(Note: Too much to say in just a fanshot; can't blockquote.)
Reading this article just now, two paragraphs near the middle caught my eye about their versatility and athleticism.
But the two linebackers have been lynchpins for the Ducks this season. They coordinate communication between the defensive line and secondary, and their improved athleticism has kept them on the field in passing situations. Also, their versatility has been a key to Oregon’s disguising its coverages and presenting multiple fronts without changing personnel.
"You could see Pays or Case at the strong-side position or the weak-side position, or out in space," UO linebacker coach Don Pellum said. "You could see them both blitzing at times, or you could see them covering receivers down the field. It’s been very good for us defensively that those kids have been able to learn those techniques, and perform them at a high level."
This part struck me as very telling about our defense's relative success this year. In spite of nary a mention of Eddie Pleasant, an article on the linebacking corp and their contributions to this team has been a long time coming. Our fast, athletic, and versatile linebackers have stood for more than just bodies to stuff the run, as we'd seen in years past. This year they have been huge in enabling our corners and safeties to play to the best of their abilities. When Oregon's team speed is spoken of during the pregames and such, the linebackers are the real studs. In the same way that having John Boyett on the field as a stellar cover safety supports our corners, having speedy and aware linebackers who can make the right reads most-to-all of the game has been a huge asset for our defense.