Terrance Mitchell

Ducks In The NFL: Chicago Bears Cornerback Terrance Mitchell Fighting For Roster Spot

Former Oregon Ducks Cornerback Terrance Mitchell hasn’t heard his name called very much in his NFL Career. After several big seasons for the Ducks, Mitchell declared for the Draft early in January of 2014, forgoing his Senior season with the University of Oregon. He was selected in the seventh round that year by the Dallas […]

Ducks In The NFL: Chicago Bears Cornerback Terrance Mitchell Fighting For Roster Spot – Autzen Zoo – Autzen Zoo – An Oregon Ducks Fan Site – News, Blogs, Opinion and more.

Robinson Ready to Romp

The Oregon football team lost three great defenders for the upcoming season in Avery Patterson, Brian Jackson and Terrance Mitchell — but the good news is in the fresher faces. Redshirt freshman Tyree Robinson worked his tail off last year, and he told Yahoo Sports that “it’s time to step up.” With a hole to fill at the safety position, Robinson is poised to start and has all the tools to excel. Additionally, both his background and his attitude toward sports are in his favor.

Robinson enrolled at Oregon in September, 2013, and has never looked back. Before Oregon, Robinson, a standout athlete in football, volleyball and basketball, helped lead the Lincoln High School Hornets of San Diego to a 10-3 record on the gridiron under head coach David Dunn. Check out the short video below of him in action.

Although Robinson will play strong safety for the Ducks, he did it all for the Hornets. In fact, Robinson was rated the No. 6 athlete in the country and made the Cal-Hi All-State Team as a multipurpose player for his outstanding play at defensive back and efforts at wide receiver. It was his exploits in the secondary that earned him an invitation to the 2013 Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl. As a receiver, Robinson had 17 catches with a 19-yard average, but again, scouts and fans were more enthusiastic about the 60 tackles and four interceptions from this 6-foot-4 stud.

Robinson can name 17 of the schools that offered him scholarships, but according to SBNation, there were actually more than 30. Some of these inquiring institutions should sound familiar, including Ohio State, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Georgia and all of the Pac-12 schools. Robinson was highly coveted, but after a trip to the land of green and yellow and a visit with Nick Aliotti, the deal was done; Robinson had decided to play basketball and football at the University of Oregon.

Several months ago, though, Robinson decided to focus solely on football. Back in high school, he was almost as good on the court as he was on the field. In only his junior year, he was named to the Cal-Hi All-State Grid-Hoop basketball team after averaging a whopping 21 points and six rebounds for the Hornets. Robinson wished to play basketball in addition to football at the school of his choice, and the Ducks were accommodating.

After seeing Oregon men’s basketball thrive in its own right and realizing his own potential, Robinson decided to focus primarily on football and school, despite basketball being his “first love” according to the Daily Emerald. But in accordance with the recent increase in tall, athletic defensive backs, Robinson’s experience in basketball helped him develop impressive footwork and speed that will aid him in the position. Look below for some of the moves that will help Ducks football, but will be missed by the hoopsters and hoop fans.

After his successful prep career, Robinson enrolled at U of O. A common misconception is that redshirts go unnoticed and fly under the radar; that couldn’t be further from the truth. Robinson tore it up on the scout team and impressed the coaching staff so much that they took him on the road several times as an emergency backup. He was never needed, but he and the coaches were confident that he would be ready to go if called. Some media outlets even mentioned that former defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti felt that Robinson could have played as a reserve and on special teams.

But that’s all in the past. The present has seen additional change for Robinson. He trained hard the entire 2013 season and was especially tenacious in the spring, where his work was shown to have paid off during game time. College football spring games are not necessarily the ideal scouting grounds, but Robinson had an MVP-like performance where he made interceptions and broke up passes like it was nobody’s business. After the game, Head Coach Mark Helfrich praised his game, and Helfrich is an important person to impress.

The future is now

The future is now.

Robinson is still a bit lanky, but his length, athleticism and agility will serve him well in the secondary. Although he seems a bit thin, Robinson manages to bully the opposition. It wouldn’t be a stretch to guess that we might see him locking down receivers if they get stuck on his island. He doesn’t have elite speed, but he makes up for it with a leaping ability seen mostly in old Chinese action flicks. He often uses his hops and his long arms to disrupt passes — or make engulfing tackles.

