EUGENE - If you're looking for an example of what Oregon's new defensive coordinator Brady Hoke is looking for in a player look no further than freshman linebacker Troy Dye.
He's raw. He's inexperienced. But none of that matters right now to Hoke because Dye is also fast, fierce, aggressive and seeking to wreak havoc on every snap.
“If I’m going to do it wrong, I’m going to do it wrong 100 percent,” Dye said. “That’s what coach Hoke really wants. If you’re going to go full speed, go full speed. If you’re not, go take a seat. It’s just that simple.”
It doesn't appear as if Dye will be doing much sitting this season. He is the only true freshman listed as a starter on the team's initial depth chart after he beat out backup, redshirt junior Jonah Moi.
Dye will make his college debut Saturday when No. 24 Oregon hosts UC Davis at 2 p.m.
It's somewhat unusual for a freshman to enter a season as a starter for a program of Oregon's caliber. Dye, as it so happens, is an unusual player.
Consider that a year ago he was a 6-foot-4, 195-pound safety/linebacker for Norcross High School (Norcross, Calif.). During the recruiting process, Oregon defensive backs coach John Neal and linebackers coach Don Pellum told Dye he could have a say in what position he played at Oregon.
He arrived on campus in December after graduating early and immediately began packing on pounds. With help from strength and conditioning coach Jim Radcliffe and the Ducks’ nutrition staff, Dye said he was able to maximize his workouts and add bulk to reach 225 by spring.
“It’s been a really good thing to have all of these people and all these assets that I’ve really taken advantage of to really help me put this weight on,” Dye said.
The extra pounds, Dye said, gave him the confidence to try linebacker where he was more needed given the team’s depth at safety. Oregon lost all four starting linebackers from last season to graduation.
So, Dye added weight. He's athletic. Blah, blah, blah. But could he play the game from the neck up? As it turns out, he could and then some.
Dye said his father taught his children the intricacies of several sports while raising them. Dye’s older brother, Tony Dye played safety for UCLA and played two seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals. He is the defensive coordinator at Norcross where he coached his younger brother.
Learning the details of how to play defense, study film, dissect information at a higher level than most high school players helped rapidly increase Troy Dye’s aptitude for the game.
“So when I got here it was pretty easy to transition…” Dye said. “Having those two in my corner has been really great.”
Redshirt junior safety Tyree Robinson said Dye has brought a lot of energy to the defense.
“Every single day he comes in ready to take notes," Robinson said. "He wants to get better. You don’t see that from the average freshman coming in.”
Senior linebacker Johnny Ragin III said he has been impressed with Dye's attention to detail and intensity.
“Troy has caught on pretty quick to everything we’ve been doing and he just plays with great effort and passion so that kind of makes up for any mistakes,” Ragin said.
Hoke said he has no problem starting a freshman if he is the best player at his position. But Hoke indicated that Dye isn’t nearly a finished product.
“He’s probably a little more finesse right now than he will be a year from now,” Hoke said.
That's because Dye is still on the lighter side at 225, especially given his height. Moi is listed at 250 pounds.
By this time next year Dye could be pushing 240. Until then, he will have to rely more on his athleticism, something that has opened eyes during practice on a daily basis.
"I can't wait to see him play real life football because he's been awesome," Oregon coach Mark Helfrich said.
According to Helfrich, several young players have "juiced the depth chart" by pushing veterans, and Dye is one of them.
But he recognizes that his status as a starter could be tenuous. Oregon rotates its defenders. Moi will certainly have a chance to state his case on a weekly basis. That fact pushes Dye to continue improving.
“I know that Jonah Moi or anybody else could fill in and play and do the same things I can do," Dye said.
"So I’m always fighting everyday to keep this spot. It’s a great competition. We all hang out, we all love each other. It doesn’t matter who is going to be the starter. We’re all voting for each other at the end of the day and we’re all happy.”
So what should we expect to see from Dye on Saturdays? Plenty of electricity.
“You’re going to see a lot of speed," he said, "a lot of physicality out of me doing my best to help the team win."