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UCLA Football Oppo Preview: A Deeper Look at the Duck Defense

Oregon's defense went through a regime change in the offseason. Is it more of the same, or have things changed in Eugene?

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Oregon's defense has always been underrated simply due to the fact that opponents often put up a fair amount of yards, and it is easy to ignore the fact that the defense was very good in terms of yards allowed per play and points allowed.  There were some questions in the offseason whether Oregon's defense would playing at the same level with the transition from Nick Aliotti to Don Pellum, and so far the questions have not really been answered.

The stats thus far are not drastically different than Oregon's defensive stats from last season, but they are consistently worse across the board.  For example, Oregon is allowing 453 ypg this year vs. 370 ypg last season; they are allowing 5.7 yards per play this year vs. 4.6 yards per play last season; and, they are allowing opponents to convert 45% of 3rd down conversions this year vs. 40% last year.  Those differences could become worse over the course of the season, as Oregon has played two out of five games against South Dakota and Wyoming, which are driving the averages down a bit at this point in the year.

Despite the overall decline, Oregon is still excelling at forcing turnovers and keeping points off the board.  Oregon has forced 10 turnovers in 5 games, which would put them essentially in line to match last year's 29 total turnovers.  They're also holding opponents to 23 ppg, which is just a notch higher than last season's 20 ppg.

Up front, Oregon is talented and deep. They bring a lot of speed and are disruptive in the backfield. Ends Tony Washington (6'3 243 lbs., Sr.) and DeForest Buckner (6'7 286 lbs., Jr.) form a good complementary duo with Washington being a speed rusher and Buckner being a power rusher.  Oregon will rotate Arik Armstead (6'8 280 lbs., Jr.), Alec Balducci (6'4 310 lbs., Jr.) and Sam Kamp (6'4 287 lbs., Jr.).  Armstead is a very good athlete that can move to end and play a similar role that Ellis McCarthy plays in our defense, and his size could pose a problem for our offensive line.

The linebacker corps lost Boseko Lokombo from last year's squad, but they still have plenty of talented athletes at linebacker. Oregon does a very good job at rotating their linebackers and letting them play to their strengths, so expect to see a lot of bodies.  The middle backers are Derrick Malone (6'2 212 lbs., Sr.) Joe Walker (6'2 240 lbs.), and Rodney Hardick (6'1, 243 lbs., Jr.).  Malone is a bit undersized, but he flies around and makes a lot of plays, while Walker and Hardick are more traditional inside backers.  On the outside, Tyson Coleman (6'1 235 lbs., Jr.) and Torrodney Prevot (6'3 222 lbs., So.) for a solid pair of athletic linebackers.  Their stats aren't outstanding at this point, but they always seem to be disruptive and around the ball.

Oregon really stands out in the secondary, which may be the best secondary in the Pac-12. Corners Ifo Ekpre-Olomu (5'10 185 lbs., Sr.) and Terrance Mitchell (6'0 189 lbs., Sr.) form a formidable duo, with many considering Ekpre-Olomu one of the top corners in the country. The Ducks lost their top two safeties, but return Erick Dargan (5'11 212 lbs., Sr.) and Reggie Daniels (6'1 205 lbs., So.) as more than capable Pac-12 level starters.  Overall, there aren't any glaring weaknesses in the secondary, but Oregon is aggressive and will put their cover men on islands.  We do have a size advantage on the outside, and I would expect Mazzone to try and exploit the one on one matchups with Payton and Massington outside.

That concludes the preview of the Oregon Duck defense. Fire away with additional comments.

Go Bruins.