Oregon Football: 4 Backups Critical to Ducks' Success in 2014
Of the elements that make the Oregon Ducks contenders for the College Football Playoff in 2014, depth is among the most significant.
Oregon enters the new season stocked with enough talent on both sides of the ball for head coach Mark Helfrich to turn to his reserves without missing a beat.
Some Ducks on the second string of the depth chart will play significant roles in the team's pursuit of a fourth conference championship since 2009.
DL Stetzon Bair
Helfrich told reporters in April that Stetzon Bair "jumped out and did some good things," per A.J. Jacobson of Rivals.com.
The Ducks will need a lot more good things from the redshirt junior on a restructured defensive line. Oregon lost three primary contributors from this unit in the offseason: Taylor Hart, Wade Keliikipi and Ricky Havili-Heimuli.
Though they have different positions, Havili-Heimuli filled a role that Bair will man in the upcoming season as a spark plug from the second string. Havili-Heimuli made 25 tackles, including four for loss, playing tackle.
Bair will back up Alex Balducci at nose tackle, where his efforts should prove central to Oregon's run defense.
At 6'9", Bair is the longest of a considerably large defensive line. Positions coach Ron Aiken told Andrew Greif of The Oregonian he planned to use the group's collective height to the Ducks' advantage.
That's the way we've recruited them. We're working right now to automatically get separation. That’s what we’re trying to do with long arms. We talk 'lockout and separate' because then you can get off a block and onto the ball.
Bair's strong performance in the spring game could be a springboard into the new campaign. He made seven tackles, collected a sack and recovered a fumble.
S Reggie Daniels
The departures of starting safeties Avery Patterson and Brian Jackson mean a new look from the Ducks secondary. Redshirt sophomore Reggie Daniels should be a factor in the reorganized rotation.
A 4-star recruit in Oregon's 2012 signing class, Daniels got his first taste of playing in the ballyhooed Oregon secondary last season—albeit in limited capacity. He appeared in nine games, primarily working on special teams, and recorded six tackles and a broken-up pass.
His role will be much more prominent in 2014.
Daniels was impressive in the spring game, breaking up a day's best three passes. His energy should provide the Ducks a spark in multiple defensive back sets, and he will perform well as a complement to likely starter Tyree Robinson.
LB Torrodney Prevot
Torrodney Prevot will continue his competition with Tyson Coleman for the linebacker spot that Boseko Lokombo vacated. Coleman started for a stretch midway through last season, making five of his 21 tackles in a start against Washington State.
If Coleman resumes the starting job after returning from injury, Prevot should still see a significant role in the Ducks' talented linebacker corps.
Prevot's quickness off the edge gives defensive coordinator Don Pellum options with the pass rush. He showed it off in flashes a season ago and was afforded further opportunity to demonstrate his ability with Coleman sidelined in the spring.
The sophomore's versatility may be his greatest asset and the primary reason he'll factor prominently into the defense. He explained to 247Sports' Will Rubin he is seeking "to become like a Dion Jordan type."
A first-round NFL draft pick in 2013, Jordan was celebrated for his ability to drop into pass coverage, contain the run and bring pressure on the blitz.
"[T]he body type is very fit for me, like being around 245 [pounds], 260, something like that so I can play either way or line up on a receiver any time I want to and still have that killer mindset," Prevot said.
OL Andre Yruretagoyena
Oregon embarks on its 2014 campaign with one of the best offensive lines in the Pac-12. Bringing back five starters from last season, the Ducks combine experience with depth. The two qualities are crucial to protecting Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback Marcus Mariota and paving the way for a loaded corps of ball-carriers.
Redshirt junior Andre Yruretagoyena is a cornerstone of the Ducks' offensive line depth. Sometimes playing at guard, he also worked out at Tyler Johnstone's vacant tackle position in the spring.
As Johnstone continues to rehabilitate a knee injury suffered in the Alamo Bowl, Yruretagoyena should see early opportunities that develop into a season-long spot either at guard or tackle.
"I'm just learning as much as I can and playing as hard as I can," he told Ryan Thorburn of The Register-Guard. "Hopefully, I can earn a starting job or at least have a pretty big contributing role this season."
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