EUGENE, Ore. — Oregon coach Mark Helfrich confirmed Thursday that the second-ranked Ducks will be without star cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu when they face Jameis Winston and Florida State in their playoff game Jan. 1.
Helfrich acknowledged the senior, a first-team All-America selection, won’t play after he was injured during a noncontact drill Tuesday.
“Very unfortunate for him,” said Helfrich, who wouldn’t disclose the nature of the injury.
Ekpre-Olomu has been a cornerstone of the Ducks’ secondary with 63 tackles, two interceptions and six pass breakups this season, and is widely considered among the top cornerbacks for next year’s NFL draft.
“I’m very confident we’re going to be fine,” secondary coach John Neal said. “But the tough thing from a personal aspect is just to see Ifo in this situation. It’s just really hard to look at him, as a coach and as a friend, and think of all the things he’s done for us and to have something like that happen out of nowhere … is very tragic.”
Neal said the Ducks will start redshirt freshman Chris Seisay in Ekpre-Olomu’s place. Seisay has played in all but two games this season and has 20 tackles and one forced fumble.
“It’s not like we’re moving someone into a new position that’s never played there before,” Neal said. “It’s time for that next guy to step up. That’s the process of being part of this program.”
Seisay started against Wyoming in the third game of the season and played for most of the win against Utah on Nov. 8, when Ekpre-Olomu left with an injury early in the first half. Seisay said those experiences should help him as he transitions from backup to starter.
“It’s definitely sad, man, losing a great player like that,” reserve cornerback Dior Mathis said. “But we’ve got to go along with the people we have and try to win this thing for him.”
The Ducks will practice through Saturday before the players leave for the holiday break. Oregon (12-1) faces No. 3 Florida State (13-0) in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1. Top-ranked Alabama (12-1) faces No. 4 Ohio State (12-1) in the other national semifinal.