The No. 3 Ducks have seen a rash of defensive injuries, largely to their linebacker corps. As a result, Oregon has been relying largely on their “next man up” mentality.
Freshman Jeffrey Bassa is another example of a player that has shown his versatility for the defense.
Enrolling at Oregon in January as a safety, Bassa played snaps at linebacker for the first time when the Ducks played against Ohio State in week 2.
“At first it was really crazy. It was a great experience to be on the field early in a critical game like that,” Bassa said of getting his first taste of linebacker against Ohio State. “That's the week that I really changed from nickel to linebacker. I had a great practice that week and I was learning with Noah [Sewell] and Coach Wilson as well.”
The injury bug really bit this team in Columbus, and amid the chaos the next-man-up mentality came into play for Bassa.
“When I had that conversation with Cristobal that I was going to be moved to WILL, it was really just I've gotta get better. The team needs me and that’s what I came here for,” he said.
Despite not playing very many snaps at linebacker before in his career, he is still committed to help the team however he can.
“At first I was new to the position, so I really wasn’t sure what to do in certain situations and certain coverages. As the week went on, I developed that mentality and learned the defense.”
Bassa has shown the commitment it takes to change positions. He's made sure to watch film to see the areas that he has to fix to continue to help the team in his new spot.
While linebacker isn't his natural position, having a lighter frame than most who play the position isn't without its advantages.
“I would say for sure man coverage,” he said. “I would for sure say my speed off the edge, being able to come down hill.”
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Defensive Coordinator Tim DeRuyter has also added his thoughts about how Bassa has been able to influence the game even after switching from his original position.
“He’s a guy that's very physical. Smart football player. He moves like elite linebackers do," DeRuyter said of Bassa. "He can sink his hips, run, change direction. He’s a guy that covers backs out of the backfield. He gives you a lot of possibilities as a WILL linebacker that you're looking for.”
When asked what the most challenging part of adapting to his new spot Bassa mentioned the Run-fits with the constant movement of the defensive line.
Both DeRuyter and him agree that this is the area of his game that needs the most improvement, mainly because it’s something that is new to him.
Per the organizational chart released this week against Arizona, Bassa is listed behind Keith Brown and Jabril McNeil. Cristobal said Brown is good to go for this week, and given how favored Oregon is against Arizona, Bassa and McNeil may get more reps against the Wildcats.
Bassa and the Ducks will continue preparations for their first late-night game of the season this Saturday at 7:30 pm.
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