As the 2012-2013 college football season approaches, one cannot help but assume that the Pac-12 will be highly competitive. Oregon and USC are expected to lead the conference title race, and their showdown in Los Angeles on November 3rd may very well determine the champion of the Pac-12.
Last year, USC ultimately ended Oregon’s chances at contending for the national title by defeating them 38-35 behind the arm of quarterback Matt Barkley. Barkley will return to the Trojans as USC ends their bowl ban imposed by the NCAA, and look hungry to compete for both the conference and national championships.
While dissecting the Trojans’ offense, and other teams that stand in their way, the Ducks need to realize that their pass defense must show up when needed. In last year’s loss to USC, they gave up 323 passing yards and could not seem to get enough pressure on Barkley. The safeties will have to do a lot to help their defense strengthen and improve as their contest with USC looms closer throughout the season.
Their biggest loss comes in Eddie Pleasant, who started 12 games last year at the rover position and had 37 career starts overall. The Ducks have big shoes to fill at the position, not only in skill but also in leadership, as Pleasant spent 5 years with the team and led stellar defensive performances composed of heart and determination.
Enter John Boyett, the 5-foot-10, 202-pound free safety out of Napa, California. Boyett has contributed 34 career starts to the team, starting 12 last year and playing 38 games overall. His career with Oregon has been exceptional, accounting for nine interceptions and 181 unassisted tackles in his three years as a Duck. What’s beyond the game is his tenure with the team and how much the team looks up to him.
Boyett is the lone free safety on the roster, and is the best at his position. He rarely has let quarterbacks trap him between two long-range targets downfield, and always makes the big play when needed.
Just as last year, he will share the position with Avery Patterson. Patterson, a 5-foot-10, 175-pound junior out of Pittsburg High School in California, was moved from his cornerback position to share the duties with Boyett. In his brief (but memorable) time with Oregon, he has contributed 74 total tackles and one interception. He also filled in for LaMichael James on punt returning last year; we may see him do that again with departure of James to the NFL.
The free safety position is in good hands, but the main concern is filling in for Pleasant at rover.
Brian Jackson was Pleasant’s backup last year, playing in 11 of 14 games and contributing 27 tackles. He also returned kickoffs, resulting in an average of 25 yards/return. With numbers like that, and the loss of LaMichael James, the special teams coach may want to give him a chance to run it back more.
Jackson, a 5-foot-10, 194-pound junior out of Hoover, Alabama, is most likely to win the starting job. He will still have to compete with the multitude of defensive backs, both returning and new.
Oregon’s recruiting class brought 3 more defensive backs to the team, all three of which are 3-star recruits according to Rivals.com. Reggie Daniels, out of Chandler, Arizona, turned down offers from Pac-12 foes Arizona and Arizona State to play with Ducks. Standing at 6 feet and 170 pounds, Daniels was listed as the 16th overall safety in the 2012 recruiting class. Already focused on his college career, he is currently working out to try and bulk up to about 200 pounds by the start of the fall.
The biggest recruits come out of the Dallas/Fort Wort Area in Texas, by way of 5A Martin HS. Oregon will finally be welcoming the Eric and Stephen Amoako to Eugene. The brothers had committed back in 2011, but still had one more year of high school football left. Possibly the most anticipated recruits on Oregon’s list this year, they had many successful seasons with their taem and once held an opponent to 81 yards on 28 passing attempts during the quarterfinals of the state playoffs. Both Eric and Stephen bost sub-4.5 40-yard times, and are hard hitting. No matter where they play on the field, they are sure to make an impact on an already stellar Oregon team.
Despite the loss of Eddie Pleasant, the Ducks seem to be just fine as they look to chase the national title.