EUGENE — The Oregon secondary is losing yet another starter.
Brady Breeze, who had a breakout second half to the 2019 season en route to earning Rose Bowl defensive MVP accolades, is opting out of the 2020 season and declaring for the NFL Draft.
Despite serving as a backup for the first eight games last season, Breeze had a career-high 62 tackles, two interceptions, three fumble returns including a touchdown, three pass breakups and a forced fumble. He made 40 of those tackles, both interceptions, two of his three fumble returns, three pass breakups and forced a fumble during the final six games and took over as the starter at boundary safety.
Breeze was expected to start for the Ducks this fall, but instead becomes the fifth Oregon player to opt out and declare for the draft, including the fourth from the secondary. He joins Thomas Graham Jr., Jevon Holland, Deommodore Lenoir and Penei Sewell, who all declared for the draft as well, as Oregon drops to 80 scholarship players for this shortened 2020 season.
With Breeze leaving, Nick Pickett now becomes the favorite to start at boundary safety, Verone McKinley III can remain at field safety and Jamal Hill the most likely starter at Nickel. The Ducks also added junior college transfer Bennett Williams and early enrollee Jared Greenfield at safety this spring and also have Steve Stephens IV and Trikweze Bridges back.
But while the Ducks have the depth to overcome the loss of Breeze, the magnitude of his departure should not be understated. Oregon has now lost six of its top seven tacklers from last season, who were responsible for 12 of its 20 interceptions, all of its four fumble returns and 28 of its 56 pass breakups.
Breeze was also Oregon’s nominee for the Campbell Trophy as well as the Wuerffel Trophy this season.