EUGENE — Trikweze Bridges moved to cornerback out of necessity.
His skill set has kept the true freshman from returning to safety.
“He had not studied any corner and we got a little low one day so we said, ‘Go out there and just cover that guy. Don’t worry about anything else,’” Oregon defensive coordinator Andy Avalos recalled. “He went out and jammed a couple guys at the line and we were sitting in the meeting room saying, ‘Maybe he’s got a new position.’ He’s done a great job with it and he’s excited about the opportunity.”
The 6-foot-3 Bridges brings a new dimension to the position where starters Thomas Graham and Deommodore Lenoir are both 5-11.
“It’s hard to find guys that big that can move with their feet,” Oregon cornerbacks coach Donte Williams said. “Once he uses his length and what God gave him, those long levers, he puts his hand on people and he’s taking them out of bounds. That’s a hard guy to throw the ball over when it’s Cover 2 (zone defense) and a big body, it is hard for receivers to block him. Most defensive backs now, the receiver blocking them is so much bigger, but you see Bridges out there and he’s bigger than all the wide receivers.”
Bridges was a four-star recruit out of Lanette, Alabama, about 30 miles from Auburn, the first opponent for the Ducks on Aug. 31 in Arlington, Texas. According to his bio, Bridges was a three-time all-state selection ranked among the top 25 safeties in the nation by Rivals and ESPN after intercepting 36 passes with 13 returned for a touchdown.
“He’s a guy that can help us as a cornerback and a safety,” Williams said. “He’s picking up the defense.”
Bridges’ position remains uncertain heading into the season.
“We had some guys being held out of practice so he went (to cornerback) and he’s stayed over there,” Oregon safeties coach Keith Heyward said. “We haven’t talked as a staff about moving him back just yet, but we will figure that out.”
Bridges joins a group of freshmen looking to fill in the depth chart behind Graham and Lenoir. Mykael Wright and D.J. James who have earned repeated praise from coaches during preseason camp.
“The good thing is that we’ve got two juniors who have played a lot of football, so they are being led the right way,” Williams said. “A lot of these guys will progress faster because it is not just coach Hayward, myself, or coach Avalos coaching them, but some of our players can actually coach other players too.”
The Ducks have plenty of experience at safety, where sophomore Jevon Holland returns as a starter and juniors Brady Breeze and Nick Pickett are competing for the other spot.
“That is a good position battle there going into the first game,” Hayward said, “so right now if it stays like that, Brady and Nick are both doing a great job, so I anticipate both playing significantly for us.”