While the defensive line boasts a lot of talent, it also boasts a lot of intrigue. Azzinaro and Aliotti have a myriad of matchups and alignments they can throw on the field to keep an offense off guard. The group that will be doing most of the clean up and play making behind them, is a little more set in stone.
At stongside linebacker (SAM) is speed demon and touchdown making fool Boseko Lokombo. In 2011 Lokombo scored 3 touchdowns, 2 on interceptions and one on a fumble recovery. Manning the middle (MIKE) will be defensive player of the game in the Rose Bowl, Kiko Alonso. Alonso had a rather inconsistent junior year and lost a lot of his playing time to Dewitt Stuckey, but he really shined on the biggest stage where he recorded 5 tackles, 1.5 sacks, was all over the field and made one of the most impressive interceptions of the season. That game really looked like Kiko had turned a corner with his play. Finally, on the weakside (WILL) is all around stud Michael Clay. Clay is as impressive as it gets at linebacker. Clay had 102 (yes, 102!) tackles last year, and that is with missing 3 complete games. In his fourth year Clay will be the anchor and leader of the linebacker unit.
Kiko definitely progressed throughout the year last year, but a big question that remains for the linebackers is will he continue that? At times last year Kiko looked lost on defense. Whether it was a factor of trying to get back into the system after being out a year, or having Dewitt Stuckey pushing him, we definitely saw the good and bad of Kiko. Another question will be what other guys besides the big 3 see playing time? True freshman Anthony Wallace saw time last season, but outside of that, there isn't a lot of experience on the bench for the Ducks.
If this unit stays healthy, expect to see a ton of highlights from the linebackers. The d-line is set up to create opportunities for the linebackers. The linebackers are experienced and talented. This front 7 is a match made in Duck heaven.