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New defensive players give Oregon an ‘edge’

With the slew of elite quarterbacks in the conference, pass rush will be a key factor

Syndication: Florida Times-Union Bob Self/Florida Times-Union / USA TODAY NETWORK

The Pac-12 will be loaded with quarterback talent in 2023. There will already be four proven elite quarterbacks suiting up in the conference, and one other who has a chance for a career resurgence.

One of them, Bo Nix, will be donning Duck colors next fall. Oregon will have to face each one of the other four in their 2023 slate.

Michael Penix Jr. is returning to Washington, Cameron Rising is doing the same with Utah, both have already proven to be NFL-ready talent. Heisman winner Caleb Williams is back with USC because he still has one more season to complete to even be draft eligible.

Then there’s former 5-star recruit and Clemson transfer DJ Uiagalelei, who will be trotting out as a Beaver. Although Uiagalelei didn’t quite live up to expectations during his time at Clemson, he is still a blue-chip talent and could be poised for a breakout season in Corvallis.

Obviously Nix is right up there with the rest of these names, but Nix won’t be defending against these signal callers. So how are the Ducks going to contain them?

One thing Oregon’s defense was lacking in 2022 was a disruptive pass-rush, but a couple big time recruits and a massive transfer portal grab could give Oregon the tools to put these big name QBs under some serious duress.

First, the Ducks reeled in Matayo Uiagalelei, the younger brother of DJ, who is a five-star elite edge rusher. Then they added four star edge Blake Purchase, who could also have an immediate impact as a true freshman. Finally, the reeled in Jordan Burch, a former five star edge who wreaked havoc in the SEC last season for South Carolina.

Add to all this Mase Funa, who proved to be an effective pass rusher in the Holiday Bowl and has also announced that he is returning to the Ducks and…wow, no rest for opposing quarterbacks against Dan Lanning’s crew.

Even the most elite quarterbacks in the NFL like Patrick Mahomes and Tom Brady have been swallowed up by dominant pass rushes, and it won’t be nearly as easy for Penix or Williams to pick out their favorite targets with these bulls bearing down on them.

It was a statement move by Lanning, who is already known for his defensive prowess as a coach, and one that will likely give Oregon an ‘edge’ as it competes against other top-tier teams for the conference crown next season.