La’Mar Winston wasn’t the only former Central Catholic High standout playing outside linebacker for Oregon last Saturday at Arizona.
Brady Breeze, who has been buried on the depth chart at safety due to the strong play of Ugu Amadi and the emergence of true freshman Jevon Holland, pitched in due to injuries and the first-half suspension of Winston.
Breeze was like a student cramming a semester’s worth of studying into the eve of a final exam trying to pick up the outside linebacker position late last week. The redshirt sophomore was happy to just be on the field in Jim Leavitt’s defense for the first time since the Portland State game Sept. 8.
“I literally had to learn my position in two days and kind of got thrown into the game,” said Breeze, who was credited with one tackle in the Ducks’ 44-15 loss to the Wildcats in Tucson, Ariz. “I feel like I did OK. I had some big mistakes and I could definitely get better.”
Breeze has continued to practice at outside linebacker leading into Saturday’s game against UCLA at Autzen Stadium (4:30 p.m., Fox). His cousin, Chase Cota, is a true freshman wide receiver for the Bruins who decided to play for Chip Kelly instead of following in his father Chad Cota’s footsteps at Oregon.
“Waited for this UCLA game for a long time!” Breeze tweeted with a childhood photo of him and Cota. “After all the broken bones in the backyard and all the knee football games, my little cousin and I finally get to be on the same field together …
“We might not be wearing the same jersey but it’s going to be a very special moment.”
Breeze said he has been focusing on the fundamentals of his new position this week.
“I think it’s going to work out well, I’ve just got to get some more weight on me and get my leverage better,” Breeze said. “That’s what I messed up in the game was the leverages, just my hand placement on the blocker and stuff, because these guys are twice my size. It’s definitely about technique.”
Oregon coach Mario Cristobal said the move isn’t necessarily permanent because Breeze still adds value at safety and on special teams.
“I’m proud of him,” Cristobal said of Breeze embracing the chance to get some playing time at outside linebacker. “Brady is a tough competitor, always has been, real smart.”
Oregon should be close to full strength on defense with defensive lineman Austin Faoliu and linebacker Kaulana Apelu both practicing this week.
Faoliu missed last week’s loss at Arizona with an ankle injury.
“Austin is good to go, he was lights out (Wednesday),” Cristobal said. “He looks like a well-rested Austin.”
Apelu was injured the previous week at WSU and did not start against the Wildcats for the first time all year. He played limited snaps, but has been back to practice this week.
Winston should also return to his starting spot after being suspended for a violation of team rules during the first half of last week’s game.
Oregon could also get back tight end Kano Dillon, who missed last week’s game. The 6-foot-5 senior has eight catches for 110 yards and two touchdowns.
“Kano surprised me, I thought he might take a little longer, but he was full-go (Wednesday) for a limited amount of reps,” Cristobal said. “It looks like he will be ready to go.”
Death, taxes, Dye's tackling
Depth has been an issue at outside linebacker and at the “Mike” inside linebacker spot with Apelu limited by injury last week and Isaac Slade-Matautia out indefinitely with a shoulder injury.
But Troy Dye continues to be a consistent tackling machine at the “Jack” position.
The junior inside linebacker enters Saturday’s game with a streak of four consecutive games with double-digit tackles. The last Oregon player with 10 or more tackles in four straight games was Joe Farwell in 1990.
Dye has led the Ducks in stops in four of the past five games and is eighth in the Pac-12 with a team-high 70 tackles (41 solo).
In his 32 career games played, Dye has led Oregon in tackles 16 times. He led the team in tackles in 2016 and 2017.
The Fox broadcast team for Saturday’s game features Tim Brando (play-by-play), Spencer Tillman (analyst) and Holly Sonders (reporter). … The Pac-12’s television partners will not announce a kickoff time or network for Oregon’s Nov. 10 game at Utah until Sunday.