Oregon Football: Ducks' Most Important Players on Defense in 2013

Nathan LoweryCorrespondent IJanuary 16, 2013

Oregon Football: Ducks' Most Important Players on Defense in 2013

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    In order for the Oregon Ducks football team to continue their success—and become a larger factor on the national level—their defense must continue to dominate in 2013.

    2012 was a great year for the Ducks' defense as they led the nation in turnover margin along with setting the school record in that category.

    Leading that record-breaking group were seniors Dion Jordan, Michael Clay and Kiko Alonso. With those players, Oregon will look to a younger group to step in as leaders of a defense that could be much, much better in 2013.

Taylor Hart

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    Hart, a serious contributor since he was a freshman, made huge strides this year as a junior.

    One of Oregon’s most dominant interior lineman in 2012, Hart finished the season with eight sacks, including two versus Washington State.

    Hart is going to continue to bring physicality to an Oregon team that desperately needs physicality in order to meet the program’s goal of winning a national championship.

    Keep your eye on Hart in 2013.

Tony Washington

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    With Dion Jordan missing substantial time with shoulder injuries, Washington was able to see plenty of snaps this past season.

    With Jordan, the Ducks' premier pass-rusher, graduating and moving on to the NFL, Washington enters spring training as the apparent replacement to Jordan.

    Washington matches Jordan’s ability to come off the edge quickly in order to get to the quarterback, and his skill sets will be extremely useful for an Oregon team that wants to rack up as many sacks as it can.

    Defensive line coach Jerry Azzinaro continues to get more and more defensive linemen that make huge contributions for the team. 

Derrick Malone

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    Oregon’s inside linebacker corps will be playing with two gaping holes in 2013.

    With both Clay and Alonso gone from graduation, and Anthony Wallace’s recent transfer, the Ducks are going to need their entire defense to step up next year in order to compensate for that loss.

    Look no further than Derrick Malone to be that guy to step up.

    Malone only finished with 38 tackles last season, but he saw action in 10 games last year and was a great backup for Nick Allioti to cycle into the rotation.

    Malone has proved that he has the ability to be a factor on defense—see his nine tackles against Colorado—but we will all need to see if he can play like that as a starter.

Ifo Ekpre-Olomu

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    In complete and utter honesty, no player on Oregon’s entire team made strides quite like Ifo Ekpre-Olomu did.

    Ekpre-Olomu became one of the nation’s premier shutdown corners, and he did it as only a sophomore.

    The team leader in interceptions, with four, and pass deflections, with 15, expect Ekpre-Olomu to improve on those numbers.

    If there’s one player on Oregon’s defense that is worthy of All-American status, it’s Ekpre-Olomu.