Craig Loper, EDN Sports
It’s hard to believe that a second-year player can be considered a veteran on a football team as skilled as the University of Oregon Ducks. But that’s exactly what Ifo Ekpre-Olomu considers himself.
The true-sophomore cornerback from Chino Hills, CA, Ekpre-Olomu appeared in all 14 games last year, including a starting job in the Rose Bowl.
“I feel like I can take that (experience from the Rose Bowl) for next year and build on it,” said Ekpre-Olomu. “After the Rose Bowl I just have so much more confidence now that I’ve played in one of the biggest games in college football.”
The youngest and least-experienced position on the Oregon roster last year, Ekpre-Olomu and other cornerbacks Terrence Mitchell and Troy Hill were forced to grow up fast, figuring out a system that Ekpre-Olomu admits he’s still learning.
“I’m trying to watch a lot more film and be able to just study plays and predict plays by formation and personnel,” he said. “That’s what’s going to help me for next year that I couldn’t really do last year.”
Although he’s still learning, Ekpre-Olomu says he knows his strengths.
“I think I can play man-on-man against anyone,” he said. “I think I can finish and make tackles, get to the ball, and hustle.”
With Terrence Mitchell considered to have the number one corner spot locked down for the Ducks, competition for the second spot seems inevitable. Others making a serious push for the job include redshirt sophomores Troy Hill and Dior Mathis, but Ekpre-Olomu dismisses the notion of each player strictly competing for the second spot.
“We’re all competing out there and just trying to get better so when the time comes for the season we can all get in and play at any time,” he said.
The remainder of the Oregon secondary looks in-tact. Senior free safety John Boyett is the unquestioned leader, but also helping to anchor Ekpre-Olomu and others are redshirt juniors Brian Jackson and Avery Patterson, two veterans that have in appeared in the last two BCS bowl games.
While some teams saw the cornerback position as a weakness of the Ducks’ last year, it will undoubtedly be one of their strengths heading into fall camp and next season. With the continuing development of Mitchell, Hill and Ekpre-Olomu, and Boyett and Jackson leading at the safety positions, the sky is the limit for this secondary.
Fans and coaches alike will be able to see these players in the 2012 Oregon Spring Game held at Autzen Stadium on April 28 at 11:00 AM. Admission is free, but fans are encouraged to donate three cans of food for Food for Lane County.
Positions like cornerback will be of hot debate, and a place where players can truly shine. For example, Mitchell has recorded an interception in each of the last two spring games.
There is no doubt that a solid effort in the game can improve a player’s position on the depth chart. Eugene Daily News will be bringing you a live blog for you to monitor during the game.