Nick Aliotti likes physical corners, guys who compete, able to step up and force the run. Jairus Byrd could cover anybody, but he tackled like a linebacker. Rashard Bauman, Steve Smith, Walter Thurmond, they all were every-down players who could put a shoulder to a running back, not just sit back in a zone and avoid the pile.
Bump and run back the other way: Ifo Ekpre-Olomu isn't afraid to challenge receivers, or himself. (Geoff Thurner photo, goducks.com).
Secondary coach John Neal likes safeties who can cover and set the tone physically for a defense. Pat Chung, Keith Lewis, John Boyett, T.J. Ward, Matthew Harper, they could all find the football and make things miserable for receivers over the middle.
Every one of those guys went on to play in the NFL. And Ifo Ekpre-Olomu might be better than any of them.
Olomu is 5-10, 190, solidly built and strong. He has good speed, a ball hawk who runs well with the receiver and finds the football. A detailed scouting evaluation places him as one of the top NFL prospects at corner in the nation, and a video analysis by nfl.com names him one of next spring's Top 50 prospects.
Scouts love his instincts and aggressiveness from the corner position. They love that he's played all 27 games of his Oregon career, and that last season he had 65 tackles and 6 forced fumbles to go along with four interceptions and 16 pass breakups. Olomu can separate a receiver from the football, battling the PAC-12's best for every square yard of real estate, hand-fighting, body-checking and delivering a blow whenever possible.
Nfldraftscout.com rates him the #3 available cornerback, a potential first or second round pick should he decide to declare for the draft in January.
Ifo came to the Ducks from Chino Hills High School in Chino Hills, California. A two-way player as a prep, he was an All-State defensive back who intercepted 13 passes in his career, a school-record eight as a sophomore. He was a consensus 4-star recruit and a Prep Magazine Star All-American.
Currently he's a preseason ESPN All-American and on the Jim Thorpe Award watch list, earning those accolades after two interceptions against Arizona (including a 54-yard pick six), two forced fumbles against Washington, nine tackles and two forced fumbles against Stanford, and five tackles and an interception in the Civil War. Ekpre-Olomu is always around the ball, always making things happen, as active and physical a corner as the Ducks have ever had.
For the Ducks this season Ifo figures to be a leader and a solidifying force on the defense. At the beginning of last season teams threw more to his side, electing to stay away from the taller Terrance Mitchell on the other, who is also an NFL prospect. Together the two form what many people feel is the best cornerback tandem in the nation.
Both Mitchell and E-O have contributed in every game of their two-year Duck careers, Mitchell with 18 straight starts.
Another thing that stands out about Ekpre-Olomu is his poise and maturity. Here's a glimpse at the personal side, an interview by Jen Beryrle of Comcast.
Keep them healthy! Ifo has great talent as does Terrance Mitchell. Great back ups as well. Both potential All Americans but not the night they played USC last year. Matt Barkley was "on" and playing pitch and catch all night long with Robert Wood, Marquise lee and Nelson Agolar. Fortunately that was the night Kenjon ran for over 300 yards.
@SonomaDuck SD, that game erupted into an old-fashioned WAC-style shootout, didn't it? Referees were calling the contact close, and also added a phantom interference penalty on a clean interception. Ducks missed a few plays going for the ball and got themselves out of position. Marqise Lee is a phenomenal talent.
I'm not sure if Oregon will face another perfect storm of pinpoint passing matched with elite receiving this season. Barkley is gone. Hogan will be tossing to essentially what amounts to rookies. Whomever wins the QB spot at Arizona (Denker, it appears) will have a talented pool of receivers, but nothing along the lines of Lee and Wood.
Price I worry about (they're going up-tempo this season) and the Fuskies may have enough players out on parole by the game with Oregon to do some damage.
@NormVanbrocklin Jordan left the game with a shoulder injury, if I remember correctly. Your question brings up another important point: the Ducks pass defense should be even better this year, because the pass rush should be better with a deep and athletic defensive line and fast linebackers. There will be sacks.
@zduckfan The Husky game stands out as a real hurdle for the Ducks, certainly one they should win on paper but UW has a veteran offense with weapons led by a senior quarterback in a packed, hostile, newly-remodeled stadium. Sarkisian and his teams have been mediocre, but they seem to pull off a big upset every year, last season Stanford.