Oregon Football: The Ducks could get Defensive This Season
- Updated: March 6, 2014
The Oregon Ducks are one of the best teams in college football, year in and year out. They are always in contention for the national title and are led by an explosive offense. This fast paced, hurry up, style of offense is always exciting to watch as the Duck pile points up on the board. However whenever they fall short of a national championship, the critics always take a shot at their lack of defense. That could change this year when they take the field because the Ducks have worked hard on improving the defense.
At the defensive end position, the Ducks will be a different team this season. The Ducks took a hit with the departure of Taylor Hart, who was named second-team All-Pac-12, but have a talented player in Arik Armstead lined up to take his spot. Armstead started five times in 2013 and left the basketball team midseason to shift his focus back to football. T.J. Daniel, Jason Sloan are projected to be in the mix for playing time. This could make the Ducks more flexible and deeper at the position than they have ever been.
The Ducks also have some holes to fill at the defensive tackle position. The Ducks will be looking to replace its strongside defensive end, so when opposing offensive coordinators look at the Oregon defense, there will be an evident hole in terms of experience.The Ducks lose a pair of effective 300-pounders in the middle in the underrated Wade Keliikipi and backup Ricky Heimuli, but starting tackle DeForest Buckner is back, and noseguard Alex Balducci has significant experience. Depth is the question. Players such as Stetzon Bair and Sam Kamp need to step up, while younger players have a chance to break through. There’s also incoming juco transfer Tui Talia. They may not be as deep at this position but they have experience and talent and this can go a long way.
If the Ducks defense has an area that is impressive it could be the linebacker unit. The linebacker corps as a whole returns plenty of talent and experience in Tony Washington (60 tackles, including a team-high 12 tackles for a loss and a team-high 7.5 sacks), Derrick Malone (team-high 105 total tackles) and Rodney Hardrick (65 tackles including three for a loss). However, where they’ll need someone to step up is at strongside linebacker after losing Boseko Lokombo (63 tackles, seven tackles, team-high seven quarterback hurries). If they can get a suitable replacement they may not miss a beat this season.
The Ducks will be just fine on offense and if everything works out on defense, there is every reason to believe that they will be flying high in 2014.