Linebacker is one of the most vital positions on the defensive side of the field. Whether it's pass rushing, run stopping, or stepping back to cover receivers, they're all over the field.
Unfortunately for the Ducks, they'll be losing at least two of their starting linebackers after this season. One of which is Derrick Malone, a senior inside linebacker. As a junior in 2013, Malone tallied 105 total tackles, two interceptions, and two sacks. He cemented himself as a key player on Oregon's defense, and may be looking to make the jump to the NFL after his final season.
Next to Malone is fellow senior and outside linebacker Tony Washington. During his junior year, Washington was a beast at getting to opposing quarterbacks, recording 7.5 sacks. He also pitched in 60 total tackles and four forced fumbles.
The team also features two juniors, Tyson Coleman and Rodney Hardrick, playing the other two linebacker positions. Christian French and Joe Walker are also juniors, and find themselves at backups on the depth chart.
In addition to the upper-classmen, the Ducks have freshman Justin Hollins, a former three-star recruit from North Texas. While he may not see too much playing time this season, the large and equally speedy linebacker could easily be a factor on defense come next Fall. Freshman Jimmy Swain is another three-star recruit on the Ducks roster, and will likely be in the same position as Hollins as far as playing time goes this season (barring injuries).
Essentially, the Ducks are guaranteed to lose both Malone and Washington, both key cogs of their defense. The Ducks have a number of options on their roster who could step up and fill the holes left by the departing seniors, but it certainly doesn't hurt to add some young talent straight out of high school.
Malik Jefferson: Five-star recruits are always fun. Especially when they're at a position of need in the foreseeable future. That's exactly what Malik Jefferson would be to the Oregon Ducks if they could land the highly-touted outside linebacker. Malik is the number one rated OLB in both Texas AND the entire nation. He's received offers from several national powerhouses, including Alabama, Texas, Ohio State, and your very own Oregon Ducks. The Ducks actually offered Malik on March 10th, but he's yet to make a decision.
Wescott Eberts released a scouting report on Jefferson earlier this year:
The explosiveness that he shows in coming downhill translates to a wide tackling radius that allows Jefferson to make plays even if he doesn't take an ideal angle. His lateral quickness may be his best attribute.
Asmar Bilal: A 6-foot-3-inch 205 lb. out of Indianapolis, Asmar Bilal is one of the nations' top linebacker recruits. He's been pursued by Notre Dame, Michigan State, and plenty of other elite programs. Oregon reportedly offered Asmar on May 7th, but like Malik Jefferson, a decision has yet to be made. Notre Dame and Michigan seem to be the closest to landing the four-star recruit, but a lot can change before National Signing Day.
Tevis Bartlett: Bartlett is a three-star LB/QB out of Wyoming. While he played both positions in high school, most project him to play outside linebacker position in college, especially if he attends Oregon. He was offered by the Ducks on July 2nd, visited later that month, and is set to visit again come October. Oregon is far and away the leader to land the 6-foot-3 inch athlete.
Earlier this summer, Bartlett talked about how positioning isn't a crucial factor:
"To go to a school like Oregon or Utah and play linebacker, that’s definitely not out of the picture just because I’m not playing quarterback," Bartlett said. "But I really like playing quarterback. That’s what I’ve put a lot of time into the last 4-5 years. But if a school says, ‘Hey, we don’t want you to play quarterback. We want you to play something else,’ that’s not going to be a huge deciding point."
Jeffery Holland: Another outside linebacker, Holland is a four-star recruit out of Florida. He's received serious interest from Auburn, Alabama, and the University of Florida. Oregon has shown interest in the athletic linebacker, who recorded 45 tackles, 17.5 for losses, and eight sacks in his 2013 season in which he helped lead his high school to a state championship.