EUGENE — An injury in fall camp last year forced Brady Breeze to watch from the sideline while his roommate, Brenden Schooler, started at safety for Oregon.
Breeze’s on-field career with the Ducks was put on hold again last month when the redshirt freshman from Lake Oswego missed the Southern Utah and Nebraska games after suffering another injury in camp.
After playing well on special teams over the past three weeks, Breeze, who transferred from South Medford High to play for Central Catholic, is in line for more defensive snaps on Saturday against No. 11 Washington State.
“Brady was excited for his first game playing at Autzen Stadium, where he grew up and dreamed of playing in that stadium,” coach Willie Taggart said after Breeze finished with a career-high five tackles in the victory over California. “So I knew when he had that opportunity he was going to give us everything he had. We expect more of that from him.”
Oregon’s depth at safety is being tested with Schooler playing wide receiver, Khalil Oliver’s decision to transfer and Nick Pickett’s recovery from injury.
Breeze talked about his opportunity before a recent practice:
Question: What was it like to finally get out on the field at Autzen?
Answer: It was a dream come true. I finally got a few snaps out at Autzen. I’ve been going to games since I was a kid. It was cool to just be finally out there playing with my teammates and having some prayers answered and dreams come true.
Question: How frustrating was it to get hurt in fall camp again?
Answer: Definitely very frustrating missing all of last season, redshirting, and then missing the first couple games this year. It was pretty frustrating watching us play Nebraska knowing I’m not allowed to go in the game. I finally got to get in, so I’m pretty happy about that.
Question: Could you see more time on defense this week?
Answer: I feel like I’m really close to getting a lot more reps on defense. I’m still trying to compete for that starting job because nothing is official yet, it’s always changing throughout the season, so I’m trying to compete every day in practice and see what I can do to get that starting spot. I’m at least getting a lot more reps and a lot more chances out on defense right now.
Question: Did going through your adversity with injuries help you at all?
Answer: It has definitely made me stronger mentally. It’s definitely not fun watching practice and watching the games and knowing that you’re not allowed to go in. It was definitely tough this year, especially because I knew I was supposed to be in the rotation and supposed to be getting reps.
Question: What’s it like preparing for (WSU quarterback) Luke Falk?
Answer: We really have to be on top of our game, we have to be really good in our man coverage and really good on the short, quick routes because he’s a real accurate passer and could definitely be one of the guys in the NFL next year. We have to be prepared and be ready for him and his audibles that he’s going to try to call against us.
Question: Are you excited to see Blake Rugraff getting an opportunity at linebacker?
Answer: We’re always trying to compete on kickoff (coverage), trying to see who can get the tackle first because he’s one of the guys that has been flying around there, too. It’s pretty fun because we’re locker buddies right next to each other, and actually the coaches always get us mixed up when we’re watching film. If I make a tackle the coach will be like, ‘Hey, nice tackle Blake.’ Or if he gets a tackle people always get us mixed up, even the announcer gets us mixed up, too.
Question: Taggart said you were miffed to hear Blake’s name called by the public address announcer after you made a tackle against Cal.
Answer: Oh yeah, I came to the sideline and I was like, ‘Dude, what the heck? What’s going on?’ And Blake of course is just laughing at me because he got called for the tackle. It was just kind of funny.
Question: Is it nice to have a defense the Ducks can lean on for a change?
Answer: We’re known as University of Offense, and I think people are starting to realize like, ‘OK, the defense is here to really show up and we can rely on them, too.’ So it’s nice to have that pressure off our back where everyone is judging us and it’s nice we’re a physical defense again.