Preseason Camp Preview: DB
Who's back: The Ducks already faced the tall task of replacing cornerback Deommodore Lenoir this offseason, and now will spend August identifying replacements for two other potential starters. Head coach Mario Cristobal announced Friday that sophomores Jamal Hill and DJ James had been suspended indefinitely following an off-field incident; both had looked in the spring like projected starters for the upcoming season. Fortunately, there's still a solid foundation to build around in cornerback Mykael Wright and safety Verone McKinley III. Wright led the Pac-12 with nine pass breakups in 2020, and McKinley was a vocal leader who also accounted for 41 tackles.
Jordan Happle's pick-six in a win over UCLA was the signature moment in his 2020 season, and the Ducks broke in another transfer at safety in Bennett Williams. Steve Stephens IV provides more experience on the back end, JJ Greenfield is a ball-hawking newcomer and Bryan Addison has enormous potential after moving over from receiver. The only other cornerback with multiple years in the program is Trikweze Bridges, although there's experience in the secondary for the developmental squad with Lucas Noland, Max Wysocki and Marko Vidackovic. Noland is the most experienced of that group, and has looked poised at times to break into a regular role on some special teams.
Who's new: After an injury marred first season in college, Dontae Manning is looking to show off his five-star talent this fall. The cornerbacks added another elite talent in the spring, in Jaylin Davies, and they were joined this offseason by Avante Dickerson and Darren Barkins. DonJ'rael Brooks, Timon Davis and Devin Moore provide more depth at corner. At safety, teammates raved about the first impression Daymon David and Jeffrey Bassa made in the spring. Dane Sipos joins the practice order for preseason camp.
Projected depth chart
CB: Dontae Manning, Fr.; Trikweze Bridges, RFr.; Darren Barkins, Fr.; Devin Morrow, Fr.; DJ James, So. (susp.)
CB: Mykael Wright, So.; Jaylin Davies, Fr.; Avante Dickerson, Fr.; DonJ'rael Brooks, Fr.; Timon Davis, Fr.
N: Bennett Williams, Jr.; JJ Greenfield, Fr.; Jamal Hill, So. (susp.)
S: Verone McKinley III, So.; Bryan Addison, So.; Daymon David, Fr.; Lucas Noland, So.; Marko Vidackovic, Fr.
S: Steve Stephens IV, So.; Jordan Happle, Sr.; Jeffrey Bassa, Fr.; Max Wysocki, RFr.; Dane Sipos, Fr.
What to watch: The loss of Hill and James for an undetermined amount of time suddenly means this will be one of the most-watched position groups of the preseason. Guys like Manning and Williams have talent aplenty, and will look to help solidify this group in the absence of James and Hill. The trickle-down effect on the practice order means spots elsewhere on the two-deep open up, chances for younger guys such as David or Davies to win some playing time. Barkins and Dickerson will look to catch up to their classmates who were here for spring, and they certainly have enough talent to close the gap quickly as camp progresses.