Of course the news coming into this season is the movement of a 3-4 base defense to that of a 4-3 base defense. Transitioned back into linebacker coach is Don Pellum while new defensive coordinator Brady Hoke takes the reigns. With that being said, it’s time to take a look at who new defensive coordinator Brady Hoke will rely on under his new defensive scheme.
Well let’s get the bad news out of the way. Of course, by now you know that defensive stalwart DeForest Buckner has moved on to the NFL with the San Francisco 49ers. Also departing is nose guard Alex Balducci who will now be playing center for Chip Kelly. Although there are some big pieces gone, faith should lie in defensive line coach Ron Aiken to piece this new group together.
All not that bad of a incoming group as quite a few potential playmakers join this squad. The most interesting storyline to keep an eye on will be that of very newly committed Ratu Mafileo, who just swapped over to the Ducks from Texas A&M. Mafileo is a solid frame at 6 foot 3 and 300 pounds who should compete immediately at playing time at defensive tackle. Gary Baker and Wayne Kirby are others to keep an eye on as new in the middle of the line this upcoming year. Unfortunately I don’t see any immediate newcomers who will make a difference at the defensive end position.
Returners to watch
Torrodney Prevot. Technically a returner, but technically new as this year Prevot will move to a new position as a defensive end under the Hoke defense. I see this move really working well in his favor as he is a mastermind at rushing the passer with his hand in the dirt. When I was a defensive undergraduate coach in the 2014 season, Prevot would often skip pass coverage drills to go with the d-line in pass rush where he was one of the best. Clearly this showed last year as his pass coverage was atrocious, but hopefully we see the latter part of his training this year with the pass rush.
Henry Mondeaux. I really loved watching Mondeaux improve as the season went on, and I see him having a big year this season. At 6-5, 280 Mondeaux is a big body, but I’m still going to be curious to see how he does at the end position in a four man line.
Austin Maloata/Rex Manu. The all-hair team takes up the middle part of the Oregon defensive line. These are both big bodies that can cause some havoc in the middle.
Others returning- T.J. Daniel, Eddie Heard and Jalen Jelks. I see all of these guys playing a large role this season, but the guy I will be interested to watch is Jelks. He really started to play well as the season went on and broke him into the rotation, I look for him to excel in the 4-3 formation as an end off the edge.
Canton Kaumatule. No doubt to me that it’s the big Hawaiian that comes in as the wildcard for the defensive line group this season. Coming in as the highly touted recruit last season, injuries and some guy by the name of Buckner kept him from seeing the field much last season. If Kaumatule is healthy and figures it out, I see him as a massive player this season. The 6-7, 295 pound frame is the closest the Ducks have to former first round picks Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner on the roster.
B. I think that this is a good, not great, squad. To me what gives this a B is the fact that quite a few are unproven. I see the interior line as having many more options than the end, which brings the grade down slightly. But, overall I think this will be a better group than many think, especially with Aiken and Hoke leading the way.