On January 13, 2020, Oregon juniors Thomas Graham Jr., Deommodore Lenoir, Austin Faoliu and Jordan Scott met with members of the local media to announced that all four would be returning to Oregon for their senior season.
The four defensive studs were fresh off a Pac-12 Championship and 2020 Rose Bowl victory, giving Duck fans a glimpse of a potential national championship trophy to add in the trophy case at the Hatfield-Dowlin complex in Eugene, Oregon.
Then, the coronavirus pandemic hit, forcing the sports world into uncertainty.
Fast forward to today, and that uncertainty still lingers, especially in the Pac-12 Conference.
This caused the players to rethink their options and reconsider their future.
Both Penei Sewell, the best offensive lineman in college football, and Deommodore Lenoir did just that, declaring for the 2021 NFL Draft this week.
[Listen to the latest Talkin’ Ducks Podcast with host Jordan Kent and special guest former Oregon football running back LeGarrette Blount].
Likely, and this is just speculation, Graham Jr. follows in the same path.
Should that be the case, the Oregon secondary that received so much praise and accolades last season, will be missing two large pieces to the puzzle when the Ducks are back in action.
Sophomore Mykael Wright is the leading starting candidate at corner. After a breakout freshman campaign, including two kickoff returns on special teams and a game-winning stop on a slant route against the Washington Huskies, Wright has begun his legacy in Oregon’s secondary.
Redshirt freshman Trikweze Bridges and sophomore DJ James, with their 6-foot plus frames, may also get an opportunity.
And then there is the five-star recruit from Kansas City, Missouri Dontae Manning, who has a bright future ahead in college football and is already projected as a future first round pick in an NFL Draft.
Losing Lenoir is a big loss in Oregon’s secondary, and his decision to leave for the NFL is completely understandable.
Now, head coach Mario Cristobal, defensive coordinator Andy Avalos and first year corners coach Rod Chance will have some more plotting to do for the next season…