DBs Ready to Go As Fall Camp Concludes

EUGENE, Ore. - The Oregon Ducks took to Autzen Stadium to finish up preseason fall camp on Thursday morning with a lot of hyperbole and speculation surrounding who will be placed amongst the first-team on the depth chart that is scheduled to be released sometime on Friday.

While there are notable position battles, none has received the attention that the quarterback competition between Bryan Bennett and Marcus Mariota has.

And, just like he has been throughout camp, Head Coach Chip Kelly would not reveal whether there was a favorite prior to analyzing film from the scrimmage.

"Thought they did great," said Kelly when asked how Bryan and Marcus did in today's scrimmage. That simple statement is all that Ducks fans have to rest on as they wait out the next 24 hours before finding out who their next starting quarterback will be.

For Bennett and Mariota, they will also have to spend the next 24 hours waiting in anticipation. When asked by reporters what their strategies were for the next day, both cited the need to find some relaxation and just stay calm. As uninteresting as some fans may lead that to believe, relaxation and keeping a sound mind is exactly what both quarterbacks need to do. There is nothing more either quarterback can do to strengthen their argument to be a starter.

With the offensive players and coaches taking a vow of silence on the better of the two quarterbacks, it was looked towards the defense to provide the answers.

"September 1st we will all see, because I don't really know myself," said sophomore cornerback Terrance Mitchell. "I figure with any of them (the quarterbacks) we are going to be alright."

It soon became apparent that the main theme after practice today was: wait for the depth chart. This theme was not just apparent with the quarterback competition, either. Another position competition of intrigue for many Duck fans is taking place at the cornerback slot opposite Mitchell and the rover position that was left vacant with the departure of Oregon standout Eddie Pleasant.

Oregon Ducks Secondary Coach John Neal, who has been with the program for eight seasons, has worked hard on further developing what is a talented secondary unit.

"It's all of those things (referencing whether the players developed cohesively, in coverage, or in support) because they are all good players," said Neal, talking about the development of the unit between 2011 and 2012. "But now they've played they've gotten a year stronger. They understand the systems better. And all that stuff is why guys gradually improve."

The Ducks' secondary returns talented players such as John Boyett, Brian Jackson, Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Avery Patterson, Troy Hill, and the aforementioned Terrance Mitchell. Incoming players such as Oshay Dunmore, Reggie Danies, and the Amoako twins (Eric and Stephen) give the Ducks some added depth, talent, and rotation.

Figuring to be penciled in starters for the Ducks in the secondary are Boyett and Mitchell. Others competing for spots in the secondary are Jackson at rover and Ekpre-Olomu and Hill at cornerback.

When asked about if either the open rover position or cornerback position had been filled, Neal had some insight to offer.

"Well, Ifo and Troy Hill," said Neal of the cornerback position, "They're going to play like they did last year. Dior Mathis, Avery Patterson, and Eric Dargan can kind of switch up and play corner, as need be; nothing different really than what we had last year."

Apparent from Neal's remarks is that there is no favorite to be placed in the "open" corner position. Just like last year, Oregon fans can expect to see this position filled on a rotational basis.

Addressing the rumors that Brian Jackson had secured the rover position, Neal maintained that the coaching hasn't named any starters yet.

"We know Brian's (Jackson) going to be there," said Neal of possible cornerback starters. "Brian's been tremendous. Avery Patterson's been playing there, Eric Dargan can play there."

For Neal, more concern rests with what may happen later on in the season than figuring just one guy to play a certain spot.

"My issue is over the course of the season, who can play there and what's my best four," said Neal, "What if there are injuries? I am getting those guys enough playing time so that it's an easy transition if something goes wrong."

One player that Neal will advocate to be guaranteed to be a starter is Boyett. The senior now in his final season with the football program, is just as focused as ever on the opponents the Ducks will face in 2012.

When asked if there are any particular teams or receivers Boyett is aching to confront in 2012, Boyett said, "Every team. Every game. Every game is a big one and you just gotta go out there with that mindset. That way you can focus on the game you are playing in and be successful."

Boyett mentioned some of the things he did during the offseason to get the team better.

"Try to work on everything and just try to help the guys around me," Boyett said of the offseason. "I just want to be able to help the guys around me and help them play better and play as a team and help the team win games."

One teammate that Boyett has been working with for two years now and figures to get plenty of playing time at the rover position is Brian Jackson who is eager to show what he can do especially if he is a starter.

"I want to get out there and provide as much help for my team, it just depends on what they (the coaches) say," confessed Jackson. "It's really just up to what the coaches decide. You have to go out there with that mentality (the mentality of a starter) in order to get ready to win a game. You have to be confident, you have to be narrow-minded, and you have to be able to go out there and say I'm gonna make plays today."

Should Jackson secure the starting rover position, fans can be rest assured that he has made improvements over the course of the last year.

"I'd say my biggest improvements would be knowledge of the game," said Jackson, "I always knew I was doing but it feels good to know different things about route reads and special ways to do coverages, how to bait things and how to disguise. That was my favorite part of this (off)season, just learning how to advance my thinking on the field."

Jackson has also taken his dedication past organized team practice.

"I do drills by myself after practice every day," said Jackson when addressing his after-practice routine he had brought up earlier, "I feel like this makes me better."

Mitchell, mentioned earlier, will be trying to take his play to the next level as he enters his second season with the Ducks. As for who plays opposite him at the other corner unit, Mitchell believes there talent.

"They (Hill and Ekpre-Olomu) look great," observed Mitchell. "We're a force to be reckoned with. We all have our different attributes, how we play. We're not a mirror image of each other. We can all do things we need to do to win."

Despite what fans would generally refer to as two "open" positions in the secondary, all indications are that players and coaches are more than confident that the Ducks' secondary unit will get the job done this year and be part of an Oregon defense with high expectations for 2012.

The Oregon secondary will have their first test when they take on Arkansas State on September 1st.

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