If a unit is only going to return one starter, a former All-American is the player to have back.
Cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu's surprising decision to play one more season at Oregon means Pellum and secondary coach John Neal are not building the unit completely from scratch. Instead, the Ducks defensive backs can lean on a solid foundation while restructuring.
Ekpre-Olomu intercepted four passes in 2012. The only Duck with more that season was Erick Dargan, a leading candidate to fill one of the three vacant spots in the starting secondary.
With Dargan at one safety spot, look for redshirt freshman Tyree Robinson to have an impact at the other. Robinson garnered high praise from Helfrich during offseason workouts, and he validated the coach's kudos with an interception in the spring game.
The trio of cornerback Terrance Mitchell and safeties Avery Patterson and Brian Jackson is not easily replaced. Mitchell led the Ducks with five interceptions a season ago, while Patterson snagged three.
Patterson and Jackson were also two of Oregon's top five tacklers, with 80 and 71, respectively.
Indeed, the bar is set high for the new starters. But while Oregon is welcoming newcomers into the first string, the secondary is not lacking for experience.
Cornerbacks Troy Hill and Dior Mathis, as well as the safety Dargan, all have extensive experience in reserve and multiple defensive back formations, easing the unit's overall transition.
Why They're Ranked Here
Oregon's potent offense has long fed off the ability of its defense to generate turnovers. A greedy secondary is key to garnering the takeaways vital to the Ducks' suffocating style.
Dargan could be in for a monster season feeding off Ekpre-Olomu, and Robinson's versatility will benefit the Ducks both against the run and pass.