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Quacking the Roster: #97 DT Brandon Dorlus

A film study preview of Oregon’s future starters

Pac-12 Championship Game - Oregon v Utah Alika Jenner/Getty Images

This series will examine the film we have on Oregon players who’ve been backups in past seasons, but are primed to become starters next season. The tape we have of these players is limited: some of it is in garbage time, but even tape of their meaningful snaps, because this wasn’t “1s vs 1s” play, usually didn’t make my in-season film review articles since it wasn’t representative. So the reader will have to view these with a critical eye, keeping in mind the level of competition and that these players hadn’t yet finished developing.

Oregon is losing Drayton Carlberg, one of my favorite Ducks and who in his senior year at defensive tackle really turned it on and played well above his talent ranking. I think the guy who’ll take his spot is #97 DT Dorlus, a sophomore from Florida who played in 10 games in his true freshman season last year. He’s currently listed at 6’3”, 295 lbs, and I’ve seen him play everywhere on the line from 2i to 5-tech (Oregon’s frequent stemming under DC Avalos’ system has him hopping around a lot).

I was surprised after the season when I looked up Dorlus’ 24/7 composite rating: 0.8615, a mid 3-star. He was playing like a 4-star to my eyes; there were three DTs ranked above him in the 2019 class but I thought he was developmentally ahead of all of them, with the playing time to reflect it.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 06 Pac-12 Championship Game Photo by Cody Glenn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

There are three things about Dorlus’ game that I really like and we’ll look at in different film clips, including some examples where you can see the talent but the technique needs some refinement. First is his ability to get off blocks with strength and lateral movement:

(Reminder - you can right-click or long press any video to play it in ¼ or ½ speed)

  1. :00 - The edge players lose contain on this bounce outside, but that’s not Dorlus’ responsibility - he’s closing the A-gap in case the run stays inside, and is working the LG over. He’s giving up too much ground though; this is week 2 and his lower-half strength isn’t quite there yet.
  2. :08 - Dorlus stems from 1- to 3-tech to rush outside the LG. He gets past him with a strong initial move, but he’s widened too much and turned his body - that makes it easy for the guard to chase him and give him a shove so the QB can step forward out of harm’s way.
  3. :24 - Here’s a twist up front, with Dorlus coming in first and #34 DT Scott crossing behind. The Beavs’ senior guards hand off their blocks fairly well, but the Ducks’ back seven drops into a suffocating zone and the QB tries to run for it after miraculously escaping #5 DE Thibodeaux (who’s whipped the RT). The RG is trying to work Dorlus outside, but he gives a pop to disengage and wraps up the scrambler to stop the 3rd down conversion.

The second quality is that Dorlus is long-limbed, both arms and legs. It means he has good reach and strike, can wrap up backs even if he isn’t square with them, and can really wind up strength for his initial step:

  1. :00 - Dorlus swipes down the RG’s arms before he can engage, steps around him, then when the back tries to make a move, wraps from the side and doesn’t let the ballcarrier past him. A shorter-limbed DT would have a hard time with the things that make this run defense play work.
  2. :23 - The downside of longer legs is a higher center of gravity, and this is where Dorlus can get into trouble - here he lets the block stand him up and he’s playing too high to have any real power to fight it off. (There’s some funny business with the officiating on the backside of the play; not relevant to our purposes here.)
  3. :40 - Great work by Dorlus here working through the block and then getting into the QB’s throwing lane. Those long arms are forcing him to move outside the pocket and throw off-platform, resulting in a dropped pass.

Third, Dorlus is surprisingly fast for a guy close to 300 lbs:

  1. :00 - Dorlus and #50 DT Aumavae knocking in the teeth of the inside linemen is enjoyable enough, but running about 10 yards to track down a scrambler and record his first collegiate sack is even better.
  2. :16 - Great quickness off the line here to beat the pulling guard, but he’s getting about a yard too far upfield while the QB has the ball concealed (Dorlus wants this to be a play-action pass and is smelling another sack), so he’s not in position to catch the back running past him.
  3. :29 - This play is a designed screen to the tight end, with an initial fake look to the field side, so reader, give credit to #47 STUD Funa for having studied his film and knowing to stay put and close it down, and recognize that Dorlus is in the backfield partly because the guard is supposed to be releasing to block downfield. But he’s still doing a great job rushing in quick, then staying in the lane without a huge leap to keep the QB from scrambling free.

By the end of the season, Dorlus had earned the coaches’ confidence, so much so that he was being regularly used in the rotation during meaningful play and I was able to include the following clips in my regular articles as they were representative of the Ducks’ dominating defensive line play in the conference championship game and the Rose Bowl:

  1. :00 - The Ducks have studied their film and know this is a stretch run to the offense’s right given which tight ends are lined up where (always a dead giveaway in a Ludwig offense). Nice job by Carlberg to crush the RT and keep the back from getting the edge, and then when he wriggles free #56 STUD Young finishes him off. But watch Dorlus: he keeps working the LG then dismisses him to seal the backside off, with his eyes where they should be and his hips square to the play.
  2. :25 - Dorlus throws aside the RG then brings down the Pac-12’s leading rusher with his fingers.
  3. :38 - The center whom Dorlus puts on the ground had just won the Rimington trophy.
  4. :49 - Despite quite the head start that the RG gets, Dorlus defeats his block, seals the cutback lane, and along with Scott brings down the two-time Doak Walker award winner.

Oregon v Stanford Getty Images