffin, Jr.; Michael Manns, Sr.; Sean Killpatrick, RFr.
S: Tyree Robinson, Jr.; Juwaan Williams, Jr.; Khalil Oliver, So.; Glen Ihenacho, So.; Troy Dye, Fr.
S: Charles Nelson, Jr.; Reggie Daniels, Sr.; Dylan Kane, RFr.; Fotu Leiato, So.; Austin Daich, Sr.
What to watch: For as tough as the 2015 season was, watching the secondary learn on the job, it should pay dividends over the next couple seasons. Recall how Tyrell Crosby and Matt Pierson experienced a trial by fire while the offensive line scrambled to deal with injuries in early 2014, then were mainstays in the lineup in 2015. Robinson and Springs are fine pieces to build a starting lineup around, and it’s reasonable to think Seisay and Daniels should be more consistent with another year under their belts. Williams, Oliver, Lovette and Kane all demonstrated enough promise to think they could step into the rotation, possibly freeing Nelson up to return to offense.