Bryson Young has been ready for this starting role.
After going through three different defensive coordinators in four seasons, Young has finally gotten his opportunity to lament his status as a starter on Oregon’s defense, and it’s something he’s releshing.
“It’s definitely new, actually playing with the ones and everything,” Young said. “I don't want to say it's natural to me, but I’ve been ready for it. It’s the reason I came here.”
Young, a Clovis, California, native, was a consensus four-star recruit coming out of Buchanan High School. He was the No. 16-ranked weak-side defensive end and the No. 36 player in California, according to 247Sports.
Entering his freshman season in 2016, Young would look to play a part in then-defensive coordinator Brady Hoke’s scheme. Young finished his freshman season playing in all 12 games and recording 12 tackles and two pass breakups. Hoke’s time as coordinator would come to an end as Oregon finished its season 4-8, and Mark Helfrich, along with his entire coaching staff, was fired.
After learning the 4-3 defensive scheme, Young would have to learn a 3-4 base defense under new defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt. In Leavitt’s two years as defensive coordinator, Young appeared in 24 games — recording just five tackles — and was only used on punt and kickoff return in his junior season.
“It was very, very frustrating,” Young said. “With multiple defenses, I thought I could have contributed somewhat, but it was definitely frustrating. I didnt let it get to me, I just kept working harder.”
Head coach Mario Cristobal hired defensive coordinator Andy Avalos following Leavitt’s departure. Avalos would present the perfect defensive scheme for Young to have a chance at a starting spot at “stud” — a hybrid position that is a cross between a defensive end and linebacker.
He had his chance to impress Avalos and his teammates during spring ball.
“He grew and received from the team one of the most improved players through the course of the spring,” Avalos said. “He is a very consistent player, and you could probably attribute that to the way he prepares.”
Young, who is 6 foot 5 inches, 248 pounds, presented the ideal frame that Avalos was looking for in a player to fit the stud position.
“That’s the type of body, length we’re looking for, the size and the mobility,” Avalos said. “His mobility, his ability to open and close his hips and change direction, drastically improved in the springtime.”
Eight games into this season, Young has lamented himself as the starting stud and been able to thrive at the position.
He made his first career start in Oregon’s season opener against Auburn, in which he made a then-career-high four tackles. In Oregon’s game against Colorado, he had his first-career interception along with a career-high five tackles. At stud this year, he has been able to make 23 tackles, which is six more than his first three seasons combined.
“I’m just more comfortable with it,” Young said of playing the stud position. “I think I’ve just, in terms of the defense and the scheme, I’ve binded well with that. [Avalos] is really more personable with teaching and it’s more clear to me than it has been in opposing years.”
After three turbulent seasons, Young has finally been able to become a presence for Oregon. Young, a senior, has been featured in 43 games, which are the third-most of any player on the Ducks defense.
Along with his veteran presence, Young remains as one of the few players left from the 2016 class. He is one of eight players from that class that featured 26 players; one of those players that’s still around is Brady Breeze.
Breeze, a safety from Lake Oswego, Oregon, met Young informally at a summer camp back in 2014. The two formally met when Young had his official visit to Eugene when Oregon played Utah in 2015.
The duo now live together and have become best friends throughout a tumultuous three seasons.
“We’ve been through it all,” Young said. “We’ve had friends along the way that haven’t made it this far, which is disappointing, but at the same time, we just know we have each other. That is what pushes us through each day.”
Breeze echoed a similar sentiment.
“We’ve had some tough times. Last year was obviously tough for us, not really playing, really, much at all,” Breeze said. “It’s made all the success, this season, that much sweeter. Tough times make the good times that much better. We just have to enjoy every moment like this. Enjoy this season and just enjoy these games and really appreciate this time together.”
Young, also known as “Blackhawk” to many around the team has been a nickname that he’s embraced. Young created an email address a while back that was “blackhawk32698,” but he changed it before arriving to Oregon. In Young’s first team meeting, there were emails displayed on the screen and everyone happened to see the old email address — the whole team laughed. From then on, he’s embraced the nickname “Blackhawk.”
Young will now get his chance to return to his home state of California. Oregon has made trips to California for games before, but this will be the first time the Ducks are in Southern California with Young in a starting spot on the team.
Oregon is set to play USC on Saturday and Young’s hometown is only 230 miles away from USC. He anticipates his family coming to watch.
“That’s kinda special,” Young said. “Especially senior year and the fact that we’re down there, it’s kinda special. My family also has been kinda frustrated too the last few years, so it’s special.”
Young has been a part of an unstable program for the past three seasons, but he has finally found some stability in his fourth year, and so has the program. Not only has he stuck around and never wavered, but he has earned a starting spot on a defense that is ranked inside the top 20 in total defense.
“It’s definitely crazy, it’s not what I expected coming here,” Young said. “I’m learning multiple defenses. I’m learning more about defenses, offenses and what they do. It’s been beneficial. It’s my time to show that I can play.”