I can't tell you how excited I am to watch the defense this year. It's going to be like Christmas, Easter, your favorite birthday and Fourth of July all wrapped into one. There are some new presents in freshman to unwrap, some sweets that already play each position, exciting maturation of players playing another year and an explosion of talent that leaves you saying ohhh and ahhh every weekend.
And it all begins with the defensive line.
Returning for the defensive line are 6 guys that saw significant time last year. At defensive tackle are Wade Keliikipi, Ricky Heimuli, Taylor Hart and Isaac Remington. These 4 experienced tackles average 297.5 pounds. The days of the undersized d-linemen for Oregon are over. The fun really begins when we start to look at the defensive ends. At the versatile "drop-end" for Oregon is the lightning quick Velociraptor, Dion Jordan. A 2011 first-team all Pac 12 selection and Duck leading 7.5 sacks defensive end, Jordan stands 6 feet 7 inches and 241 pounds. On the other end will be either sophomore Tony Washington or incoming 6'8" 280 pound Arik Armstead. Washington saw plenty of time last year as Oregon tends to rotate multiple people in on the defensive line, which is most likely a reason why high school All-American Arik Armstead chose Oregon. Armstead provides yet another cog in the Azzinaro/Aliotti versatility defensive line wheel. Armstead has the footwork and quickness to be able to play D-1 college basketball, but also the size and strength to bull rush on a defensive line. Expect many variations on the D-line next year. Oregon has the size to put 280, 321, 300, and 262 out there, but the versatility to put 262, 300, 283 and 240 depending on the down and distance.
The only question that you should have about the defensive line, is which line are you seeing on what down. This is the line that Azzinaro and Aliotti imagined when Kelly took over 3 years ago. The line runs 2 deep at every position and 3 deep at some. Oregon will have the experience and talent to attack with multiple fronts from multiple angles depending on the down and distance. With Oregon's high tempo, high possession offense, you have to have a plethora of players to rotate to keep the guys up front fresh. That shouldn't be a problem this year.
This is the best defensive line Oregon has seen since 2003 with Ngata, Long, Siavii and Olshansky. Only this line is deeper as just as talented. The power and strength in the middle with Heimuli, Keliikipi and Hart allows Aliotti to add variety with either a bull-rush power player like Armstead, a quicker stunt player like Washington, with another stunt player like Remington with a versatile end like Jordan. Speaking of Jordan, expect to see him everywhere on the field. He'll have the quickness and experience to read and stay with tight-ends, but the speed and strength to beat tackles and create havoc in the backfield. I project that Jordan will be in the running at the end of the year for defensive player of the year in the Pac 12.