With fall camp only a matter of weeks away, DuckTerritory ranks the 11 position groups on the Oregon depth chart, outlining what each unit can do to move up or move down this summer and heading in to fall camp. Our 11-part series concludes today with a look at cornerback.
Veteran Oregon defensive backs Terrance Mitchell and Dior Mathis will be key ingredients to the cornerbacks holding down the top spot in DuckTerritory's unit rankings.
* - denotes starter last season
Italics denotes newcomer
No. 1 – Cornerback
OVERVIEW: Heading in to the 2013 season, the cornerback position at Oregon could very well be not only the deepest position on the Duck roster, but the deepest position group in the entire Pac-12 Conference. Led by juniors Ifo Ekpre-Olomu and Terrance Mitchell, the Ducks boast two of the nation's top players at the position, and in the case of Ekpre-Olomu, a potential first-round draft pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. Ranking fourth on the team in total tackles a year ago with 63, Ekpre-Olomu is as adept coming up and stopping the run as he is flipping his hips and becoming a ball-hawking force in pass coverage. His four interceptions and 16 pass break ups, to go along with his six forced fumbles (tied for second in the nation a year ago), are evidence of that. Though not as skilled as Ekpre-Olomu against the run, Mitchell is an outstanding cover corner in his own right who's impact on opponents passing game last season was limited due to teams opting instead to test Ekpre-Olomu. As a sophomore, Mitchell tallied 40 total tackles and was second on the team in passes broken up with eight.
Backing up Ekpre-Olomu and Mitchell at corner are two talented junior reserves in Troy Hill and Dior Mathis. In fact, if not for the supreme abilities of the former two players, Hill and Mathis could very well be starters for this Oregon team. A season ago, Hill and Mathis combined for 42 tackles and three interceptions, and each figures to play a role similar to ones they played in 2012.
Rounding out this group are three newbies who may assume special teams roles in their first forays on the collegiate level in redshirt freshman Stephen Amoako, and true freshmen Chris Seisay and Juwaan Williams.
HOW THEY MOVE UP: It's impossible to better than No. 1 on this list, but if this group is to exceed the expectations had of them heading in to this season, they'll need All-American caliber seasons out of Ekpre-Olomu and Mitchell. Ekpre-Olomu was a revelation in his first year as a starter, cementing himself as the secondary's most productive and impactful player with his stellar sophomore season. This year, the onus is on Mitchell to play a role more akin Ekpre-Olomu's a season ago. While there's only so much he can do when teams look to avoid his side of the field, Mitchell appeared less assertive in 2012 after holding the title as perhaps the team's best cornerback in 2011.
HOW THEY MOVE DOWN: Injuries. Plain and simple. If the cornerback group for Oregon can avoid getting bitten by the injury bug, there's very little that should prevent this group from being the top overall position group on the roster heading in to the 2013 season.
Unit Rankings: #11 Linebacker
Unit Rankings: #10 Special Teams
Unit Rankings: #9 Defensive End
Unit Rankings: #8 Running Back
Unit Rankings: #7 Tight End
Unit Rankings: #6 Wide Receiver
Unit Rankings: #5 Defensive Tackle
Unit Rankings: #4 Offensive Line
Unit Rankings: #3 Quarterback
Unit Rankings: #2 Safety