Precocious rover has provided Ducks with energy, versatility
As Oregon prepared for California this week, someone asked coach Mike Bellotti about Patrick Chung, and whether the redshirt sophomore already could be one of the Pac-10's best safeties and one of the best Duck rovers in his coaching era - despite being markedly younger than many players in the UO program.
'Yes, yes and yes,' says Bellotti, adding a third 'yes' for emphasis. Bellotti and defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti are clearly enamored with the Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., product who originally came from Jamaica.
'He's a great player,' Bellotti says of Chung, who made many freshmen All-American lists last season. 'He's very athletic, competitive, tough, extremely fast and he can play any position in the secondary.' And, Chung can tackle as well as anybody.
Chung starts alongside free safety J.D. Nelson to form one of the Pac-10's best safety combinations. They will be put to the test Saturday at California, because of the Bears' balanced offense that features accurate quarterback Nate Longshore, hard-running tailback Marshawn Lynch and fleet receiver DeSean Jackson.
Chung welcomes any assignment. It's the rover's job to be versatile.
'You get to do a little bit of everything - blitz, cover, play the line. You get to be around the ball,' Chung says. 'I have to play a little bit down on the line (against the run), but if I have to cover, that's OK with me. I'll play wherever they need me. Anything to help the defense.'
Chung arrived in Eugene at age 16, having started school early in Kingston, Jamaica, where both of his parents played sports, and having graduated from high school on time.
He moved to Florida with his family at an early age, before moving west to California.
During his senior year at Rancho Cucamonga High, barely 16 years old, Chung visited Oregon for the first time. When he joined the Ducks in 2004, he had not yet turned 17.
Chung turned 19 on Aug. 19, and the 5-11, 205-pounder sometimes shows his age, Bellotti says.
'He's precocious, no question,' the coach says. 'He's a young man who still likes to have fun, and I don't want him to stop having fun, but I think he can make more plays … and pay more attention to detail. I don't want him to lose his enthusiasm.'