DJ James and Jamal Hill are back, but where do they stand after suspension?

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Oregon Ducks head coach Mario Cristobal announced after practice on Friday afternoon that the University of Oregon has decided to reinstate defensive backs DJ James and Jamal Hill immediately, though they will miss the Week 1 game against Fresno State.

That means that the two can practice with the team, and will likely travel to Ohio State in Week 2 for the Ducks’ biggest game of the season.

This is obviously huge news for Oregon, which has been without two of their difference makers on defense throughout fall camp after the two were indefinitely suspended following an alleged airsoft gun incident that took place early in August.

So now that we have a clearer picture of when both players will return to the field, what does that mean for the defense at large?

Missing fall camp is crucial, and it will arguably take some time for both players to catch up to the rest of their teammates when it comes to getting into football shape. Once that happens, though, will they see the field immediately? Both Hill and James were projected to be starters, with the former at the safety position, and the latter at the boundary cornerback spot.

Let’s talk about James first. The third-year player has played in 13 games in his career, with 16 total tackles and two passes defended. Once it was clear that he was going to be absent for fall camp, the attention turned to both freshmen cornerbacks Dontae Manning and Trikweze Bridges, both of whom had a very impressive couple of weeks and entered an intense battle for the starting BCB spot. Cristobal said on Friday that the competition between the two is still ongoing, but what is unclear is how long the winner of that competition will remain the starter.

Might James take over the starting role a couple of weeks into the season? And if he is in shape, will we see him on the field against Ohio State? That is something that we can’t answer without seeing him on the field at all. Both James and Hill were seen leaving practice with their teammates on Friday, so you can hope that they will be playing themselves into game shape over the next couple of weeks.

As for Hill, his path back to the starting lineup seems much more clear for the Ducks. Hill was a big piece of the defense in 2020, coming down with two interceptions near the end of the season. He also has 30 tackles and four passes defended in his 11 career games with the Ducks.

The battle for the safety spot alongside Verone McKinley III has not been as intense as at the BCB position, with a combination of Steve Stephens IV and Jordan Happle occupying that spot. Hill will have to earn the starting spot back once he returns to game shape, but if his past performance is any indication, that shouldn’t be too hard to do.

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