Oregon Ducks College Football Preview 2021: Defense
– The D wasn’t a killer considering all the high-end talent across the board, but it was good enough. There’s too much in place to allow 406 yards and 28 points per game again. The pass rush has no excuse to be as mediocre, and more takeaways would be nice, but again the team won a Pac-12 title. After years of great recruiting, demand more out of this group starting with …
– The linebacking corps. The Ducks have three all-stars in the 3-4, and make it all four depending how the staff uses Kayvon Thibodeaux. He’s a true hybrid of end and outside linebacker with 12 sacks in his first two years as he passes the time before going to the NFL.
Fellow super-recruit Noah Sewell and Isaac Slade-Matautia tied for the team lead with 45 tackles. Sewell brings more thump in the middle, Slade-Matautia is great in pass coverage, and they can both get behind the line. Throw in 260-pound Mase Funa on the outside, and there’s no excuse for this to not be the best group of linebackers in the Pac-12.
– Thibodeaux is really a defensive end who’ll occasionally be used as an outside linebacker. There’s not a problem on the front three, but not having 300-pounders Jordon Scott or Austin Faoliu around isn’t a plus.
However, 290-pound junior Popo Aumavae on the nose and 285-pound sophomore Brandon Dorius are good options to start with, but there aren’t any massive-bodied tackles other than 6-6, 310-pound freshman Jayson Jones.
– The secondary needs to make more plays, and some of the parts from last year are missing, but there are plenty of older, experienced players to work in a rotation – at least at corner – around veteran all-star Mykael Wright at one spot. He might get more credit as the star of the defense if it wasn’t for Thibodeaux and Sewell, but he’s terrific.
Verone McKinley was third on the team in tackles with 41 at one safety spot, and he’s got the speed and range to make even more things happen when the ball is in the air. Again, there are a slew of experienced veterans to work into the other spots.