PORTLAND, Ore. -- A year ago, Chris Seisay watched the Oregon-Washington game from Eugene. He, then an Oregon defensive back who had been injured five games into the season, was a part of a struggling Ducks defensive backfield.
On Saturday, now as a Portland State wide receiver, he’ll go head-to-head with the Washington defensive backs, the most talented secondary unit in the Pac-12. Seisay said that last season he didn’t necessarily single out the Huskies' game tape, but that even early in the season when a Washington game was on TV, he’d check them out, understanding that they were one of “the best defensive-back core groups.”
“That’s a defense that knows how to play defense,” Seisay said.
Seisay left Oregon’s program midway through fall camp this year. Oregon coaches had been complimentary of his performance this spring and fall and the junior was expected to compete for a starting role the Ducks secondary. But for Seisay, there was something missing and he decided to transfer.
Seisay was recruited in high school by Portland State offensive coordinator Steve Cooper (Washington and coach Chris Petersen were among other suitors), so that relationship was there, making it easy to move the 111 miles north up I-5.
But even now, after he has found a landing spot in Portland and has settled into his new day-to-day routine, it’s hard to define what exactly what missing in Eugene.
“I just felt like making a change,” Seisay said. “There wasn’t anything specific. There’s no negative anything toward Oregon. ... You have your downsides everywhere. I just wasn’t feeling it anymore there.”
But though Seisay can’t identify exactly what was missing or what he has found, he knows that he’s happier and more comfortable in his new surroundings. Yes, he has to drive from his apartment to campus and has yet to really take advantage of the culinary advantages Portland has to offer (when asked what his favorite Portland food spot was, he responded, “Chipotle. Sorry.”).
The fact that he’s a transfer doesn’t make him entirely unique at Portland State. There are 27 transfers from every level, including eight from the Pac-12, on the Vikings’ roster. Those transfers are what Petersen said makes Portland State “very interesting and explosive in certain aspects of their program.”
The fact that a Washington defensive unit Seisay once looked at as the peak of defensive-back play in the Pac-12 is now the unit that will be tasked with defending him does indeed make Saturday's matchup a bit more interesting. That he has moved from Pac-12 defensive back to Big Sky wide receiver adds further intrigue.
“I have an advantage, just knowing the type of techniques that they use, what’s hard for a defensive back to cover,” Seisay said. “Just knowing the struggles I went through and using that to my advantage on offense.”
So far this season, Washington has given up just one receiving touchdown, so Seisay will have a challenge on his hands. But after his first game with the Vikings (a two-catch, 56-yard day against San Jose State), Portland State might look to target him even more. Not only because he has experience against Pac-12 opponents and a knowledge of Pac-12 defensive backs, but also because Portland State coach Bruce Barnum needs to prepare Seisay to be a major contributor on a team that has a chance to compete for the Big Sky title this season.
“I need him ready for Southern Utah,” Barnum said of the Vikings' conference opener Sept. 24. “He’s smart, he learns and he wants to.”
And now, Seisay wants to be an impact wide receiver for the Vikings. It’s a different school, different coach, different uniform (still a green Nike one, though) and it seems to also be a different Seisay. He's more relaxed, having more fun.
And as a guy who once attempted to stop Pac-12 players from catching passes, he’s hoping to step in and catch passes against them Saturday. That, for Seisay, would be a lot of fun.
“Pac-12 defensive backs, they’re real athletic and they can move around everywhere,” Seisay said. “You have to be ready to be in an athletic type of fight. You have to be on your toes all the time and be ready to make a play whenever the ball comes your way.”