Ball Hawk: Jevon Holland cements himself in the secondary

In the third quarter of the week-five matchup between Oregon and Cal, the Golden Bears were charging toward the red zone, looking to decrease the 18-point deficit. Oregon’s defense was in need of a play when Cal quarterback Chase Garbers took a shot into the end zone. True freshman safety …

Spencer Webb/ Tight end/ Oregon

Despite a heartbreaking loss to Auburn, the play of redshirt freshman Spencer Webb was a bright spot in an otherwise disappointing offensive performance. While the tight end finished the game with only three receptions for 28 yards, he produced what was perhaps Oregon’s biggest highlight of the night when he grabbed a contested catch in the endzone. Webb did not appear in a single game in 2018, but after his impressive debut, the Oregon coaches seem to have taken note; he was moved to receiver on the latest organizational chart. With receivers JR Waters, Brenden Schooler, Mycah Pittman and perhaps Juwan Johnson all still out with injuries, look for Webb to continue to build a rapport with Herbert this week against Nevada.

Jevon Holland/ Defensive back/ Oregon

After a Freshman All-American year in 2018, sophomore Jevon Holland was tasked with stepping into a full-time starting role this season. Unsurprisingly, Holland picked up where he left off, and he looked like one of the best players on the field against Auburn. He was disruptive in the run game — racking up four tackles — and was seemingly always in the right place in coverage, snagging his first interception of the year after leading the team with five in 2018. Additionally, he was vocal and appeared to have taken on a new responsibility as a leader. He often directed his teammates, something that caught the eyes of ABC commentators Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit. Holland also returned punts, where again he excelled. Nevada’s passing game dominated late in their season opener. If Oregon hopes to close the Wolfpack out early, Holland and the rest of the secondary must play a sound game. 

Carson Strong/ Quarterback/ Nevada

Entering the 2019 offseason, Nevada held a three-way quarterback battle. After competing with fifth-year senior Christian Solano and “Last Chance U” star Malik Henry, redshirt freshman Carson Strong won the job. In week one he faced Purdue, a game in which Nevada were the underdogs. The 6-foot-4 pocket passer led his team back from a three-score deficit to win on a last-second field goal. Strong finished the game with 295 yards and three touchdowns, adding 35 yards on the ground. While he’ll face a much tougher defense this week, Strong is more than capable of making plays early and often.

Daniel Brown/ Defensive back/ Nevada 

In the first half of Saturday’s game, Nevada’s secondary looked helpless, surrendering 24 points — many of them coming on deep passes downfield. The Wolfpack defensive backs looked consistently out of position. The second half was a different story, however, as Purdue only scored once. Cornerback Daniel Brown helped ignite the comeback as he snagged Nevada’s first interception falling out of bounds midway through the third quarter. Later, with a minute to go in the game and the score tied at 31, Brown came down with his second pick of the day to help the Wolfpack secure the win. With the plethora of injuries to Oregon’s wideouts, look for Brown to slow down the Ducks’ remaining options. 

Follow Shane on Twitter @shane_hoffman