By Rob Moseley
When Oregon’s two-deep for Saturday’s season opener against Nicholls was released earlier this week, five true freshmen were put on notice.
For tight end Johnny Mundt, offensive tackle Cameron Hunt, linebacker Tyrell Robinson, linebacker Torrodney Prevot and placekicker Matt Wogan, the time is now, apparently. Barring a last-minute change of plans – very much a possibility – all would be expected to play when the third-ranked Ducks host the Colonels in Autzen Stadium on Saturday at 1:05 p.m.
But those five don’t figure to be the only true freshmen to play this season. Another subset of Oregon’s 2013 recruiting class is being prepared to contribute as well, should the need arise. Running back Thomas Tyner, wide receiver Devon Allen, offensive lineman Jake Pisarcik and cornerback Chris Seisay are among the newcomers who didn’t make the two-deep but that have a chance – to varying degrees – of seeing the field this fall.
Thus, they face the task of preparing themselves to contribute without the carrot of guaranteed playing time Saturday. Each has taken meaningful practice reps this week – but how meaningful?
“We just want to be prepared so we can help contribute,” Seisay said. “In case we get thrown in there, or even if we’re on the sideline, we want to prepare so we can contribute.”
Seisay finds himself behind four juniors on the depth chart at cornerback, but he has the ability to play on special teams as well, particularly kickoff return. Likewise, Allen might be seventh or eighth in the receiver rotation, but his abilities as a kickoff returner enhance his value.
“Anything I can do to get on the field – kickoff return, punt block, punt return, even left tackle,” Allen joked. “Anything. And coaches have made it apparent to me if I keep working, I might get the chance.
“I think I’m preparing just the same as if I would play. We’ll see if the coaches see fit; if I’m doing well in practices, if I show enough on film, I think I’ll definitely get the chance."
The freshmen seemingly on the bubble for playing time this week all have had different trajectories to their preseason camps. Tyner, as has been widely reported, had a lower leg injury midway through camp. Seisay was a late arrival while awaiting clearance.
Allen, who was also recruited by the UO track and field team, showed off his speed the first week of August. After making an early impression, his impact lagged a bit as the freshmen endured the rigors of camp. But in the last 10 days or so, Allen got his feet back under him.
As Allen’s comfort level improved, so did his chances of contributing this season – assuming he keeps himself ready for whenever the call may come.
“It’s the same as if I was playing,” Allen said. “Prepare myself mentally, make sure I know all the plays, because if I do get a chance to go in I want to make sure I’m not messing up – I do everything right and I do my job.”
Seisay echoed that message of accountability to the rest of the team.
“I don’t know if I’m going to play or not, but I always stay focused so that if they do throw me in there I know what I’m doing – I’m not just clueless,” Seisay said. “To say you’re redshirting and you don’t have to learn the plays, don’t have to pay attention in practice, that’s a dangerous mentality.”
Seisay helped compensate for his late arrival by constantly picking the brain of first-year graduate assistant Cha’pelle Brown, a former defensive back at Colorado who was named the Buffaloes’ MVP in 2009. Whenever Seisay wasn’t actually on the field taking a practice rep, he was reviewing calls and assignments with Brown.
Thus, Seisay has tried to put himself in position to contribute if called upon this season, despite uncertainty over when or even if that will happen.
“I feel pretty ready,” Seisay said. “It’s just being more confident. It would be my first game. It’s just knowing what I have to do when they line up in a certain formation. It’s just being comfortable and confident.”