Position Outlook: Nikko Reed adds another playmaker to crowded cornerback room
When coming to Oregon over a year ago, head coach Dan Lanning said that he wanted to create a Ducks’ roster that was stacked with talent, and competitive top to bottom. He didn’t care about the players who were listed as starters before his time in Eugene; his goal was to amass talent and have them all compete for the starting spot on the field.
“Iron sharpens iron.”
It’s a common phrase uttered by Lanning and his staff. It’s been impressive to see how the roster has taken shape over the past off-season with that ideal in mind.
Position battles are going to be fascinating to watch this fall in Eugene. With a handful of incoming transfers and many more highly-ranked recruits, the Ducks have a roster that is fraught with guys who could easily win the starting jobs.
One of the positions on the roster that will see the most competition is cornerback. The Ducks have welcomed in a couple of transfers who have shown that they can produce at a high level in the past, and there are some incoming freshmen who have a shot to make some noise as well. On top of the newcomers, veteran mainstays like Trikweze Bridges, Dontae Manning, and Jahlil Florence are also fighting to stay near the top of the depth chart.
What will the end result be once fall comes? We can’t wait to see. Here’s an early position outlook for the cornerbacks in Eugene.
(Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
Career Stats: 26 Games | 74 tackles, 2,0 TFL, 4 INT, 6 PBU
As the lone returning starter after Christian Gonzalez went on to the NFL, there isn’t complete confidence that Trikweze Bridges will start at cornerback this year; he may move to the safety position instead. Throughout spring ball, Bridges said that he had been cross-training a lot and working at the safety position, so there’s a chance that he would enter that position battle instead. However, if Bridges does in fact play CB, it’s likely that he will start once again.
Photo Courtesy of Ethan Landa
Career Stats: 13 Games | 14 tackles, 1.0 TFL, 0 INT, 1 PBU
While Khyree Jackson doesn’t have a huge body of work to show from his time at Alabama, he was one of the main targets for Dan Lanning and Demetrice Martin in the transfer portal this offseason. His 6-foot-3 frame allows him to match up with big receivers, and he has some solid SEC experience. I expect Jackson to be a starter this year.
Career Stats: 23 Games | 38 tackles, 1.0 TFL, 0 INT, 2 PBU
Is this the year that Dontae Manning lives up to his 5-star status and becomes a difference-maker for the Ducks? Time will tell. He has the intangibles to be a lockdown corner, but we’ve yet to see it come to fruition. Some positive buzz came out spring camp, so there seems to be a good chance that Manning is at the very least a big part of the CB rotation, if not a starter.
(AP Photo/Andy Nelson)
Career Stats: 8 Games | 8 tackles, 1.0 TFL, 1 INT, 0 PBU
We know that Jahlil Florence was one of Dan Lanning’s prized recruits back in 2021, and he got a good amount of run as a true freshman in Eugene. If he doesn’t crack the starting lineup at CB, I could see him playing a lot at the nickel in order to get on the field as much as possible.
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Career Stats: 18 Games | 49 tackles, 3.0 TFL, 1 sack, 3 INT, 8 PBU
If Demetrice Martin wants you to transfer and play for him, then fans should trust the production that’s going to come. The Ducks didn’t add Nikko Reed via the transfer portal just to be a depth piece. I think that they see him contributing in a major way to the defense in 2023, whether that’s as a starter or a regular player in the rotation. It wouldn’t shock me at all to see Reed and Jackson as the two starters at CB this fall.
Career Stats: 10 Games | 8 tackles, 0 TFL, 0 INT, 0 PBU
Khamari Terrell had a solid season as a true freshman, though it didn’t show up a ton on the stat sheet. While I don’t think he has a great chance to crack the starting lineup at corner, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him as a big part of the rotation, and playing some at the nickel as well.
Career Stats: No Stats
Before the spring game, I wouldn’t have put Cole Martin very high on the depth chart, but he made me reconsider that after proving to be one of the most explosive players on the field. A lot of his success came playing at the nickel spot, which is where I think he will primarily line up, but there’s a chance that he sees some time outside as well.
(Photograph via Zachary Neel)
Career Stats: No Stats
Daylen Austin was one of the highest-rated recruits in Oregon’s 2023 class. He wasn’t here for spring football, so there is some catching up to do, but he could potentially have a season like Jahlil Florence a year ago.
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Career Stats: No Stats
The same thing that we said about Daylen Austin can be said for Rodrick Pleasant as well. We know that the speed and talent are there, but it might take a year of growing and getting used to the system before we see a lot of playing time.