Robinson’s advanced set of skills make him a perfect fit at the safety position. There will be doubts that a freshman can man such a hefty role, but some of the Oregon freshmen to do so include legends John Boyett and Patrick Chung. Robinson may not be able to compete at the same level as those guys at this point, but the future certainly looks bright. The question that remains then is, will he blossom today or tomorrow?

Top Photo by Craig Strobeck

2014 NFL Draft: Philadelphia and Chip Kelly Reload With Former Oregon Ducks

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For a good part of the former Oregon Ducks football family it was a great weekend. Many have new teams and some will be fortunate enough to also have familiarity as their former coach, Chip Kelly, saw them on the draft board and decided to take them. Wide Receiver Josh Huff, Linebacker Taylor Hart and a handful of former Oregon Ducks players who signed Free Agent contracts at the conclusion of the 2014 NFL Draft including Defensive Tackle Wade Keliikipi will play in the City of Brotherly Love in Philadelphia.

De'Anthony Thomas
De’Anthony Thomas strikes a Heisman pose in a 42-14 victory over UCLA in Autzen Stadium | (Alex Shoemaker/Eugene Daily News)

Former Oregon Ducks Playmaker De’Anthony Thomas was selected by the Kansas City Chiefs on Saturday and will join former Auburn Defensive End Dee Ford and former Georgia Quarterback Aaron Murray. I would expect to see DAT on the field as a return man for the upcoming season. Former Duck Avery Patterson also found a new home with the Dallas Cowboys in the seventh round. There were several teams that picked players that could take them to the next level.

Jacksonville found a way to do something rather remarkable. The Jaguars with the number three pick chose UCF Quarterback Blake Bortles. By the end of the day on Saturday they had also given him some weapons in former USC Wide Receiver Marquise Lee and Penn State Wideout Allen Robinson. In the seventh round they gave Bortles his former teammate at UCF in Running Back Storm Johnson. Quite the haul for a team trying to find its identity.

Taylor Hart 3

Outside of Oregon Ducks football, the Pac-12 Conference had a great 2014 NFL Draft with thirty four players finding new homes. Several other Conference players of not include former Arizona Running Back Ka’Deem Carey, now a member of the Chicago Bears, Stanford Running Back Tyler Gaffney joins former Oregon Ducks Running Back Kenjon Barner in Carolina as a member of the Panthers and Washington’s dynamic duo of Bishop Sankey and Austin Sefarin-Jenkins will find new homes on Sunday in Tennessee and Tampa Bay respectively. Former Penn State and recent USC Running Back Silas Redd was also givena chance at the next level being added in Free Agency to the Washington Redskins. One of the bigger stars for the Oregon State Beavers, Wide Receiver Brandon Cooks was chosen in the first round by the New Orleans Saints. Every team in the Pac-12 Conference had at least one player taken in the 2014 NFL Draft. One team had quite a streak broken over the weekend in Texas.

The Longhorns did not have a player taken in the NFL Draft for the first time since, get this, 1937. Texas had eleven first round picks in the last ten drafts. Fourteen players were drafted from other FBS schools in the state of Texas, but the former powerhouse did not have a selection.

For many following these players, including the Oregon Ducks, the schedule now moves from Saturday to Sunday. Who will perform on the field? Who will break records? Who will have ‘Sportscenter’ moments? We’re just a few months away from find out who will make not only an NFL roster, but who will have the opportunity to have that dream of playing professional football in high school come true. They are all one step closer.

For a different take on the Oregon Ducks, visit AutzenZoo

Terrance Mitchell goes to Dallas Cowboys in seventh round of NFL draft

Former Oregon defensive back Terrance Mitchell was selected by the Dallas Cowboys in the seventh round of the 2014 NFL draft Saturday.

“The whole experience has been fun,” Mitchell told the Emerald earlier this week. “It’s like a roller coaster ride, but it’s at the last stop. I’m ready to make my mark on the NFL and complete some new goals.”

Mitchell could’ve returned to Oregon for his senior year but instead elected to enter the professional ranks. In his final year with the Ducks, Mitchell had 59 tackles and had five interceptions. He had two interceptions against Colorado and returned an interception for a touchdown against Washington State.

