EUGENE - Had Oregon wide receiver Brenden Schooler accepted Wyoming's scholarship offer the coaching staff there might have had trouble distinguishing him from junior safety Andrew Wingard.
Schooler is 6-foot-2, 195 pounds with long, flowing blonde hair that hangs from his helmet and waves when he runs. Wingard is 6-1, 209 pounds also with long, flowing, blonde hair that hangs from his helmet and waves when he runs.
"We definitely look alike with the pads on," Schooler said.
"Coach Johnson was saying it looks like there is a mini you out there,'" Schooler said. "I'm like no, he's not mini. He's a little bigger than me."
He also could be a problem for Oregon (2-0) when the Ducks play at Wyoming on Saturday (4 p.m. kickoff).
The Ducks' offense is going up against a defense that has allowed just 24 points in two games this season with all of them coming during a 24-3 loss at Iowa. The Cowboys' defense was one of the best in the nation last year and Wingard was a big reason why. The First-Team All-Mountain West selection was named a semifinalist for the Thorpe Award and ranked fifth in the conference and 22nd in the nation in tackles per game (9.4). He had 131 total tackles.
Had Schooler gone to Wyoming, he and Wingard likely would have been roaming the Cowboys' secondary together. But Schooler had other plans.
The only FBS offer Schooler received coming out of Mission Viejo High School (Mission Viejo, Calif.) as a 2-star athlete came from Wyoming and even it didn't come his way until Jan. 29, 2016, just days before signing day.
"It was honestly a blessing to get that offer," Schooler said. "It was my first and only one."
He turned it down.
"I just felt like I always wanted to play in the Pac-12," he said.
But an offer from a Pac-12 school didn't materialize. So, he considered going the junior college route.
"It was frustrating because I knew my ability, I knew my talent," Schooler said.
Last summer, Oregon, in need of secondary help, came calling and then coach Mark Helfrich signed Schooler as a defensive back in July. A month later Schooler went from once being considered unworthy of receiving a scholarship from a Pac-12 program to starting for one.
Oregon's issues in the secondary led to Schooler breaking into the starting lineup in the third game of the season at Nebraska. He never lost his job and finished the season third on the team with 73 tackles and he led the team with four interceptions.
New Oregon coach Willie Taggart, however, decided to move Schooler to wide receiver during fall camp. On Saturday against Nebraska, he scored his first touchdown on a 32-yard touchdown pass from Justin Herbert in the left corner of the end zone on a ball that was slightly underthrown.
"The first thing that went through my mind was 'jump ball,' I gotta go get it," Schooler said.
He did. And it could be the first of many big plays to come for Schooler.
"That was a great confidence booster for him," Johnson said. "He needed that to propel him to that next level of wide receiver play."