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Oregon Ducks Spring Preview: Defense

A lot of old faces return to a top ten unit along with some fresh new ones. Can Coach Avalos mesh them together?

NCAA Football: Pac-12 Conference Championship-Oregon vs Utah Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Ducks began spring practice yesterday. We take a look at what changed and which key pieces return for a youthful veteran laden stop unit led by second year DC Andy Avalos.

Coaching Staff

  • Former Cornerbacks Coach Donte Williams left for the same role at USC, citing a need to be closer to his ailing father.
  • In comes from the Land of 10,000 Lakes, a very familiar face in new CB Coach Rod Chance. He returns after a brief sojourn in Minnesota after leaving Oregon for a better job. He previously served as a defensive analyst on the staff.

Defensive End

  • Nearly everyone of note returns for arguably the most talented defensive line on the west coast except Gus Cumberlander.
  • Kayvon Thibodeaux more than lived up to his high billing last season and has the potential to get himself on the map like a Jadaveon Clowney.
  • The backups are rather young, however so they will need to be brought along carefully.

Projected Depth Chart

1. Kayvon Thibodeaux Sophomore

2. Keyon Ware-Hudson RS Freshman

3. Brady Swinson Freshman

4. Maceal Afaese Freshman

Defensive Tackle

  • Again, the youth movement is afoot on the interior of the defensive line as only one rising senior is on the roster.
  • None of the younger guys are above redshirt sophomore status but a lot of them got some playing time last season so they aren’t brand new.
  • It will be interesting to see who does what given the interior versatility that the coaching staff recruited.
  • Austin Faoliu returned for a senior season after submitting paperwork for the NFL Draft.

Projected Depth Chart

1. Austin Faoliu Senior

2. Brandon Dorlus Sophomore

3. Andrew Faoliu RS Sophomore

4. Kristian Williams RS Freshman

5. Afaese

6. Suavaa Poti RS Freshman

Nose Tackle

  • Jordon Scott returned for his senior much to the surprise of many. He was projected to be a Day 2 selection had he declared for the draft.
  • Like the defensive line in general, the nose tackle spot is also full of largely untested youth. The kids will need to get a lot more snaps in preparation for the 2021 season when Scott is out of collegiate eligibility.
  • Fortunately, they have a larger runway to develop the youth with another veteran to help lead the way in Popo Aumavae.

Projected Depth Chart

1. Jordon Scott Senior

2. Popo Aumavae RS Junior

3. Poti

4. Williams

5. Dorlus


  • Arguably the most youthful position on the team after the departures of key cogs La’Mar Winston and Bryson Young.
  • With that said, there’s some talent at the position for Andy Avalos to work with.
  • It will be the most competitive position on the defensive side of the ball for reps.
  • Mase Funa claimed the spot as his own with a standout freshman campaign last season.

Projected Depth Chart

1. Mase Funa Sophomore

2. Treven Ma’ae RS Freshman

3. Isaac Townsend RS Freshman

4. Thibodeaux

5. Andrew Faoliu

Outside Linebacker (SAM)

  • Lots of untapped potential here and on the weakside backer spots. Can the kids deliver on much of the promise?
  • Some “veteran presents” is here to help the younger ones along the way.
  • Adrian Jackson returns after a year away due to injury.
  • Expect a lot of cross training between outside and inside for the backup spots.

Projected Depth Chart

1. Andrew Johnson, Jr RS Sophomore

2. Adrian Jackson RS Sophomore

3. Jaden Navarette Freshman

Inside Linebacker (MIKE)

  • Troy Dye has departed for the NFL so he leaves a complicated legacy for those on the roster to fill.
  • Fortunately, it isn’t all kids at this position. Lots of these guys had serious reps last season.
  • ISM returns to claim Dye’s spot. Let’s hope he continues his rise up the charts.
  • Sampson Niu thrived in a backup role last season and he returns for a spot.
  • There’s also this Noah Sewell kid. You may have heard of him.

Projected Depth Chart

1. Isaac Slade-Matautia RS Junior

2. Ge’Mon Eaford Sophomore

3. Noah Sewell Freshman

Hybrid Linebacker (WILL or Weakside)

Projected Depth Chart

1. Sampson Niu Senior

2. Dru Mathis Senior

3. MJ Cunningham RS Sophomore

4. Justin Flowe Freshman


  • Nearly everyone of note returns after both starting corners decided to return for their senior seasons.
  • Arguably the deepest position on the team along with a new cornerbacks coach.
  • The good thing is that a lot of the freshman from last season got a ton of playing time to develop more quickly.
  • Trikweze Bridges elected to change to cornerback from safety.

Projected Depth Chart

1. Thomas Graham, Jr Senior

2. Deommodore Lenoir Senior

3. Mykael Wright Sophomore

4. DJ James Sophomore

5. Trikweze Bridges RS Freshman

6. Luke Hill Freshman

7. Dontae Manning Freshman

8. Daewood Davis

Big Nickel

  • The S1 of the 2021 draft class, Jevon Holland mans the spot here. Not much left to say.

Projected Depth Chart

1. Jevon Holland Junior

2. Jamal Hill Sophomore

3. Verone McKinley III RS Sophomore

Free Safety / Strong Safety

  • Both starting safeties return yet another campaign, much to the chagrin of Ducks fans (outside of final two games Brady Breeze). It was shocking to see opposing offense not recognize and exploit the glaring weakness that was safety for the Ducks last season.
  • The depth is really good here yet somewhat untested thanks to the starters being good.
  • A lot of the younger guys can pass up the older ones with a good spring.
  • Bennett Williams decided to transfer in from a JUCO after serving his freshman season at Illinois under the majestic beard of Lovie Smith.

Free Safety Depth Chart

1. Brady Breeze RS Senior

2. VM3

3. Steve Stephens RS Sophomore

4. Jared Greenfield Freshman

Strong Safety Depth Chart

1. Nick Pickett Senior

2. Bennett Williams Junior

3. Breeze

4. Stephens

5. Greenfield