CBSSport’s Rob Rang scouted Mitchell throughout the draft process and called Mitchell a “alert defender” and “generally reliable open field tackler.” Rang compared Mitchell to current Indianapolis Colts defensive back Greg Toler.

Mitchell was one of five Cowboys’ selections in the seventh round.

Good bless thankful to be a COWBOY… We in the door!!!!

— Terrance Mitchell Jr (@twosevenmitch) May 10, 2014

Here’s some reaction:

Thank you !!!!! Cowboys took my boy t Mitch he gone do work in the d !

— Bralon Addison (@BralonAddison11) May 10, 2014

Last but not least, congratulations to my homie @twosevenmitch on getting Drafted to one of my favorite teams, the Dallas cowboys. #GoDucks

— Dior Mathis (@DMathis3) May 10, 2014

Ayyy I see you boy @twosevenmitch!!! Congrats! I know you gone do work for the Cowboys fam! #916love

— SuperAye (@air_real) May 10, 2014

Follow Joseph Hoyt on Twitter @jhoyt42

Chip Kelly Update: A Draft Pick, Broken Silence and an Army Hero

In my last column, I wrote about Chip Kelly’s long post-season silence, even amid the controversy over releasing star WR DeSean Jackson.  The weeks since January 4th have felt like an eternity of baseless speculation, what-ifs and angst over every conceivable draft pick.

There have been so many mock drafts that a bunch of writers in Philadelphia have started an #MDMD competition, where they draft mock drafts into teams of mock drafts, which will compete against each other in, I don’t know, some kind of recursive fantasy football league.

Our long national nightmare is over.  The draft is underway (though only the first round has finished as we go to press).  But even before that, the Eagles dropped two juicy chunks of red meat for fans: a 12-minute Chip Kelly press conference (his first since DeSean was cut), and the signing of an undrafted free agent who’s a genuine stud.

Neither item would be very dramatic in December, but this time of year it’s life-saving nourishment for that pack of ravenous wolves we call the press.

The draft is full of misdirection, bluffing and carefully cultivated false hopes, like a game of poker where you can trade cards, and Chip Kelly (& his GM Howie Roseman) did a masterful job of concealing their hand.  You can tell by the wide range of contradictory predictions based on “hot inside information.”

Depending on who you read, the Eagles were sure to trade up for Johnny Manziel (even though they have Nick Foles, a young and inexpensive QB who led the NFL in passer rating) or Anthony Barr (the UCLA RB who converted to OLB) or Odell Beckham (a speedy WR with the same physical limits as DeSean Jackson) or safety HaHa Clinton-Dix.

Or they were guaranteed to trade down into the second round to get an extra pick or two, and take big wide receiver Cody Lattimer from Indiana (who played in a spread offense) or Jeremiah Attaochu, a raw pass-rushing OLB who could replace Trent Cole in a year, or Kelvin Benjamin, a huge WR who isn’t very good at route running, blocking or catching footballs.  [Ed. note: Wouldn’t Benjamin look good in Raider Silver & Black?]

No, that’s not it, they were obviously going to stay put with the 22nd pick in the draft and pick either of two WRs  — Marquise Lee of USC or Brandin Cooks of Oregon State.

Or Beckham or Barr if they fell.  Or cornerback/safety Kyle Fuller of Virginia Tech.

Even Chip’s general principles were disputed.  He’ll pick a bunch of Oregon players, Terrance Mitchell and Josh Huff and DAT, of course, and Colt Lyerla.  No, he actually prefers Pac-12 players who did well against the Ducks, such as Cooks and Lee and Bishop Sankey.  No, he just wants bigger guys who beat up little guys.

Some of this is media invention, such as the Manziel speculation, which was constructed by reporters twisting Chip’s words at his recent press conference. (Coach Kelly spoke at the Eagles’ 18th annual Playground Build event.)

But much of it was, in fact, artful dodging by the Eagles’ front office, undoubtedly leaking contradictory information to different reporters to muddy the waters.

The reality is that it’s almost impossible to predict what the Eagles’ choice in each round will be until the teams ahead of them pick.  Manziel did in fact fall to pick No. 22, surprising almost everyone, but despite endless speculation about Chip’s love for mobile quarterbacks, the Eagles ended up trading the that pick (as I predicted) to a QB-hungry team drafting behind them, in return for a slightly lower pick and an extra 3rd-rounder in a very deep draft.

