During the 2011 football season, Oregon’s defense relied on creating turnovers to set their stellar offense up with great field position. As far as stats are concerned, the pass defense did their job. Although the Ducks were ranked 88th in the nation defending against the pass, they ranked 17th with 17 interceptions throughout the season. This pass defense only had 4 cornerbacks to work with, and primarily young ones at that. The Ducks will return 3 of last year’s 4 cornerbacks, two of them sophomores and one junior. The only senior lost was Anthony Gildon, whose senior year was plagued by injury and has most likely cost him a career in the NFL. Gildon played over 35 games in his career, and is leaving an already sparse selection of corners to fill the gaps of the Ducks defense. Because of the sparse collection of corners, the Ducks relied on a large selection of defensive backs to help lighten the load.
Oregon’s returning players include sophomore Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, 5’10″ and 190 pounds out of Chino Hills, California. Ekpre-Olomu played during all of the 14 games of his 2011 freshman year, and is the only cornerback that was truly used as a cornerback. He came in for defensive back Terrance Mitchell, who started at the position for the entire season. Mitchell is 6 foot, 185-lbs. out of Sacramento. The other corner position was shared by Gildon and incoming sophomore Troy Hill, a 5-11, 167-lb sophomore from St. Bonaventure HS in Ventura, CA. Hill stepped in a lot due to Gildon’s injuries during the 2011 season, and impressed many with his 35 solo tackles throughout the year. The only other two cornerbacks were Dior Mathis and Avery Patterson. Mathis is 5’9″, 177 pounds out of Detroit Michigan. He only played in 5 games, but recorded 3 solo tackles against Oregon State in the Civil War Game. Patterson was used as a free safety and a rover, and was the fifth-leading tackler on the team with 55 tackles (39 solo). Patterson is listed at 5’10″, 185 pounds, and played at Pittsburg High School in California.
Surprisingly, the Ducks did not sign a single cornerback to their team during the 2012 recruiting process. As bad as this may look on paper though, this may not be such a bad thing. With an abundance of defensive backs (and the fact that anyone who defends the pass must be extremely gifted and athletic to play the position), Nick Aliotti can move his defenders around in any way that pleases him. As long as the team can continue to come up with stops against their opponent, what difference does it make? The offense gets the ball back, and they won’t feel the pressure of blowing a lead.