Starting cornerbacks: Mykael Wright, Dontae Manning
Backups: DJ James, Trikweze Bridges
Mykael Wright and DJ James didn’t play in the spring game so Dontae Manning got to show up and show out and he did just that. He recorded the scrimmage’s only interception and showed some athleticism by taking it out of the end zone and picking up some return yards. I’m going with an upset special pick here, starting the former five-star Manning over James.
Wright is a lock to be a starter on the other side, but Manning and James are going to duke it out until the fall at the other cornerback spot. Trikweze Bridges, Avantae Dickerson, and Jaylin Davies will add some talented depth.
Is this the best the cornerback position has ever been?
Starting safeties: Verone McKinley, Steve Stephens
Backups: Jordan Happle, Bryan Addison
Verone McKinley is back as a multi-year starter and he should be one of the best the Pac-12 has to offer. As a freshman in 2019, he led the Pac-12 in interceptions with four to go along with 46 tackles and a couple of pass breakups. He was ninth in the conference in total tackles last season with 46 again and he had another interception and two pass breakups in just seven games. Expect an All-Pac-12 season from him.
At the other safety spot is redshirt sophomore Steve Stephens is taking over for Nick Pickett and in 11 career games, he has 16 tackles and an interception. The former top 250 prospect could be a star in the secondary with the opportunity now in front of him.
Jordan Happle transferred in last offseason and will be a valuable backup to Stephens. Bryan Addison came to Oregon as a top-100 receiver but has made the switch to defensive back and could go from cornerback to safety this season. His size alone is going to make him a nightmare backup for opposing offenses.
Starting nickelback: Jamal Hill
Backup: Bennett Williams
Mario Cristobal has had plenty of praise for Jamal Hill this spring as a budding star at the nickelback position. He had 24 tackles, two interceptions, and four pass breakups as a sophomore in 2020 and could be the perfect Jevon Holland replacement.
Backing him up will be freshman Bennett Williams.