The Oregon Ducks are in the midst of their voluntary summer conditioning program, and the vast majority of football players stayed in Eugene to participate. Duck Sports Authority caught up with one of the returning leaders of the team, senior safety Eddie Pleasant.
Pleasant is one of defensive backs coach John Neal's most experienced players, with 13 starts last year following 11 starts as a sophomore. The 5-foot-11, 215 pound La Palma, California star amassed 65 tackles in 2010 after logging 54 in 2009.
A.J. Jacobson - Duck Sports Authority - Eddie, how are you feeling? How is your body holding up this summer?
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Eddie Pleasant - senior strong safety - I feel pretty good. This is my third year doing summer conditioning so it's not brand new to me. I know what I've got to do so when it hurts it feels good, and it is good for it to hurt. Things are good so far.
DSA - There was a bit of graduation of seniors last year. Talk about guys who you think will emerge as leaders on this defense besides yourself?
EP - John Boyett is going to do a great job. We were a young team last year with Cliff Harris. But we've got everybody coming back. Everybody is looking forward to doing a great job on defense. We're not looking for one guy to get the job done, there are eleven guys on the field so we've got to get the job done together. We're all just looking forward to having a good season.
DSA - You're one of the most versatile athletes on the team. You started your career at linebacker, moved to safety. What do you like more as a football player: Playing in the second level like a linebacker or at safety?
EP - Well, I really just like playing defense period. But I would say, because of my size, I prefer safety. Linebacker saw way more action and that was fun. But if I want to make it to the next level my size is going to be for playing safety so I'll go with safety right now.
DSA - DP (linebacker coach Don Pellum) was telling me you were one of the fastest linebackers he's ever had. How do you stack up against other Pac-12 safeties speed-wise?
EP - Well, the Pac-12 is a fast league but still, I don't really think of things like that. I try to work on my speed and I think it's one of the best parts of my game. Pretty sure me and some other guys in the Pac-12 can run 4.4's so don't really think too much about that stuff. I just have to go out there and make plays to win.
DSA - You are unique in that you've played for both Coach Pellum and Coach Neal. Contrast their styles of coaching.
EP - They are both great coaches, both fiery coaches. In a way they are kind of the same type of guy, very competitive, and I have loved playing for both of them. I couldn't really contrast the two but I did love playing for both of them. Those are my guys right there. They both recruited me.
DSA - Let's talk about some of the young guys on your unit. James Scales, what have you seen from that young man?
EP - That's one of my little brothers right there. I really like all of them. But James he's doing a great job. He is one of those guys that when he came in people didn't think he would do as good of a job as he's doing. He's a hard worker and he does whatever the coaches ask him to do. He's going to do some great things this year for us.
DSA - He made a couple plays in the spring game that I was like damn, he finally got to show fans the type of plays he can make.
EP - Oh yeah, those things just take time. He is a young guy so he's not going to come in right out of high school and make plays like that. You have to get comfortable. You have to get your feet wet a little bit. He was here last spring too so he was more comfortable this time. He got comfortable, got his feet wet and made plays. That's what Duck fans are going to have to get used to seeing. We've got some great young dudes with Troy Hill, Dior Mathis, Erick Dargan. We have a young new freshman (Issac Dixon) who came in so there are going to be some young guys ready to play beside Cliff Harris.
DSA - Yeah I was going to ask you about Dargan. He caught my eye this last spring. What have you seen out of that young man?
EP - Like I said all the young guys are really hungry. They are ready to play. Erick is somebody that's got great ball skills and he's a big hitter. So I'm looking forward to seeing some great things. When I leave here and see the young kids coming in and starting.
DSA - What about one of them starting this year?
EP - Hey, everybody's position is up for grabs. Somebody could come in and take my position or take John's position. I'm just looking forward to seeing our defense right now.
DSA - Those young guys being good makes you work hard, doesn't it?
EP - Oh yeah, well, I can't have some young guy come and take my position. But you know it's Coach Neal and that's what's great about him. The best man is going to play. That keeps competition going and everybody on their toes. If a young guy is better than you, he is going to play. So you have to keep working hard and that's what we're doing out here; everybody is motivating each other and we're doing a good job.
DSA - How does a senior such as yourself help keep a team focused when there are off-field issues swirling around?
EP - You have to keep everybody accountable. You can't watch 105 guys at one time so everybody has to be accountable. Some things that happen late at night you can't do anything about. But we try to police ourselves. None of us are perfect but we are all accountable for our actions.
Stay tuned to Duck Sports Authority for complete Duck coverage as the start of fall camp creeps ever closer.