When some recruits bailed on Oregon after Willie Taggart left for Florida State, Steve Stephens became an additional recruiter for the Ducks.
The social-media savvy safety pushed the #brOtherhood18 movement that helped the Ducks retain most of their prospects who committed to Taggart.
“Coaches change all the time, but the players don’t so I saw a real bond here,” Stephens said Thursday in his first interview since arriving at Oregon. “I felt I could still come in and play early, plus coach (Keith) Heyward didn’t leave. So my coach was going to be here, the defensive coordinator stayed, and so on the defensive side it was alright.”
The 6-foot, 189-pound Stephens was a four-star recruit ranked as one of the highest-rated safeties ever signed by Oregon after being listed among the Top 250 players by ESPN and the No. 10 safety in his class by Rivals.com.
He graduated in December from Edison High School in Fresno, Calif. to join the Ducks for spring football.
“I came here early to have a better opportunity to get on the field,” he said. “I’ve had a pretty smooth transition. I thought it would be harder than it was, but I was ready.”
Stephens is competing for time as a true freshman at one of the deepest positions on Oregon’s roster. Seniors Ugochukwu Amadi and Mattrell McGraw started games last season, as did sophomore Nick Pickett. Sophomores Brady Breeze and Billy Gibson also return with a year of experience.
“Those guys have seen all the routes over and over and over,” Stephens said. “They know all the concepts so it is really good to get tips from them when they help me out.”
Stephens has gotten positive reviews from the veterans at his position.
“I just want to get the plays down, execute and work on technique to make plays,” Stephens said. “I am picking it up pretty fast. Some other players were saying that I am picking it faster than they did, so that is a bonus.”
Oregon will also add four-star safety Jevon Holland in the fall. Stephens is getting an additional 15 practices in the spring by enrolling early.
“Steve has been great,” said Heyward, who is in his second season as safeties coach. “Being a mid-year guy is always good because it helps with that transition, the words and the concepts. He has been doing a great job picking it up so I am excited about Steve.”
Stephens is one of seven members of the 2018 recruiting class who enrolled early at Oregon.
“In the first term, we all had most of the same classes but in the second term we are off on our own getting our own experiences,” he said. “Graduating early, everything has been good. Classes are going well and tutoring helps me out.”
He’s getting an introduction to college football as well.
“It has been fast, a little hard at the beginning, but it is getting easier as the days go by,” Stephens said.