|Starter||Terrell Turner (6-3, 273, Sr)||Ricky Heimuli (6-4, 320, So)||Taylor Hart (6-2, 275, So)||Brandon Hanna (6-2, 234, Jr)|
|Reserves||Dion Jordan (6-7, 230, Jr)||Wade Keliikipi (6-2, 289, So)||Jared Ebert (6-5, 285, Jr)||Tony Washington (6-3, 255, Rfr)|
|Anthony Anderson (6-5, 233, So)||Issac Remington (6-6, 286, Jr)|
First off, let me say that I'm sorry I did a terrible job of recognizing the sponsor for my first position preview for the defense. Much like Chip Kelly, the Marines and all service men and women hold a special place in my heart. My brother-in-law has served two tours in Iraq and recently returned from one in Afghanistan. We as fans of Ducks spend hours and days dedicated to following the goings on of the teams because we care so much about them. Our armed forces spend every hour and every day protecting us and our freedoms because they care so much about us. For every man and woman who makes that choice, I cannot thank you all enough, and I am humbled by your sacrifice.
On to the preview.
On national signing day, there was a lot of consternation and concern among Duck fans regarding another couple of defensive line recruits that Oregon was unable to sign once again. A lot of people had forgotten that only a couple of days earlier Oregon had secured one of the best d-line signings of the year. Ricky Heimuli had decided to forgo his Church mission and stay at Oregon. Heimuli's decision to stay added depth and experience to a line that lost three productive seniors. Suddenly, a defensive unit that looked like a weakness going into 2011, now appears to be one of the strengths of the team.
There are definitely some rising stars in the front four besides Heimuli. Most notable is the converted tight-end, Dion Jordan, who really started to come into his own late last season and garnered tremendous reviews during spring practice. At 6-7, Jordan has the ability to be a distraction, but his footwork and explosion off the line allows him to cause havoc in the backfield. Sophomore Wade Keliikipi will be another guy to keep an eye on. He appeared in all 13 games last year, and at 289lbs, alongside 320lb Heimuli, they can really clog the line and make it difficult for teams to run up the middle. Finally, Taylor Hart and Brandon Hanna were key reserves for the defense last year and should be able to fill in and add immediate depth along side returning starter Terrell Turner.
What is most exciting about the d-line this year is their ability to be flexible and change up their packages, a trend that started last year with Rowe's and Bair's flexibility at their positions. Hanna will most likely be playing the drop-end position as a converted linebacker, much the way Rowe did. Unlike Rowe though, Hanna has experience covering in space, which will allow Heimuli, Hart, Keliikipi, Jordan or Turner to do what they do best and get up the field and make plays.
If you want to use a smaller quicker d-line that can get sideline to sideline against a running QB or spread offense, you can go with Jordan, Heimuli, Hart and Hanna. If you want to load up on size and try and stuff the run you can use Turner, Keliikipi, Heimuli, and Hart (an average weight of 290lbs). Aliotti can also switch into his hybrid 3-4 and use Boseko Lokombo at the drop end, with Turner, Keliikipi and Jordan. Add in Tony Washington, Isaac Remington, Anthony Anderson and JC transfer Jared Ebert and you have 8 guys with college experience to sub in with a multitude of line ups.
Oregon's defensive line produced 22.5 sacks and only allowed 3.51 yards per carry in 2010. With the flexibility, size and experience returning, expect another stellar year from Oregon's defensive front.