As for Oregon players, the very astute Jimmy Kempski has DE Taylor Hart listed as a 5th round possibility for Philadelphia — and no one else. (The Birds brought him in for a workout/medical exam.) DAT did not have a great year, and may just be too small to make it in the NFL.  Further, the Eagles recently traded for Darren Sproles, who plays the same TAZR position.

Terrance Mitchell isn’t as big as Chip would like and too much of a zone coverage specialist. Colt Lyerla is, well, Colt.  Josh Huff would be a good pickup as a slot receiver and special teams contributor, if he falls to the 5th-7th round.  But he may not last that long.

Before the draft even began, the Eagles found a player who fits every one of Chip’s dream qualities — aside from football prowess.

Alejandro Villanueva is a 6’9″, 277 pound WR converted to DE — similar to Dion Jordan — who happens to be a genuine war hero.  He hasn’t played organized football since 2009, because he has been fighting with the Army Rangers in Afghanistan, where he won a friggin’ Bronze Star.  He’s obviously a long shot to make the team, but you know he can follow a program and isn’t afraid of working out.

After all that talk and speculation, the Eagles ended up drafting Johnny Manziel with their No. 22 pick — sort of.  They traded the No. 22 (which Cleveland used to draft Manziel) for a high 3rd-round pick and a No. 26, which they used to draft Marcus Smith.

Who? Marcus Smith is a slightly undersized but very accomplished OLB from Louisville. Better pass rushing was the Eagles’ No. 1 need, and Chip surprised everybody with a smart choice that has a very high probability of filling that gap.

OK, a few of the savviest draft watchers called this — Mike Mayock of NFL Network, Tommy Lawlor of Iggles Blitz (who mentioned him in a trade-down scenario hours before the draft), and Mike Kaye of Bleeding Green Nation (who called him months ago) — but the fans at the Eagles’ draft party were completely baffled.

Smith is a classic Chip Kelly pick — smart, good character, accomplished and coachable with a big upside.

Here are a few interesting facts about Marcus Smith:

1)  He’s versatile.  Like last year’s No. 1 pick — Lane Johnson — and Chip Kelly himself, Smith is a high school quarterback who converted to a less glamorous position.

2)  Smith was second in the nation in sacks (with 14.5) and No. 1 in sacks per game (at 1.12).

3)  Marcus played in one of the few 3-4 defensive alignments in college, and is probably the most complete 3/4 ROLB in the draft; he can rush, cover, defend the run and set the edge. On a conference call, he said he dropped into pass coverage about half the time last year.  The Eagles are finishing a conversion to the 3-4 defense that Kelly installed at Oregon, and have a strong LOLB in Connor Barwin, so he’s a perfect fit.

4)  Smith has already graduated, meaning, a) he’s smart, and b) he can join the Eagles’ off-season program on Monday.  Last year, Zach Ertz was set back considerably by having to go back and finish his studies into June, due to PAC-12 rules.

5)  The Eagles tried to trade up (presumably for Brandin Cooks) but the price was too high. There were 6 players the Eagles were targeting at #22 and all were gone by that time.

My editor is already yelling at me to finish this column, delayed for the late first-round draft pick, so I need to wrap this up. [Ed. note: ‘preciate it, Mark]

In my view, Chip and the Eagles started the draft with a bang, drafting exactly what they needed and picking up an extra 3rd-round pick in the process.

I can’t wait to see what they do in the rest of the draft!

2014 NFL Draft: No Oregon Ducks Likely in Round One, Will Chip Be a Factor?

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There is no doubt that if you have been following the chatter leading up to the 2014 NFL Draft that starts on Thursday with a ton celebration and pageantry across several sports networks that the event this year will be special for several reasons. Teams needs near the top will be filled with quality talent that has not been seen in recent years in several key positions, including Wide Receiver, Quarterback and several key defensive positions. The storylines this year begin with Texas A&M Signal Caller Johnny Manziel and go all the way to South Carolina’s JaDeveon Clowney. As for the Oregon Ducks in the NFL Draft there is plenty of talent.

