FanPost

A Retrospective on the Season... The Unsung Heroes

As we eagerly await the New Year, and the Rose Bowl, I thought it would be a good time to take a look back both individually and statistically at each of the defensive players contributions this season.  This will allow us to talk about memories from the season of different units, players or individual plays that stuck out to each of us and made this season special.  This will be a three part series starting with the defensive line, next the line backers and lastly the secondary... I may just add one specifically about Cliff Harris, I haven't decided yet.  He's not returning my phone calls and he won't except my friend request on Facebook.  

Now, on to the unsung heroes of the defense this year.  The defensive line.

To properly look at the contribution of the defensive lineman, we first have to revisit the scheme employed by Aliotti and Azzinaro.  For most of the time Aliotti employed a 3-4 scheme.  Now one of the most thankless jobs in a 3-4 scheme is the D-line.  Rarely do these guys end up making tackles for a loss.  Rarely are they sent to go sack the QB.  Heck, if they are doing their job correctly, they will rarely make tackles on running backs.  Your job as a D-lineman in a 3-4 is to take on as many blockers as you can to create space for the much more heralded linebackers to make the plays.  If you are a good  DE, you will hold the guard and tackle at the line and allow the OLB to make a play on the ball.  A great nose tackle will clog the middle, take on the center and a guard and allow the MLBs room t o shoot the gaps and either get after the quarterback or make a play on the running back.

These guys play a thankless position.  You won't see their stellar play show up in the box score much (you don't get noticed for taking on a double team of 300 pounders all day).  Much has been made of our undersized D-line, but these guys have been nothing short of spectacular all season.  One of the main reasons Rowe was able to make the plays in the backfield he did all year, is because of Blake Ferras.  You think Ward, Lewis or Boyett are going to be top five in tackles on this team if Tukuafu isn't keeping O-linemen from being able to get a block on them?  I love Eddie Pleasant, but his speed is irrelevant if Bair isn't forcing a guard to help the center keep him out of the backfield.  Their conditioning has been amazing, their tenacity relentless, and their pressure constant from the first game to the last.

If Masoli and James feel obligated to take the O-line out to dinner, on them, for helping them reach the pinnacles they have, then Pleasant, Rowe, Matthews and Paysinger need to be making dinner reservations real soon for these guys:

Starters:

Will Tukuafu, DE

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Name

Yr

G

Solo

Assisted

Total

Total/G

TFL

TFL Yards

TFL/G

Sacks

Sack Yards

Sacks/G

Will Tukuafu

SR

12

22

13

35

2.92

6.5

22

0.54

2.5

12

0.21

Tukuafu has been a steadying force on the D-line all year.  He has consistently made plays on the back side, as teams tried to run away from him.  He ended up forcing one fumble and recovering one fumble this year too.  He epitomized the position of a D-lineman in a 3-4 system.  He was fast enough to be able to get off the line and cause havoc in the backfield but strong enough to take on blockers and make RBs have to move around him right into our LBs and safeties manning the edges.  Will is a senior this year, and fully deserved his Honorable Mention All Pac 10 Honors for his solid consistent play all year.  I know we will miss Tukuafu a lot next year.

Brandon Bair, DT/NG

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Name

Yr

G

Solo

Assisted

Total

Total/G

TFL

TFL Yards

TFL/G

Sacks

Sack Yards

Sacks/G

Brandon Bair

JR

12

19

24

43

3.58

7.5

27

0.63

2

14

0.17

Bair had a break out year this year.  At 6-7 270lbs he is a beast in the middle of the defense for any O-line to try and handle.  QBs have trouble seeing over him, RBs have trouble running around him.  He was the leading tackler on the D-line by being a force up the middle as teams tried (and I stress tried, Ohio St) to run it down the throat of the defense.  As a junior and a first year starter, look for many great things from Bair next season.  I will never forget his break out game against Utah where he seemed to be in the backfield on almost every play and had an awesome blocked punt.

Blake Ferras, DT/DE

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Name

Yr

G

Solo

Assisted

Total

Total/G

TFL

TFL Yards

TFL/G

Sacks

Sack Yards

Sacks/G

Blake Ferras

SR

12

16

17

33

2.75

4.5

29

0.38

2

17

0.17

It is my guess that the most uncelebrated person of the Oregon defense is  Blake Ferras.  Ferras normally lined up opposite Tukuafu and on the same side of Rowe.  He is largely responsible for contributing on almost every great play Rowe made all year.  The one thing I remember most about Blake Ferras was the initial push he got on the goal line stop versus UCLA, you watch this video and starting at :24 you will see a guy in the middle diving head first, with no regard for his body at the ankles and knees of the UCLA O-line.  When Prince tries to go in for the sneak there is absolutely no room and the LBs and safeties come in to clean up the work.  That is what Ferras did all year.  Sacrificed his body, his stats and the recognition for Oregon to get the victory.  As a Senior too, Blake Ferras has left a big hole to be filled next year.

Here is who will be trying to fill those holes left by Tukuafu and Ferras, and the other stats from the defensive lineman this year:

Reserves:

Name

Yr

G

Solo

Assisted

Total

Total/G

TFL

TFL Yards

TFL/G

Sacks

Sack Yards

Sacks/G

Terrell Turner

SO

12

12

7

19

1.58

4

24

0.33

3

23

0.25

Zac Clark

JR

12

7

10

17

1.42

1

1

0.08

Simi Toeaina

SR

11

5

5

10

0.91

1

4

0.09

Tyrell Irvin

JR

11

5

0

5

0.45

1

6

0.09

1

6

0.09

Terrance Montgomery

JR

8

2

0

2

0.25

1

2

0.13

1

2

0.13

Toeania is another guy who will be missed next year.  Turner, Clark, Irvin, Montgomery, and whoever Azz and Aliotti are able to bring in recruiting (cough... King, OWA, Heimuli... cough) will have a huge standard to live up to set by these three starters this year. 

I really don't think the D-linemen in our system have gotten nearly enough credit this year for the work they did.  We all know that Oregon's defense works as a system, each unit relying on the other for success.  The defensive line has definitely held up their end of the deal this year, and have done a great job in the process.

Leave comments, memories, clips or photos in the comments section about the D-line.  I would love to see a ton of photoshop material about these guys and the work they did.

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of SB Nation or the Addicted To Quack Moderators. FanPost opinions are valued expressions of opinion by passionate and knowledgeable Oregon fans.

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