In 2011 the defensive secondary was supposed to be Oregon's strongest position on defense. John Boyett lived up to expectations and established himself as arguably the best safety in the conference and one of the best in the country. Eddie Pleasant also had a strong senior campaign after transferring from linebacker to safety during his junior year. The cornerback play, however, was far from scripted. Preseason All-American and one-time projected first round draft pick Cliff Harris couldn't stay out of trouble, and his off-field problems got him kicked off the team before he played any meaningful minutes. Senior leader Anthony Gildon was injured for the second half of the season, leaving the Ducks with a pair of freshman starting on the corners by the time the Rose Bowl rolled around. Redshirt freshman Terrance Mitchell showed star potential as a starter, but still has room for improvement. Ifo Ekpre Olomu also showed great potential as a true freshman when he started at corner for the Ducks in the Rose Bowl. Behind Mitchell and Olomu are a handful of talented, if unproven, corners. Avery Patterson has drawn lots of praise from his teammates and coaching staff and figures to start opposite Boyett at the strong safety position in 2012. The players behind them are likewise very talented, but also unproven.
Oregon has done a great job of sending secondary players to the NFL in recent years, which helps explain their continued success at recruiting the position. Like previous classes, the 2012 recruits in the defensive backfield boast athleticism and versatility. While Oregon is currently an embarrassment of riches as far as top rated recruits go (their recruitment of defensive backs is only rivaled by their recruitment of running backs in recent years), they must continue to build depth and bring in players that fit Coach Neal's system. After the jump, a very early look at players currently on Oregon's radar.
Max Redfield DB/S: Max Redfield is one of the most talented corners in the country and one of the top recruits on the West Coast. He is very high on Oregon and has listed them in his early top 3.
Tahaan Goodman S/DB: Goodman is another top defensive backfield prospect on the West coast who is drawing interest from top programs around the country.
Su'a Cravens S: Cravens has drawn comparisons to Shaq Thompson and is the top defensive backfield prospect on the West coast if not the country. It appears that USC leads for now.
Antonio Conner S/RB: Conner could play Safety or Running Back in college and is one of the best recruits in the country at either position. Not surprisingly he is being pursued by every top program in the country, including Oregon. A native of Mississippi, Conner is the proverbial "long shot", but you never know.
Connor O'Brien LB/S: O'Brien is safety/lineback prospect from Southern California who has said that Oregon has long been a top choice for him.
Chris Seisay ATH: Seisay is another athlete who could play a variety of positions at Oregon. He is being heavily recruited by several programs on the west coast and while he's still waiting on an offer from Oregon, he is the type of player that has excelled here in the past.
Darren Carrington DB/WR: Carrington is another multi-tooled athlete from Southern California who could play a variety of positions for the Ducks. He will be in attendance at Oregon's junior day this June.
Cameron Walker DB: Walker is a very talented prospect from Los Angeles who's recruitment has yet to really pick up steam. Expect the Ducks to pursue him.
Brandon Arnold S: Arnold hails from Crespi High School in Southern California, where Oregon has done a lot of recruiting in recent years. He doesn't have an offer from the Ducks but tells Scout.com that they are nonetheless his top overall choice.