De'Anthony Thomas
De’Anthony Thomas strikes a Heisman pose in a 42-14 victory over UCLA in Autzen Stadium | (Alex Shoemaker/Eugene Daily News)

Unlike last year where the Miami Dolphins took Oregon’s Dion Jordan in the first round I don’t see that happening this year. The Oregon Ducks will likely have options for teams in the second round on. The first to go will likely be Former Oregon Ducks Wide Receiver Josh Huff, who finished the season with a clutch catch against in-state rival Oregon State in the Civil War. (In fact, when they announce his name I’m sure that is the highlight they will show.)

Other names you can expect to hear(and where I think they may fall) throughout the weekend for the Oregon Ducks include Running Back De’Anthony Thomas(2nd/3rd Round), Cornerback Terrance Mitchell(3rd/4th Round, it will be interesting to see if someone takes a chance on him, he could have remained a Duck for another year.), Defensive End Taylor Hart(3rd Round), Linebacker Boseko Lokombo(5th Round/Undrafted), and former Oregon Tight End Colt Lyerla(4th,5th Round.) Oregon Wide Receiver Josh Huff is a 2nd/3rd Round pick.

Taylor Hart 3

There are plenty of storylines to follow, especially with Lyerla. From troubled player with the Oregon Ducks, to an arrest in Eugene, to looking for a second chance and a team willing to take a chance on a talented young man with character issues. The big question is will someone give him a chance at the next level? Don’t be surprised in the later rounds, if he is available, an old friend in Chip Kelly comes calling with a Philadelphia Eagles selection.

Of course any of these players could find themselves in a Philadelphia uniform next season. How cool would it be for Kelly to have a backfield that included McCoy, Sproles and DAT. It could happen. However I think that with Pick 22 the birds will fill a need vacated by Wideout DeSean Jackson. If USC Wide Receiver Marquise Lee is available Kelly will pull the trigger.

There is a ton of talent across the board this year as there has been in years past. The chance that a team trades up to ensure a pick is highly likely, however I don’t see anyone jumping at the chance to grab an Oregon Ducks player out of order this year. The NFL Draft starts Friday at 5pm PT and runs through the weekend.

For instant updates on Oregon Ducks Players drafted this weekend, you can follow #EDNSports on Twitter and Facebook.

Oregon Ducks Football: Former Ducks Try To Improve NFL Draft Stock In Pro Timing Day

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Though a hodgepodge of former Ducks worked out in front of a sizable group of NFL scouts at the Oregon Pro Timing Day, all eyes were on De’Anthony Thomas.

Despite showing uncanny straight-away speed throughout his three seasons for Ducks football, Thomas ran a pedestrian 4.5 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine.

“I ran a 4.5 in ninth grade, so I was like wow, this is crazy,” Thomas said.

His teammate Avery Patterson questions the validity of Thomas’s 40-time.

“It wasn’t a 4.5. A lot of that stuff is kind of messed up. That’s what they said so that’s what is going to be on paper. A lot of those scouts have their own time and that’s what they rely on.” Patterson said. 

“I don’t even have to run to run a 4.5,” Thomas added.

So today, he was determined to perform, and even dress, the part of an elite NFL speed demon.

“I’m in my track and field outfit today,” he said.

His outfit was highlighted by a pair of white socks with red lettering that read “100.”

“The socks was my motivation today with the 4.5. Today I just had to come out here, keeping everything 100 and had to go hard,” he said.

When it was all said and done, Thomas dashed through two-fifths of the football field faster than he did at the incessantly hyped NFL Combine.

At the Moshofsky Center, Thomas’s official 40-time was 4.39. 

DeAnthony Thomas walking the sidelines | photo by Corey Buchanan
DeAnthony Thomas walking the sidelines | photo by Corey Buchanan

He also ran the short shuttle in 4.23, finished the three cone drill in 6.95 and the long shuttle in 11.46. He didn’t perform any of these drills at the combine. 

However, Thomas improved upon his bench press reps at 225 pounds. At the combine, Thomas amassed eight reps. This time around, he accumulated 10 reps.

“I feel like I’ve gotten bigger. I’ve put on a couple pounds, getting a lot stronger and just training,” Thomas said. 

Despite his improved performance, he believes people place too much emphasis on the 40-yard dash time and don’t focus enough on game speed.

“I feel like a lot of people put chili on it(the 40-yard dash). Everybody has their own opinion,” Thomas said.

