For as much notoriety as the Oregon Ducks offense has gotten in recent years the defense deserves a little praise. The Ducks' D had an outstanding year last year ranking among college footballs leaders in most statistical categories.
Although defensive coordinator Nick Alioti has gotten a lot of recognition for his aggressive play calling, it is the players on the field that have to make the plays. Here is a list of Oregon's six best defensive players in 2011.
Of all of the players on this list no one has proven less at his position than Dion Jordan. With that said he is one of the most gifted athletes on a very talented defense.
Jordan started his Oregon career at wide receiver before quickly transitioning to tight end. With so much talent at tight end going into last season the Oregon coaching staff decided to put Jordan on the defensive side of the ball at defensive end.
In a reserve role last year in his first season at the position Jordan racked up 30 tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble. This season Jordan should start in the place of the departed Kenny Rowe and should be a terror for opposing quarterbacks with his 6’7” frame.
Starting safety Eddie Pleasant has had an excellent career as a Duck and will hope to cap it off with an outstanding senior season. Pleasant is a very unique talent that can lineup at multiple positions on the defensive side of the ball which is very rare.
In 2009 Pleasant had a great season playing linebacker in his first year as a starter. Many fans anticipated the return of all three linebackers in 2010 but Pleasant threw them a curveball switching to the safety position.
Pleasant was a bit undersized at linebacker but could see some time there this season after the graduation of Casey Matthews and Spencer Paysiner. The one knock on Pleasant is his lack of interceptions but with a strong senior season he could prove the doubters wrong.
Many fans were nervous about Terrell Turner being one of the Ducks starting defensive ends after Will Tukuafu graduated but he quickly put their minds at ease. As a junior last season Turner had a break out year and was one of the most consistent players on the defense.
With three new starters on the defensive line this fall Turner will be called upon to take on a greater leadership role. Turner should be up to the challenge and become a great mentor to the young defensive ends that will follow him.
Although the Ducks lost two outstanding linebackers after last season in Spencer Paysinger and Casey Matthews, they did retain a pretty good one. Josh Kaddu is often forgotten by many football fans, but people will definitely remember his name in 2011.
Now he is the lead linebacker in Oregon’s rotation and will be counted on to continue to produce at a high level. Beyond his size and athletic ability, Kaddu has valuable experience that is critical as the Ducks embark on a long and difficult season.
In 2010 Oregon’s defense had one of their best seasons in defensive coordinator’s long history with the Ducks. A big reason for that was the play of safety John Boyett.
Of all of the talented players in the Ducks’ secondary Boyett may not be the most athletic but he sure has a knack for making the big plays. Last season he had key interceptions on the road at games against Arizona State, USC, and Oregon State. As Boyett enters his junior season coaches are hoping that he can build on his experience as a starter and be a real leader on their defense.
Over his first two seasons playing for the Ducks Boyett has recorded 156 tackles and 8 interceptions. If he continues to put up the same kind of numbers next year the Ducks will be lucky to keep him for his senior season.
It doesn’t matter which side of the ball he plays on, Cliff Harris is undoubtedly one of Oregon’s best players. Unfortunately for Duck fans, we do not know when we will see him on the field, due to his indefinite suspension.
Oregon lacks experience at the cornerback position, besides Harris, and his presence will be greatly missed for however long he is out. Although the group is inexperienced, they are talented and will be excited to get their opportunity on the field.
The Ducks have plenty of people who can replace Harris at punt returner, but no one on their roster has the same cover skills. Hopefully, Harris will not be out more than a couple games, and he can still put up the same type of monster numbers he recorded last season.