EUGENE - Oregon defensive backs coach John Neal said Tuesday to expect to see a heavy rotation of defensive backs this season as he works to develop depth while keeping starters fresh in hopes of improving the overall performance of a secondary that struggled most of last season.
"I'm going to play a lot more guys from the beginning to the end which gives me a chance to evaluate some critical guys that haven't played as much," Neal said. "If we continue that through the season with the amount of plays we play, having more guys playing is going to really help us, make us faster and better obviously in the fourth quarter."
No. 24 Oregon's season begins Saturday against UC Davis at Autzen Stadium.
Neal said he has confidence in five cornerbacks and six safeties, which includes starting safety Tyree Robinson spending time at cornerback.
Starting at cornerback will be sophomores Arrion Springs and Ugo Amadi. They will be backed up by redshirt freshman Malik Lovette and freshman Brenden Schooler.
Robinson, a redshirt junior, and fellow starting safety, redshirt junior Juwaan Williams, will be backed up by redshirt senior Reggie Daniels, a former two-year starter, and redshirt sophomore Khalil Oliver.
Also potentially in the mix will be redshirt freshman safety Jhet Janis, redshirt junior corner back Ty Griffin, who played some last season, and sophomore Fotu Leiato II.
Injuries and a lack of depth hurt Oregon's secondary last season when the Ducks allowed 35 touchdown passes and ranked 116th in the nation in total defense. Former No. 1 cornerback Chris Seisay missed eight games due to injury putting more pressure on Amadi and Springs. Injuries also hit the safety position, namely Daniels, leading to wide receiver Charles Nelson moving to free safety as a starter.
Aside from protecting against injuries, increased depth is expected to help the starters play better game to game.
"We don't have to play like 85 snaps a game like we did last year," Springs said. "If I get tired I can ask to come out so I'm always fresh and not getting lazy and sloppy how we were last year trying to stay in the game and play a lot of snaps. I feel like if we have more depth we can play faster because we won't be as tired."
Of course, playing young players in order to keep the starters fresher can backfire if the younger players aren't ready to perform at a high level.
"It's such a long season. to stay healthy we have to play more people," Neal said. "But they have to earn it. We have to be able to trust them to."