With National Signing Day in the rearview mirror, Oregon’s on-the-field focus goes to the 2018 season. Spring practices are right around the corner, meaning we will get our first look at the 2018 Ducks shortly. The team will play their spring game on Saturday, April 28.
The Ducks didn’t lose much on the defensive side of the ball. The team will have to replace pieces like Henry Mondeaux, Tyree Robinson and Arrion Spring, but overall the defensive depth is there. Jim Leavitt returns to run the defense and typically Leavitt’s defenses make a huge jump in the second year. Don’t be surprised if the Oregon defense is one of the best units in the Pac-12 in 2018.
Here’s an early guess at the depth chart heading into the 2018 season, including 2018 signees who will enroll early.
Right Defensive End
Starter:1. Jalen Jelks, Sr.
Reserves: Hunter Kampmoyer, So.; Sione Vea Kava, Jr.
Notes: Jelks turned down the NFL draft to come back to Eugene for his senior season. He was one of the most disruptive defensive lineman in the conference, earning second-team All-Pac-12 honors. He should be in contention as the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year if he’s healthy in 2018. Kampmoyer and incoming JUCO transfer Vea Kava should also see some time on the field.
Starter: Jordon Scott, So.
Reserves: Gary Baker, Jr.; Popo Aumavae, RFr.
Notes: As a freshman, Scott was very impressive and will be a focal point of Oregon’s defensive attack in 2018. The Oregon coaches seemed to be excited about Aumavae, as well.
Left Defensive End
Starter: Austin Faoliu, So
Reserves: Malik Young, Sr.; Drayton Carlberg, Jr.
Notes: Faoliu played sparingly in 2017, though he played in 12 games. He will be forced into action to take over the spot left by Mondeaux.
Starter: Justin Hollins, Sr
Reserves: Bryson Young, Jr.; Keith Simms, So.
Notes: Hollins started 13 games for the Ducks in 2017 and will be one of the most experienced members of the defense next season. Young and Simms are expected to contribute as well.
Starter: Kaulana Apelu, Sr
Reserves: Sampson Niu, So.
Notes: Apelu and Niu will likely compete for this spot in the Oregon defense when August rolls around. This is the weakest spot in Oregon’s otherwise impressive linebacker group.
Starter: Troy Dye, Jr.
Reserves: Adrian Jackson, TFr.; Blake Rugraff, Jr.
Notes: Dye may be one of the best linebackers in the entire country and is certainly the heart and soul of the Oregon defense. This may be his last season in Eugene as he is expected to be a highly sought after draft pick. Adrian Jackson, a 4-star recruit, is the heir apparent to Dye and should have a role right away.
Starter: La’Mar Winston Jr., Jr.
Reserves: Gus Cumberlander, Jr.; Fotu Leiato II, Sr.; Isaac Slade-Matautia, RFr.
Notes: Winston has been a solid member of the Oregon defense over the last two seasons and could be a breakout candidate in 2018.
Starter: Deommodore Lenoir, So.
Reserves: Dexter Myers, So.; Verone McKinley III, TFr.
Notes: While young, Oregon’s cornerbacks should be very capable in 2018. Lenoir was a big time prospect and should continue to develop under Leavitt. The second-year defensive coordinator showed during his time at Colorado that he has a knack for developing cornerbacks.
Starter: Thomas Graham Jr., So
Reserves: Haki Woods, TFr.; Charles Sudduth, So.
Notes: As a freshman, Graham led the Ducks with three interceptions. He is an extremely talented player who, like Lenoir, figures to improve in his second season.
Starter: Ugochukwu Amadi, Sr.
Reserves: Steve Stephens, TFr.
Notes: Amadi is the most experienced player in Oregon’s secondary and is the heart and soul of the unit. Stephens was a top recruit, one of the best safeties in the 2018 class, and may find some early playing time in Eugene.
Starter: Brady Breeze, So.
Reserves: Nick Pickett, So.; Jevon Holland, TFr.
Notes: Breeze and Pickett will likely fight over this spot, but we’ll give Breeze the slight edge here for now. Both are talented young players. Holland, along with Stephens, could find playing time as a true freshman.
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