Previewing the Oregon Ducks: Part II - Defense and Special Teams

Don't kick it to the Black Mamba...He bites. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)

As discussed in Part I of the Oregon Ducks preview, Nick Aliotti's defense plays a very aggressive brand of football and creates a lot of negative plays. Oregon has 39 sacks, 82 tackles for loss, and has forced 23 turnovers this season. Yes, their aggressive style can give up yardage, and the fact that their defense is on the field so much hurts their overall numbers, but the fact is that the defense is as important to Oregon's success as their highly touted offense.

Defensive Line

The Ducks employ a 4-3 system and get good production from their defensive line. DE Dion Jordan (6-7 240 Jr.) leads the team with 6.5 sacks and 12 tackles for loss. At the other DE spot, Terrell Turner (6-3 265 Sr.) has also been productive with 5.5 sacks and 9 tackles for loss. Jordan and Turner have started all 11 games this season, and they will be backed up by Tony Washington (6-3 262 Fr.-RS) and Brandon Hanna (6-2 240 Sr.).

Inside, Oregon starts Wade Keliikipi (6-3 300 So.) and Taylor Hart (6-6 283 So.), but Ricky Heimuli (6-4 321 So.) is the player to fear on the defensive line. Heimuli backs up Keliikipi but is immensely talented. He's the biggest lineman in the rotation and is very quick off the ball. Isaac Remington (6-4 286 Jr.) backs up Hart and has played in all 11 games.

Linebackers

Oregon's linebackers are essentially safeties in the linebacker position. Michael Clay (5-11 225 Jr.) leads the team in tackles with 83 from his WLB spot. SLB Josh Kaddu (6-3 235 Sr.) is a skilled pass rusher and has 6.5 sacks on the season. He also adds 9.5 tackles for loss and 43 tackles. Dewitt Stuckey (5-11 221 Sr.) starts at MLB. He's been very productive with 62 tackles, 5 tackles for loss, 3 sacks, and an INT.

The linebacking corps will be backed up by a very talented group. Derrick Malone Jr. (6-2 208 Fr.) backes up Clay at WLB, Kiko Alonso (6-4 240 Jr.) backs up Stuckey in the middle, and Boseko Lokombo (6-3 232 So.) is behind Kaddu at the SLB spot.

Oregon utilizes a rover in the defense, which is filled by Eddie Pleasant (5-11 210 Sr.). The hybrid LB/SS spot requires a player equally adept at playing the run and pass, and Pleasant fills the role perfectly. On the season, Pleasant has 53 tackles, 3 INT's, and has broken up 8 passes. He's backed up by Brian Jackson (5-10 194 So.).

Secondary


The Pac-12 caught a break with Cliff Harris' troubles, but Oregon still has plenty of talent in the secondary. John Boyett (5-10 202 Jr.) leads the secondary from his FS position. It seems like he has been in Eugene for ages, yet he's only a Jr. He's backed up by Avery Patterson (5-10 175 So.)

At CB, Oregon starts a Sr. and a Fr. Anthony Gildon (6-1 180 Sr.) and Troy Hill (5-11 165 Fr.-RS) are both physically gifted, but neither is as explosive as Harris. True Fr. Ifo Ekpre-Olomu (5-10 182 Fr.) will also see action and has played well this year. Terrance Mitchell (6-0 189 Fr.-RS) is the other CB.

Special Teams

PK Alejandro Maldonado (5-10 198 So.) missed the kick that may have sent Oregon to a second straight BCS Title game, but he doesn't usually kick anything but XP's. He is 6/11 on FG attempts this year but 64/65 on XP's.

P Jackson Rice (6-3 225 Jr.) sees even less action than Maldonado. He's averaging 3.6 punts per game, but he is averaging 45 yards per punt.

As discussed earlier, Oregon will utilize James, Barner, and Thomas on kickoff and punt returns. They are all TD threats anytime they touch the ball. On the flip side, Oregon has not allowed a TD return all season.

That concludes Part II of the Oregon Ducks preview. Fire away with any additional thoughts or comments.

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