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The Oregon Ducks not only lost to Stanford for the fifth time in the past 20 years as a top-10 ranked team on Saturday; they also saw running back CJ Verdell go down with a lower leg injury that has the star out indefinitely.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, coach Mario Cristobal revealed after the game that defensive back Bennett Williams — who is tied for second in the conference with three interceptions — suffered a “freak injury” in practice on Friday and is also out indefinitely.
Without Williams on Saturday the team turned to Jamal Hill as his replacement. Hill led the team with eight combined tackles, a solid start for the sophomore, but replacing Williams will be about more than just making tackles – he’ll need to join the interception brigade in Oregon’s secondary.
As stated, Williams’ three interceptions is tied for second in the conference, behind fellow Oregon defensive back Verone McKinley III. Mykael Wright has one as well, helping give the Ducks among the best turnover differentials in the country.
For Oregon’s defense to continue to hum under new DC Tim DeRuyter, they’ll need Hill to display some ball-hawking abilities. Fortunately, Hill was touted as a safety with plus ball skills coming out of high school, and he picked off two passes during the shortened 2020 campaign.
Now, he’ll have a chance to step into a huge role on Oregon’s secondary, coming off their worst game of the season. How he responds to an increased role will go a long way toward helping this team right the ship for the rest of 2021.