3 Oregon Ducks lead way for PFF College’s Pac-12 team of Week 6

Oregon has long been a program associated with high-powered offense. But in 2017, it’s the Ducks’ defense that’s shining.

Three Ducks — linebacker Troy Dye, defensive lineman Jalen Jelks and cornerback Arrion Springs — were named to Pro Football Focus College’s Pac-12 Team of Week 6, released on Tuesday.

The remarkable detail in the honors is Oregon’s defense gave up 33 points to Washington State, a team that is firing on all cylinders through six weeks of the season and has risen all the way to No. 8 in the AP Poll. Points allowed aside, the unit has seen a dramatic improvement in play, going from 126th in the nation (out of 128) in points allowed per game (41.4) to 75th (27.2 per game). It’s a notable jump, considering the high-scoring nature of college football, especially in the Pac-12.

Plenty of credit is due to new defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt, who overhauled Colorado’s defense last season before departing for Eugene, Ore. As for Saturday’s loss, the Ducks were frequently placed in disadvantageous situations thanks to turnovers committed by the offense in its own territory. The play of Dye alone — he earned PFF College’s highest individual grade for Pac-12 defenders in Week 6 at 89.8 — served as an example of the improvement.

Dye’s 11 tackles and 1 forced fumble helped keep Oregon in the game for three quarters before the poor field position finally became too much for the Ducks to battle. Dye has 10-plus tackles in three games this season to go along with his 3 sacks, 1 interception and 1 forced fumble. Jelks recorded 5 tackles and 1 sack in the loss, bringing his season sack total to 4.5, and Springs has 10 passes defensed on the year.

As a unit, it’s still in the lower half of the nation’s defenses in terms of points allowed, but it has dramatically dropped its yards allowed per game from 518.9 to 338.3. The Ducks aren’t competing for a national title in 2017, but their defensive boost has kept them in every game they’ve played, save for the final quarter against the Cougars. That alone is worth a pat on the back for Leavitt’s group.

Offensively, Arizona’s Khalil Tate was a star in Week 6, setting an FBS record for rushing yards gained by a quarterback in a win over Colorado. Buffaloes running back Phillip Lindsay was featured in PFF College’s infographic after he rushed 41 times for 281 yards and 3 touchdowns in a 45-42 loss to Arizona.

Also featured on the Pac-12 offensive team of Week 6 was Washington tight end Hunter Bryant, who caught 9 passes for 121 yards and 1 touchdown, serving as another viable target not named Dante Pettis for a Washington team that gets better with each week. It’s the second straight week in which a Huskies tight end has made the team, with Will Dissly being the nominee in Week 5.

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