De'Anthony Thomas running with the football. | Photo By Corey Buchanan
De’Anthony Thomas running with the football. | Photo By Corey Buchanan

Though Thomas doesn’t know where he will land come April, he wouldn’t mind reuniting with former coach Chip Kelly in Philadelphia. With Philadelphia picking up exemplary 3rd down back and punt returner Darren Sproles, the window for a Kelly-Thomas reunion might be closed. However, considering Thomas might not play running back in the NFL, who knows what will happen.

“I want to just get anywhere on the field. wide receiver, punt returner, kick returner. I just want to get on the field and make plays,” he said.

But Thomas wasn’t the only former Duck who may have improved his draft stock on Thursday afternoon.

 

Josh Huff | Photo By Corey Buchanan/EDN
Josh Huff | Photo By Corey Buchanan/EDN

 

Josh Huff clocked in between 4.43 and 4.44 in his first 40-yard dash attempt. However, the time did not count.

Instead, his second attempt, which clocked in at 4.47, was his official time.

Daryle Hawkins, 2011 graduate Lavasier Tuinei and Thomas worked out in wide receiver drills with Huff. With his NFL position still in question, Thomas proved that he can catch the ball with no defenders in sight.

DeAnthony Thomas - receiving drill| Photo by Corey Buchanan
DeAnthony Thomas – receiving drill| Photo by Corey Buchanan

The former Oregon running back didn’t drop any passes while performing a bevy of routes in front of scouts. Huff, however, dropped a few passes and slipped a couple times as well.

Terrance Mitchell puts his hand by his heart before performing defensive back drills  | Photo by Corey Buchanan/EDN
Terrance Mitchell puts his hand by his heart before performing defensive back drills | Photo by Corey Buchanan/EDN

Brian Jackson, Patterson and Terrance Mitchell represented last year’s Oregon secondary at  the Pro Day.

Mitchell ran an official 4.52 40-yard dash, while Patterson finished in 4.54 second and Jackson finished in 4.59 seconds.

Terrence Mitchell catches pass | Photo By Corey Buchanan/EDN
Terrence Mitchell catches pass | Photo By Corey Buchanan/EDN

The trio made more noise throughout their defensive back drills than any other Ducks workout group. Unlike hecklers at away games who typically dish out negative reinforcement, the three constantly encouraged each other to perform at the highest level.

“If you talk each other up that confidence carries over to everybody,” Jackson said.

Brian Jackson running with the ball during defensive back drills | Photo by Corey Buchanan/EDN
Brian Jackson running with the ball during defensive back drills | Photo by Corey Buchanan/EDN

Patterson talked to reporters about butterflies going into the combine and his performance:

“It is definitely a little nerve-racking .This is pretty much your job interview for the next level,” he said.

“Today I don’t think I got into a good rhythm on the bench press. I only got 10 reps but I’ve been working out at 15 reps,” he added.

However Patterson said: “They(scouts) were most pleased with my quickness and my agility.”

He also commented on the increasing importance of safeties in the NFL game:

“If you can find a playmaker at that position, which I feel like I am, it’s a game changer. Safety can be a game changing position. Especially if you can ball hawk the ball like Earl Thomas and Jairus Byrd. ”

As for the big uglies up front, Taylor Hart, Ricky Havili-Heimuli, Everett Benyard and Wade KelIikipi attempted to impress NFL scouts.

Hart ran a 4.81 40-yard dash, Havil-Heimuli finished his 40 in 5.38 and Everett Benyard ran a 5.65 40-yard dash.

Hart, Havili-Heimuli and Benyard perform offensive lineman drill | Photo by Corey Buchanan/EDN
Hart, Havili-Heimuli and Benyard perform offensive lineman drill | Photo by Corey Buchanan/EDN

Patterson commented on what the future holds:

“I’m just going to keep working hard, getting ready.”

Jackson will miss being a Duck but is ready to move forward.

Memories will last forever, so you gotta keep rolling and make some new ones.”

Recruiting Analysis: Ducks Dodge Disaster

When news broke that Don Pellum was going to be Oregon’s new defensive coordinator, a number of people asked me how it would affect recruiting.  “It won’t,” I said, “the thing to watch is whether or not John Neal stays put.”  I was worried, since I knew that Neal really wanted that defensive coordinator position.  How would he react to a fellow position coach getting the promotion instead?

