If your'e going to talk about the Oregon safeties it begins and end with John Boyett. Boyett was forced into duty as a red-shirt freshman and since has made the most of his opportunities. Boyett was a second team all Pac 12 in 2011 and stand to be the leader of the secondary going into 2012. Hopefully, Boyett has overcome his mind blowing concussions and has learned not to call a timeout with less than :02 on the clock in a Rose Bowl. Starting next to Boyett will be either Avery Patterson, Brian Jackson, Eric Dargan or James Scales. Patterson seems to have the inside edge as he saw the most time on the field in 2011 even though Brian Jackson destroyed guys on the field last year. Patterson is quite a bit smaller and is more of a nickle or dime type player, while Jackson allows Aliotti and Neal to continue to bring an extra man down into the box in their cover 1 and strong safety blitz packages. Scales is a wild card and with a good spring and fall he could definitely earn playing time and reps at the rover position.
This is probably the biggest question on the defense. Who will man the safety position with John Boyett. Boyett is a superstar and will most likely compete for All Pac 12 honors, but the man he has next to him is up in the air. Boyett was able to groom Eddie Pleasant as a counterpart over two years. He doesn't have that luxury now. Boyett is going to have to have someone that can provide run support, cover the middle two-thirds of the field and make reads on the play action. That is a tall task for anyone. The scheme Aliotti and Neal decide to employ will depend greatly on which guy they trust to man that position. A smaller guy like Patterson requires them to use a different scheme with the front 7 than a guy who can fill a lane get after a running back like Brian Jackson.
The defensive line went through a rather revolving door last year until they were able to settle on a consistent rotation. The rover position may experience some of the same. No one is sure if Patterson, Jackson, or Scales will work best at that critical position and the early games should give the coaches plenty to work on and determine who is best. This may be a case of the sum are greater than the part though. Each player provides a different skill set that allows the defense to capitalize on different situations. Considering Oregon's propensity to rotate guys, expect to see different players in different downs and distances to better utilize their strengths.