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Jim Leavitt’s Oregon Defense: The Reserves

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Who will be backing up the Duck starters this season?

NCAA Football: Oregon Spring Practice Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports

Our 11-part series entitled Jim Leavitt’s Starting 11 ended last week, so now it’s time for the defensive guys set to back them up in 2017. This segment is for the reserves.

We are just 26 days away from Oregon’s first game against Southern Utah on Saturday, September 2 at Autzen Stadium.

Before we get to the reserves on defense, here is a look at my updated defensive projections over the last two weeks:

JIM LEAVITT’S STARTING 11

CORNERBACK - Arrion Springs (Tuesday)

LINEBACKER - Troy Dye (Wednesday)

DEFENSIVE TACKLE - Scott Pagano (Thursday)

DEFENSIVE END - Henry Mondeaux (Friday)

DEFENSIVE END - Jalen Jelks (Saturday)

LINEBACKER - Jimmie Swain (Sunday)

LINEBACKER - A.J. Hotchkins (Monday)

CORNERBACK - Ugo Amadi (Tuesday)

CORNERBACK - Thomas Graham Jr. (Wednesday)

HYBRID LB/CB/S - Tyree Robinson (Thursday)

SAFETY - Brady Breeze (Sunday)

THE BENCH

A big part of Oregon’s reserve unit in 2017 will be filled with Willie Taggart commits. We all know Taggart’s recruiting prowess after locking up the No. 1 class for 2018 in his first few months with the program. And now, some of his freshmen are in position and poised for a major impact this season.

DEFENSIVE LINE

Jordon Scott, freshman nose tackle

The young tackle has started in place of recovering DT Scott Pagano during spring and fall practice. Taggart’s commit will be instrumental during the season, whether he’s starting or coming off the bench.

Gus Cumberlander, sophomore defensive end or nose tackle

Cumberlander is showing great signs of progress this fall. The last three days of camp specifically, the sophomore has played a starring role on the d-line.

Hunter Kampmoyer, freshman defensive end

The scout team 2016 Defensive Player of the Year should be ready for an enhanced role in 2017 with Coach T.

Popo Aumavae, freshman defensive tackle

Justin Hollins, junior defensive end

If Hollins finds a consistent role, he can really carve out a nice season. He has been good thus far in camp. The hybrid could start for Leavitt when needed. Hollins has to contend with some serious players in the starting 11.

NCAA Football: Stanford at Oregon
Justin Hollins made the conversion from outside linebacker to defensive end in 2015. Last year, he started all 12 Oregon games at defensive end.
Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports

Gary Baker, sophomore defensive end

Riley Greene, freshman

Drayton Carlberg, sophomore defensive tackle

Elijah George, senior

Jordan Kurahara, junior defensive end

Will provide interior length and experience off the bench. The junior will be an asset to the young guys, as they need time to develop.

Austin Faoliu, freshman defensive tackle

LINEBACKER

Jonah Moi, senior outside linebacker

The senior is really coming on strong in fall camp, as he looks determined to find a role on this defense. He played in 10 of 12 games last year, including recording his first collegiate sack against Virginia in Week 2.

NCAA Football: Arizona State at Oregon
Jonah Moi participated in 10 of Oregon’s 12 games last season, including a huge victory against Arizona State from Autzen Stadium. Moi is a reliable, consistent player who will be valuable off the bench at the SAM.
Cole Elsasser-USA TODAY Sports

Sampson Niu, freshman inside linebacker

The freshman is really making a name for himself so far this fall. The linebacker is sparkling, alongside a handful of Duck freshmen like Jordon Scott, Thomas Graham Jr. and Deommodore Lenoir.

Fotu T. Leiato II, junior outside linebacker

Very durable, reliable backup linebacker should any of the starters need a breather. He can start the occasional game when needed.

Keith Simms, sophomore outside linebacker

Pou Peleti-Gore, junior outside linebacker

La'Mar Winston Jr., sophomore outside linebacker

Kaulana Apelu, junior inside linebacker

Special teams ace. Another steady, reliable backup that can be trusted with extended plays on the field after being in the program for the last three years.

Isaac Slade-Matautia, freshman inside linebacker

The freshman has shown signs of life in the first six days of fall camp from the Hatfield-Dowlin Complex.

Blake Rugraff, sophomore inside linebacker

Recorded 11 tackles in 2017 Spring Game. The walk-on is looking to make a big contribution this season.

Bryson Young, sophomore outside linebacker

DEFENSIVE BACK

Ty Griffin, senior cornerback

He transitioned from quarterback to cornerback during the 2015 season. It has been an uphill battle since that conversion. Griffin played very little last season but will provide some depth in the defensive backfield for his final collegiate campaign.

Deommodore Lenoir, freshman cornerback

The No. 1 athlete commit from the 2017 class is ready to evolve into one of the best cornerbacks in college football. The highly-touted Taggart recruit could be heavily involved and starting by the opening week, that’s how good he is. It all depends on Lenoir’s development and understanding of the system.

Nick Pickett, freshman safety

Juwaan Williams, senior safety

A solid backup with consistent playing experience last season. He appeared in all 12 games for Oregon last year and was listed as No. 2 on the depth chart at safety.

Jihree Stewart, sophomore cornerback

Khalil Oliver, junior safety

A major safety valve for Leavitt and the defense. Should he not start for the first 11, he will be just as valuable off the bench. Oliver is proven and has upside potential. However, he needs to be more consistent on a weekly basis.

NCAA Football: Oregon State at Oregon
Safety Khalil Oliver has played regularly for the Ducks each of the last two years. The junior could find himself starting in Leavitt’s 11 or coming off the bench. He registered 46 tackles last season and one interception (vs Virginia).
Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports

Mattrell McGraw, junior safety

Billy Gibson, freshman safety

The freshman safety has been a star during the first week of camp. He is intercepting passes, deflecting balls and forcing fumbles. He has major upside and could be starting at safety with the departure of Brenden Schooler to wide receiver.

Sean Killpatrick, sophomore safety

Dexter Myers, freshman cornerback

NOW, this really completes our 11-part defensive package. On to the next, Willie Taggart’s Starting 11 offensive series will begin on Tuesday.

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