- Kevin Gemmell, ESPN Staff Writer
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Dion Jordan is flattered, but ultimately unmoved by comparisons. Oregon's defensive end has heard most of them -- Jevon Kearse, Terrell Suggs, Dwight Freeney, to name a few. Not exactly shoddy company, mind you.
"I think it's cool and I've been compared to a few of those guys in the past," Jordan said. "But I want to bring my own game to the table. I've watched those guys in the film room. I've studied the great pass-rushers and outside linebackers that drop into coverage. I want to get as much as I can out of them and then roll that into my own game."
And if all goes according to plan, Jordan's game in 2012 will be to create chaos.
Jordan, a returning first-team all-conference defensive end last season, was one of the most disruptive players in the Pac-12, finishing fourth in the league with 7.5 sacks. There's no reason to believe he isn't poised for equal or better numbers in his senior season. Nor is it out of the realm of possibility to consider him a legitimate candidate for conference defensive player of the year.
"First, I've got to finish up school, graduate and become a better leader for my teammates on the field," said Jordan, who totaled 13 tackles for a loss last year. "My main goal is to get after the quarterback more so I can increase those stats. That will help me and my team a lot. If I can get my hands on the ball, I believe I can get in the end zone one or two times."
Spoken like a true offensive player at heart. Coming out of Chandler, Ariz., as a 6-foot-6, 215-pound receiver/tight end hybrid, he never imagined himself on the defensive side of the ball -- or on the line, for that matter. But he's grown an inch since arriving in Eugene and is playing at about 245 pounds now -- a proportion he's happy with.
"I can definitely add more weight, but my real goal is to get stronger," he said. "Last year I played at about 240, but if I gain too much, I won't be as effective with my feet. I gotta get stronger. More time in the weight room, take care of my body and stay healthy. That's all that matters right now."
He's being touted early on as one of the top 20 players in the 2013 NFL draft -- something that's crossed his mind, but it's not on his mind. Like all good team leaders, he's got his attention focused on the first game of the season.
"When the season starts, everyone has the same record," Jordan said. "You really can't buy into the hype. All you can do is prepare and come out ready to play. Coach [Chip] Kelly makes sure we're prepared every week to compete against anybody we play. And we feel like if we prepare good enough, we can compete with anybody in the nation."
All of the ingredients are in place. Jordan plays on a high-profile team that's going to win a lot of games and is expected to be in the national championship hunt. And according to defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti, he could be Oregon's best defensive player. Kelly is equally thrilled with Jordan's progress.
"I'm really excited about Dion," Kelly said. "He's really come into a leadership role this spring and he's emerged as one of the top players in our conference."
And he's one of the top players on a defense that is loaded with talent. With playmakers like Michael Clay, Kiko Alonso, Taylor Hart and John Boyett -- to name a few -- the Ducks defense looks poised to again be one of the best in the conference.
"It's not about one or two guys standing out," Jordan said. "I honestly think we all do a good job complementing each other in our own way. We work hard. If you look at previous games, not everybody is going to play their best game every week. We do a good job picking each other up."
21hChantel Jennings and Kevin Gemmell