Sunday, June 26, 2011

Grading the Ducks: Defense

Spring game, the Ducks' defense looked set. The defensive line, an off season question mark due to the loss of Kenny Rowe, Brandon Bair and Zac Clark to graduation, had a great spring and dominated in the game. Dion Jordan had two sacks. Ricky Heimuli looked unblockable all April. Jerry Azzinaro's crew shined in the Salute to the Troops. Taylor Hart had five tackles and a TFL, Jared Ebert, four, Wade Keliikipi six, with a sack and pass breakup. Isaac Remington had four stops, two of them for loss. In winter conditioning tests he turned in a 445-lb squat, tops among the linemen.

The guys worked hard; they were active and agressive. Brandon Hanna, who led the unit in the 10-yard, shuttle and "L" run looked like a keeper at drop end, a former linebacker at 6-2, 240 with the strength to put his hand down and the agility to drop back and cover, a natural fit at Oregon's drop end position. The defense's biggest weakness suddenly looked like a strength, especially with Heimuli deciding to stay for his sophomore year rather than take a possible religious mission. At 6-4, 321 the former 4-star recruit from Glendale, Utah had the size and strength to anchor the middle of the run defense, and the rest of the guys could fly around. If the line looked this solid, Oregon's 2011 could be an upgrade over a unit that went 12-1 and allowed 18.7 points per game the year before, even while replacing seven seniors.

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