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 safety positions.
Brian Jackson hopes to pick up where he left off in 2012.
Projected 2013 Depth Chart:
* - denotes projected starter at one of two safety positions.
Who starts between Avery Patterson and Erick Dargan at free safety?
At this point, any projections you see for the Ducks at free safety are purely speculative. Prior to the season-ending knee injury he suffered at Cal, Patterson was playing as good as any player on the Oregon defense, demonstrating a keen nose for the football and quickly developing a reputation as a consummate playmaker. In place of John Boyett, who's season was lost after one game due to knee surgery, Patterson had three interceptions (two of which went for scores) and racked up 44 tackles through 10 games, good enough to finish tied for sixth on the team. However, after Patterson went down, Oregon's depth at safety was further tested as the Ducks turned to then sophomore Erick Dargan, who had played well but sparingly in the nine games prior to Cal. In Patterson's stead, all Dargan did was lead the Ducks in interceptions (five) and finish fifth on the team in total tackles with 54. In fact, over the final three games of 2012 season, Dargan notched four interceptions and firmly established himself as a rising star in an already talented Oregon secondary. So who gets the nod? This likely hinges on how well Patterson is able to recover from his knee injury. Unlikely to be a full participant this upcoming spring, Patterson will relinquish his playing time to Dargan who only figures to grow with each additional rep he receives. Assuming Patterson is healthy in August, the distribution of playing time is likely to change, but at that point, Dargan's lead may be too much to overcome.
Is Reggie Daniels ready to become a star?
If you paid attention to the reports on DuckTerritory throughout the fall, it appears he is. Opportunities could be hard to come by with Dargan and Patterson situated ahead of him at free safety, but the redshirt freshman from Chandler (Ariz.) has impressed the coaching staff with his work to this point and is primed to have an impact on the field in some capacity during his debut season. At 6'1", 200 lbs., Daniels is a rangy safety who is just as skilled against the run as he is the pass. Reports from the fall also suggest that Daniels has exhibited leadership qualities, which bodes well for the Ducks in 2013 and beyond.
Is there a future star at rover behind Brian Jackson?
Since earning the starting rover position last August during fall camp, senior-to-be Brian Jackson has been a stalwart for the Ducks in the back end of their defense. Originally a special teams standout, Jackson transitioned in to larger role on defense last season seamlessly, ranking third on the team in total tackles (69) and pass breakups (7). Expect Jackson to take another leap in his final season in Eugene, however, once he departs, who can be expected to take his place? Answers should be provided in 2013, as a foursome of Dixon, Dunmore, Eric Amoako, and Tyree Robinson will all vie for immediate playing time behind Jackson next season. Dixon is the default choice at the moment due to his experience in the program, but injuries last season curtailed potential development. Dunmore and Amoako are athletic redshirt freshmen who earned their first stripes on the scout team last season, but it's still unknown what either player will be able to provide if pressed in to action. At 6'4", 200 lbs., Robinson may have the most upside of any of the four options behind Jackson, but he'll need to prove himself early in fall camp if he is to supplant any of the upperclassmen listed ahead of him entering 2013. Similar to Oregon's tight end position, a front-line starter has all but been established, though the supporting depth is a major question mark.
Offseason Burning Questions: QB
Offseason Burning Questions: RB
Offseason Burning Questions: WR
Offseason Burning Questions: TE
Offseason Burning Questions: OL
Offseason Burning Questions: DL
Offseason Burning Questions: LB
Offseason Burning Questions: CB