Upon getting word that Neal had been invited to interview for the UAB head coaching position, I was immediately sick to my stomach.  Neal was previously the defensive coordinator at Alabama-Birmingham and has many ties to the state.  The appeal was obvious, especially considering his new circumstances in Eugene.

My fears were quickly supported as word of his decision to interview got around: Aarion Springs, a key four-star recruit, expressed his confusion and disappointment over twitter, while long-time four-star safety target Mattrell McGraw did the same. Rumors began to spread that Ifo Ekpre-Olomu was rethinking his decision to return to Oregon for his senior year.  It’s fair to say that there was a fair amount of panic among the Oregon faithful.

Avery Patterson may be graduating, but the defensive backfield is deep

Avery Patterson may be graduating, but the defensive backfield is deep

Luckily, John Neal isn’t going anywhere.  After considering his options, he removed his name from candidacy for the UAB job and decided to continue coaching defensive backs at Oregon, where he’s become one of the top position coaches in the nation.  The significance of Neal’s decision shouldn’t be understated and has both short and long-term implications.

During his time in Eugene, Neal has proven to be an elite evaluator and developer of talent.  Look at some of the names he’s recruited and coached over the last ten seasons: Jairus Byrd, John Boyett, Cliff Harris, Talmadge Jackson, TJ Ward, Eddie Pleasant, Walter Thurmond, Patrick Chung, Terrance Mitchell, Ifo Ekpre-Olomu and Avery Patterson.

The long-term impacts are obvious.  Neal sticking around is big for recruiting.  He’s a very efective recruiter, largely because of his resume.  The cycle is beautiful: because of all his success developing players, Neal will be able to continue recruiting elite defensive backs to Eugene, which will likely lead to even more success on the field, and so on.  Make no mistake, though, there are immediate benefits as well.  It’s been reported by Justin Hopkins of 247 Sports that Springs would not have signed with Oregon had Neal left.  The trickle-down impact is hard to gauge, but Springs has been one of the pillars of the class and has helped to personally recruit a number of players to Eugene, including defensive tackle target Trey Lealaimatafao.  If Springs had de-committed, Oregon’s chances at landing the former Texas commit would have taken a hit as well.

Ifo's return is a major development for Oregon's chances in 2014

Ifo’s return is a major development for Oregon’s chances in 2014

Finally, for a team that’s hoping to compete for a National Championship next season, Neal’s return is critical.  Not only does staff continuity benefit, so does the talent make-up of the defensive backfield.  Neal’s decision all but solidifies Ekpre-Olomu’s.  Clearly, having a future first-round pick at one of the corner spots next season is huge for the defense.

Pellum’s promotion should also be a positive development for recruiting.  A good recruiter himself, Pellum is widely viewed as a father figure by many current and former players, several of whom have come out in support of the coach during this last week.  That bodes well for recruiting, as many high school athletes want to have that father figure in place wherever they go. Pellum is definitely an upgrade over Nick Aliotti in terms of recruiting from the defensive coordinator position.  Additionally, the hiring of former Oregon graduate assistant Erik Chinander to fill Pellum’s old role, coaching the linebackers, could have a positive impact as well.  Word is that those who make the decisions are very excited about Chinander’s recruiting ability, something he himself has cited as a strength.  There are plenty of reasons to be hopeful about these recent coaching changes.

Will Oregon replace Mitchell with Aarion Springs?

Will Oregon replace Mitchell with Aarion Springs?

These moves will ultimately be judged on their own merits down the road, but there’s no doubt that for now, the Oregon football program is better for them. Had Neal left, the prior sentence may have sounded very different, but he didn’t.

Nothing seems to have changed regarding the 2014 cycle.  I don’t expect any de-commitments barring unforeseen circumstances.  At the same time, the Ducks are still in good shape to land Trey Lealaimatafao and Mattrell McGraw, in addition to having a real shot at Nick Gates and Poona Ford.

Stay tuned, it should be an exciting few weeks.

Top Photo by Kevin Cline

Oregon vs. Colorado: Oregon secondary battles against Colorado’s star wide receiver Paul Richardson

Heading into Oregon’s game today against Colorado, one of the biggest match-ups to watch was star wide receiver Paul Richardson against the Ducks’ secondary, led by cornerbacks Terrance Mitchell and Ifo Ekpre-Olomu.

