[Editor Note]: nice article by BisonDucks here and good for some weekend discussion! Bumping to the front page - dvieira
When Fall Camp commences on Aug. 7 competition will be opened up and positions will be up for grabs. Of course, most positions are solidified with the exception of injury. However, the DT position next to Brandon Bair looks to be hotly contested. In fact, most people concur that the tandem is interchangeable. I wanted to poll Addicted to Quack bloggers to weigh in on this battle, so here it goes.
First things first, I hope to counteract any preconceived notions about how second rate our DT position appears. Sure, we lost Thompson, Wade & Fili and now everyone else seems like chopped liver. Believe it or not, outside of those three guys we actually offered scholarships to other DT prospects (and they got offers from other BCS schools!). These two featured subjects are broken down from recruitment to present and, as you will discover, have a lot to bring to the table.
Ferras captained the JUCO National Championship team in 2007: CC of San Fransisco. Of course, Jeremiah Masoli had something to do with that championship as well. However, Ferras didn't take the conventional route to junior college; he was initially a walk-on to Idaho turned scholarship athlete in 2005. He transferred the next year displeased with the coaching instability, a fortuitious set of circumstances for the Ducks. In 2007 Blake Ferras didn't disappoint. He anchored the defense with 25 tackles, 8 tfl, 4 sacks in 10 games. He saved the best for last closing out the season with 6 tackles and 3 for loss in the championship game.
Along the way Blake garnered BCS interest for his services. He had a whirlwind of a recruitment, which saw him verbally committing to Wisconsin, sending in his LOI to Oregon and visiting our campus in between. Wisconsin offered per Rivals but then rescinded after their class reached 23 recruits. That and mammoth prep recruit, Darius Parish, was deciding between Wisconsin and Kansas. Those who followed his recruitment believed that Nebraska was making a last minute push for his services but they were no long available after a short courtship with Oregon. Ferras ended up a very solid D1 recruit and by all accounts a 3* with a very respectable 5.5 rival rating.
What does Blake bring to the table? Well, for one, he is athletic. A couple measurables that stands out with Ferras is his 40 time and a 26+ inch verticle (at 6'6" and 285 pounds at the time!). At 4.8 seconds, per scout, he would be considered elite at the DT position. His JUCO coach intimated that he could play a defensive end position. Well, we need all the 290+ pound bodies we can get on the interior but the versatility bodes well. He has an initial quick step, long arms, good technique and a tenacity that fights to the whistle. What seems to seperate him from his counterpart is the fact that he is a technician. His expansive wing span (the same former coach said they're the longest arms he's seen on a young man), good use of the hands and technique allow him to shed blockers to make him a run stuffer. Of course, at 6'6" he clogs the passing lanes as well.
Again, his former coach offered up these intangibles of Ferras in a scout article,
“I’ve saved Blake’s best attributes for last. He’s a quite kid, does what he’s told, and leads by example and he’s very coachable." - Coach Nunez, Scout
Last year Ferras saw spot duty as a reserve in 7 games with season high snaps against Arizona and WAZZU of 21 &19 respectively. He came to campus in 2007 but was hampered by a sprained ankle for spring practice. Last year was about getting up to D1 speed. However, this spring practice garnered him some praise from the coaches. Defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti mentioned 7 player on defense that caught his eye and singled out Ferras as "really improved" in his single blog entry this spring.
In all honesty Toeaina is the more intriguing prospect. Versatility and Athleticism are great. However, athleticism and brute strength, simply put, are coveted. At 6'4" and 318 pounds he is just what underweight counterpart Brandon Bair could use as a run stuffing partner. He came to us as a prep recruit in the 2005 cycle. He went "NR" by the recruiting sites due to his move from San Fransisco to American Somoa. Although not rated by Scout or Rivals, he didn't go unnoticed by some of the best programs in the country. We were privy to this massive talent because his brother, Matt Toeaina, was already on our roster. So, he was invited to camp in the summer and came away as one of the most impressive. He made official trips to Michigan State, Colorado, Oregon, Cal and Hawaii. According to one source he had offers at all 5 schools and potential suitors in Penn State and 'SC. I won't vouch for the veracity of this little unknown media source but it does make sense. The 3 time defensive player of the year in both football and basketball for the American Somoa Athletic Sport's league was nothing short of dominate. His high school career could be encapsulated by a 10 tackle, 2 sack performance in the American Somoa-Hawaii all-star game and equally impressive 18 rebound performance in the championship basketball game (GoDucks.com).
After a redshirt season and 3 regular season performances of injury and inconsistency, Toeaina has not lived up to expectations. But this wouldn't be the first time Toeaina has faced adversity. At 3 years old he was struck by a car and shattered both legs leaving him with a pin in his right leg and left ankle after reconstructive surgery. His father was convinced he wouldn't walk again. We know the end of that story. Bellotti said it best before the 2008 season,
"I believe he’s playing with a great deal more pride," the coach says. "If there’s a time for him to step up, this is it. There’s a great opportunity this year, and he has the size and ability. He has to push himself on a consistent basis. And he’s struggled to stay healthy; he has to find a way to stay healthy and play through pain at times." - Bellotti, Portland Tribune.
Hopefully history can repeat itself and he can pull through the adversity of injury and grab a prominent role in this rotation. The upside is undeniable with Toeaina. That is why it would be a breaking development for Duck fans if he were penciled in as #1 come the week before Sept. 3 after a full camp of "healthy' competition.
However, more important than my sentimental favorite is that one of the two emerges from junior year obscurity to senior year prominence in the same vein as other Oregon DT notables to long to list (or just too lazy after this long-winded post - sorry!).