More than any other position the last several years, Oregon fans have clamored for elite level recruits across the defensive line. It's easy to understand why. One of the biggest reasons Oregon lost to Auburn in the National Championship was due to their inability to stop the run. Auburn rushed for 254 yards to Oregon's 75, controlling the clock, taking away Oregon's strength, and keeping the Ducks offense off the field. Against Ohio State the year before, Oregon suffered in part due to their inability to get after Terrell Pryor, who had a career game against the Ducks in the Rose Bowl.
Like nearly every other program, Oregon is typically smaller and less athletic across the lines than the top teams in the SEC, Haloti Ngata notwithstanding. This has been due in part to scheme, but is also the result of a dearth of elite lineman in the Ducks' system (the Ducks have also had their fair share of bad luck recently when it comes to off-field and eligibility issues, see Simi Fili and Miles Wade). The worst kept secret in football is that games are won and lost in the trenches and athletic 300 pound football players are the rarest and most sought after prospects in the country.
That being said, Oregon is primed to reverse that trend this year and going forward. Chip Kelly is on record as saying that he thinks the defensive line will be the strength of this year's team and for good reason: Ricky Heimuli and Wade Keliikipi are both 300+ and athletic and agile up the middle. Dion Jordan is a potential first round pick in next year's draft and might be the best defensive end in the conference, while Taylor Hart could have a breakout season in 2012. Incoming freshman and high school All-American Arik Armstead is pushing 300 lbs and can play at either end or tackle; he figures to make in impact immediately.
There is no denying that Oregon's rise to national prominence is making it easier to get stud lineman interested in the program, as evidenced by the players they've offered and targeted this year. After the jump, an early look at the defensive line players on Oregon's radar:
Eddie Vanderdoes DT (offer, visitor): Vanderdoes is one of the top guys on Oregon's list and is someone that most people who follow recruiting already know a lot about. He's good friends with Arik Armstead and has already taken an unofficial visit to Oregon. He is being offered by most of the top programs from around the country though, and has said that he won't make a decision until close to signing day.
Montravius Adams DT (no offer, visitor?): Montravius Adams is arguably the best defensive tackle prospect in the country. He hails from Georgia and doesn't have an offer from Oregon, but has said that he would like to take an official visit.
Austin Hooper DE (offer): Hooper is a rising DE from recruiting hotbed De La Salle high school in Concord, CA. Oregon is in his early top 3.
Torrodney Prevot DE (offer): Prevot is a 4* recruit from Texas and could play DE or LB at the college level. He was thrilled when he got offered and plans to take an official visit to Oregon.
Jalen Ruiz DE (no offer, high interest): Ruiz is out of Fresno and is currently flying under the radar. Ruiz is athletic and at 6-4, 260 has the build to play end or tackle in college. He hasn't been offered by the Ducks but nonetheless has mentioned them as a favorite.
Vita Vea DT (no offer, high interest): Vea could also play tackle or end in college and also hasn't been offered by the Ducks. Nonetheless, he is a 4* rated recruit according to 247sports, and has expressed serious interest in Oregon. He plays for Milpitas High School in the bay area.
Elijah Qualls FB/DE (no offer, interest): At 6-2, 265 Qualls is a gigantic athlete from Petaluma, California. He is being offered and pursued by top programs across the country, including the Ducks, though they have yet to officially offer. He reportedly took an unofficial visit to Oregon in March.
Carl Lawson DE (Auburn commit, visited by Oregon): Lawson is one of several outstanding defensive players this year from the state of Georgia (a state where Oregon has been uncharacteristically busy). He's a 5* recruit according to the latest Rivals rankings and a top 10 player at his position nationally. He committed to Auburn in March but Oregon visited him in his home this past month anyway.