With Signing Day officially in the books, so is the 2012 campaign for Oregon football. However, as one chapter closes another one opens and it's never too early to take a sneak peek at the upcoming season. DuckTerritory's "Offseason Burning Questions" series takes a look at each position on the Oregon depth chart and addresses the biggest questions at each spot, priming Duck fans for what they can perhaps expect in 2013. Today, the series continues with an examination of the cornerback position.
Ekpre-Olomu could be a highly coveted NFL draft prospect in 2014.
Projected 2013 Depth Chart:
* - denotes projected starter at one of two cornerback positions.
Who provides immediate depth behind Mitchell and Ekpre-Olomu?
Aside from the linebacker position, the Oregon defense returns the bulk of their contributors from last season's Fiesta Bowl championship team. In fact, it can be argued that, along with defensive line, the Oregon secondary is one of the strongest unit on the entire team from a depth perspective heading in to 2013. Juniors Terrance Mitchell and Ifo Ekpre-Olomu are entrenched as the starters at cornerback heading in to next year after starting all 13 games for the Ducks last season, but who provides backup? That will almost assuredly fall to juniors Troy Hill and Dior Mathis; two players who have excelled in reserve roles dating back to 2011. Hill is the more seasoned player of the two -- and a likely starter on a number of other Pac-12 teams -- but Mathis proved to be a playmaker in the limited opportunities he received last season, intercepting two passes for 70 yards. Expect both players to have similar roles heading in to next season, though don't be surprised to see Oregon defensive backs coach John Neal substitute more liberally with the quality of depth he possesses.
Is this Mitchell and Ekpre-Olomu's final year at Oregon?
It very well could be. As two of the best cover corners in the Pac-12 Conference, both Mitchell and Ekpre-Olomu will have the full attention of NFL scouts and general managers next season if they can remain productive and healthy. Breaking in to the starting lineup in daunting fashion against LSU in Dallas in 2011, Mitchell has been a rock solid defensive leader from his cornerback position. His quickness and outstanding natural cover skills discouraged many opposing teams to throw his direction last season, allowing Ekpre-Olomu to have one of the best individual seasons a cornerback has ever had in the history of Oregon football. As a sophomore in his first year as a full-time starter, Ekpre-Olomu led the Ducks in pass breakups (16) and forced fumbles (6), while tying for second on the team in interceptions (4) and fourth in total tackles (63). Between the two of them, Oregon should possess a cornerback tandem that rivals the nation's best next season.
What does the future at cornerback look like for Oregon?
With juniors occupying the two deep at each cornerback position, it doesn't leave a ton of opportunity for some of the younger players at corner to receive ample playing time next season. Add in the fact that senior-to-be Avery Patterson also has the ability to play corner next season if fully recovered from a knee injury, and the chance for reps becomes even more bleak. However, that's not to say the youngsters at corner don't have game. Between the twin redshirt freshmen Stephen and Eric Amoako and incoming talents Chris Seisay and Juwaan Williams, the Ducks have what they hope is a very bright future at the position. Strong and sturdily built, the Amoako twins have the versatility to flex between both corner and safety, allowing Neal a myriad of options in terms of fulfilling depth. Same goes for ultra athletic incoming freshmen Seisay and Williams, who each stand 6'0" or taller.
Offseason Burning Questions: QB
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Offseason Burning Questions: TE
Offseason Burning Questions: OL
Offseason Burning Questions: DL
Offseason Burning Questions: LB