The loss of All-Amercan cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu on Tuesday was a blow to the morale of a Ducks team that was beginning to get healthy after an injury-riddled season. While losing this top defender and emotional leader of the secondary, as Tyson Alger of The Oregonian called him, the Ducks have the chance to put their young players to a trial by fire.
Young talent has been the key to success for this team as they have stepped in for injured veterans or simply shown the staff their ability to make plays. The Ducks will once again have to place their fate on the shoulders of some potential stars in the wings.
Redshirt freshman Chris Seisay has already been given the nod to start in the Rose Bowl in place of Ekpre-Olomu. While Seisay has not had much playing time, he does have 20 tackles and has broken up three passes. Seisay told Alger that he knows FSU will target him on New Years Day “They don’t know me; they’re going to pick on me because I’m the new corner,” Seisay said. “I just have to show them what I can do.”Seisay is not the only young Duck waiting to make his mark on the program; sophomore Reggie Daniels, redshirt freshman Tyree Robinson and true freshman Arrion Springs will have plenty of opportunities to show what they can do against Florida State’s talented receivers. With the Ducks’ top defenders nearing the end of their careers at Oregon, these younger players are participating much more this year and they have plenty to prove.
If the next generation of stars on defense is anything like this year’s offensive rookies, the Ducks will really look forward to what is to come. Oregon has seen plenty of production from their young players on offense, most notably Royce Freeman who became the first true freshman in Oregon history to rush for 1,000 yards. Charles Nelson, another true freshman, has had an impressive year as well, hauling in 17 catches for 266 yards and five touchdowns.
Between the experience of the coaching staff and the passion of the seniors ready to pass the torch, the young defense is sure to keep things exciting on New Year’s Day. Should they prove successful in shutting down Jameis Winston’s top target Rashad Greene it would be a crippling blow to a strong but fairly inflexible FSU offense.
Top Photo by Craig Strobeck