Offensive skill players may make for splashy headlines, but the real meat of Oregon’s best ever recruiting class is on the defensive side of the ball. It is not an accident that the three highest rated recruits in the class play the three positions in the defensive front seven. Defensive lineman Adin Breland, edge Elijah Rushing, and backer Brayden Platt have the potential to be instant impact players and mainstays for the next few years.
Today we take a look at the green monsters that will look to feast on Big 10 ball carriers and QBs for the next several seasons.
Defensive Tackle – Mater Dei High School – Santa Ana, CA
Big man in the middle who plays with a mean streak. Bullies offensive tackles, slaps aside guards, grits through double-teams and punishes QBs and ball carriers alike. 6’ 5” and 290 lbs rates for interior defensive line but shows the athleticism and lateral movement of outside rushers.
Plays with an aggressive edge and flashes big-play potential on every down. Early arrival on campus could translate to early playing time even on a crowded defensive line. Positional versatility could help as well as he could play just about anywhere along the line.
Outside Linebacker – Salpointe Catholic High School – Tucson, AZ
A terror off the outside, Rushing tallied 55 total tackles, 17.5 TFL, 13.5 sacks and 64 quarterback hurries as a senior. Has strength to bull rush tackles and speed to get by slower linemen. Heavy hands can redirect blockers or just knock ball carriers to the ground. At 6’ 6” 251 lbs, has the potential to play with his hand on the ground or standing up as a modern edge rusher.
Five star edge rushers are few and far between, and even with the talent already on campus there is a chance for Rushing to come in and be an impact player up front. Rated as a potential early round draft pick, Lanning and company will have a great weapon on their hands with an upside that could see him getting early playing time in certain packages and even pushing for a spot in the two-deep.
Defensive Tackle – Armijo High School – Suisun City, CA
Great first step with good power behind it to fight through blocks. Heavy hitter that flashes good form and athleticism rather than relying on size to create havoc in the backfield. Eats up blocks with 6’ 4”, 300 lbs frame and still manages to keep his feet churning. Footwork and balance developed playing basketball shows when running down ball carriers. Possesses a surprising burst to shoot gaps and wreck plays before they develop.
Potential to carve out a role in first year but faces uphill battle against the talent already on campus. Reminds me a lot of Jordon Scott in the middle and may grow into a similar force for the Ducks.
Defensive Lineman – Durant High School – Durant, OK
Good first step and aggressive in getting after the ball. Showcases skill and athleticism in beating blockers but possesses good strength to bully through when needed. A true hand-on-the-ground interior defensive lineman at 6’ 3” and 275 lbs, but with valuable reps at tight end that helped develop speed and awareness.
Position versatility could include use as an end or true nose tackle to up chances of getting on the field early. Frame could add mass and become true force on the interior, and I look forward to seeing what a year in the program does for him.
Outside Linebacker – Yuma Catholic High School – Yuma, AZ
Shows good football IQ to diagnose plays and get into position to disrupt. Flashes speed and strength to avoid or defeat blockers and get to ball carrier. Perhaps on the lighter side for an outside linebacker, Jones could add good weight to his 6’ 3” 215 lbs frame.
Plays like a guided missile with closing speed to track down players in space and agility to keep them from getting past him. Basketball experience shows in footwork and body control. Stacked roster at position may afford him an extra year to add weight before being called on to be a contributor.
Defensive Line – Hazelwood Central High School – St. Louis, MO
Tionne is a terrifying presence at 6’ 6” 295 lbs. Moves well for his size and can track down ball carriers who take too long to cut up-field. Shows willingness to engage blockers and plug holes and good speed to get after QBs in the pocket. Strong arms and a solid grip mean no one is escaping once he gets ahold of them.
The Ducks trotted out multiple different fronts on defense last year and having the right bodies for each look is essential. There is a lot of existing talent on the roster on the interior D line, so playing time may be a matter of finding the right niche to fill in one of those looks.
Linebacker – Yelm High School – Yelm, WA
Brayden is the type of downhill player who reminds me of Troy Dye. Eyes up, fast to the football and absolutely devastating hitter. Standing 6’ 2” and weighing 240lbs, this is not a person you want to get hit by. Played running back, ran track, and was a state champion in the shotput. Very rarely is there a crossover between sprinters and throwers, and Platt demonstrates just how effective the combination can be. Sheds offensive linemen, outruns backs, and punishes anyone desperate enough to catch a pass on a crossing route.
There is definitely talent on the roster at linebacker, some of which still has decisions to make about coming back for 2024. Lanning and Lupoi have seen a deep rotation at the linebacker spots this past season and with a ton of young talent competing for playing time, the opportunity to carve out a role is there for a player with high football IQ and natural talent like Platt.
Linebacker – Los Alamitos High School – Los Alamitos, CA
Smooth runner with frightening closing speed and big-hit potential. Could add good weight to 6’ 3” 220 lbs frame and projects as a Will linebacker due to good cover skills and ability to play in space. Sneaky good hands allow him to haul in errant throws with ease. Was also a running back with 1400 yards and 18 touchdowns as a junior to showcase athleticism.
Eleven linebackers played in 8 or more games last season for the Ducks. With some of those players having exhausted eligibility and a few mulling the draft, there are a lot of snaps up for grabs across the three linebacker spots. Mothudi may be too talented to keep off the field enough to preserve a redshirt.
Linebacker – Long Beach Poly High School – Long Beach, CA
Lightning quick and a sure tackler, Dylan Williams is a force on the outside. Has a nose for the football and gets involved violently. Racked up 83 total tackles, 11.0 tackles for loss, three sacks, four forced fumbles and an interception as a senior. Few ball carriers are getting away after the hit by this 6’ 2” 210 lbs outside linebacker.
Williams enters a crowded depth chart on the outside but could earn reps with a productive offseason. Likely needs to add weight to hold the line against bigger college backs and absorb blocks by offensive linemen. I expect to see a redshirt year in 2024 and be in the mix for a larger role in 2025.
Deep and Talented
There are certainly some impact players on the defensive front in this class. More have the potential to be game breakers with a bit of development in the program. Stacking this fresh batch of recruits on top of Lanning’s previous defensive hauls should make Oregon’s defense one of the more talented units in college football. The type that plays for championships.