And all it took was Colorado’s first offensive play of the game to prove why.

The junior wide receiver, who leads the nation in receiving yards per game with 162.3, beat Mitchell down the sideline to catch a 55-yard pass from quarterback Connor Wood to put the Buffaloes in scoring position at Oregon’s 30-yard line.

The talent of Richardson appeared to be the first true challenge for Oregon’s secondary so far this season.

“We got tested, they did make a few plays, we just got to learn from them,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell said that after what happened in the first quarter today, the team will take this as a learning experience coming into the next game and the rest of the season, but both Oregon cornerbacks couldn’t deny that Richardson’s talent was some of the best they have ever faced.

“I can’t knock him, he did good,” Mitchell said. ”He (Richardson) was a little better than I expected.”

Mitchell also stated  that he couldn’t even make up an excuse for the first play to Richardson and said he needs to be locked in.

Mitchell was able to redeem getting beat on the first play of the game, by picking off two of Wood’s passes today. However, the junior from Sacramento, Calif. wasn’t completely satisfied.

“As a competitor, I rather have zero completions than picks. Picks are important but I would of rather held him to zero catches,” Mitchell said.

Ekpre-Olomu agreed and stated that Richardson was one of the best down-field receivers he has ever faced.

“I thought he was a good receiver. They put him in ways that he can get the ball in the open field and made it difficult on our defensive backs. He is a good receiver, so far one of the best that I have played this year,” Ekpre-Olomu said.

Defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti echoed that the team did not come out as focused as he would of hoped.

“We didnt start very well,” Aliotti said. “I don’t know if we had their full attention, there’s no excuse about that.”

However, Aliotti stated that at halftime he had some words for the team, urging them to wake up and reminding them that this is not how they play.

 The wake up call seemed to work and Oregon held the Buffaloes to four first downs and 56 yards in the second half.

“I was not happy with the way it started, but all in all … the third down defense was really good … the red zone defense was really good. We settled down and we got their attention.”

Allioti said that he always encourages his unit to not even get into red-zone situations and to shut every team down, but realized that in the tough game of football that is not always realistic.

“I’d love for us to think that we want to shut everybody out and not let them score at all, but in today’s football game it’s hard … it’s such a spread game that all it takes is one great athlete beating another great athlete, and that Paul Richardson was a really good football player. He had a really great game and he played well.”

 

#27 – Terrance Mitchell

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Oregon Ducks corner back Terrance Mitchell, a redshirt junior from Luther Burbank High School (Sacramento, California), enters his fourth season in the Oregon program.

Before joining the Ducks, Mitchell was a highly touted two-way star playing a De’Anthony Thomas-type role. He finished with 2,360 total yards on 106 rushes and 48 catches as a junior and received plenty of attention from Division 1 programs. He was honored as  first-team All-Metro cornerback and Metro League Offensive MVP in 2008 and 2009 respectively.

In 2010, Mitchell enrolled early and nearly won out a starting spot at corner back as a true freshman. Mitchell appeared in the 2010 Oregon Spring Game for the Ducks, returning an interception 46 yards for a touchdown and had five tackles. He eventually redshirted the season, but was a major contributor on the scout team.

In 2011, Mitchell started 12-of-14 games for the Ducks including the season opener against LSU. Mitchell finished the season with 45 tackles (26 unassisted, 19 assisted), 3.0 tackles for loss, 12 pass deflections, three forced fumbles, one recovery and two interceptions. He was also called in for special teams, returning one kick for 24 yards. The biggest moment of his career came in the 2012 Rose Bowl when he punched loose a late fumble against Wisconsin to help give the Ducks’ a 45-38 victory.

In 2012, Mitchell started all 13 games at left corner and quickly established himself as one of the Pac-12’s top defensive backs. Mitchell recorded 40 tackles (22 unassisted, 18 assisted) and had eight pass deflections. He also earned honorable mention All-Conference for his impressive season.

Mitchell saw limited action in the 2013 Oregon Spring Game, making way for the youngsters to shine. He finished with one solo tackle. It was his first Spring Game without recording an interception.

In 2013, Mitchell will be in line for an All-American type season. Should he have another big year, there’s no reason to think he’ll return to the Ducks. He may instead take his talents to the NFL.