Monday, May 7, 2012
Under the radar: Oregon
By ESPN.com staff
We're continuing with our under the radar series.
The idea is to pick out a player who is not a big name, but who may be underrated. Or, at least, a guy who will need to step up and play a critical role in 2012.
We're going in reverse alphabetical order.
Oregon: DT/DE Taylor Hart
2011 production: Hart was 10th on the Ducks with 44 tackles. He also had three tackles for a loss and 2.5 sacks, a forced fumble and a blocked kick.
Making the case: If DE Dion Jordan is sure to be the star producer for the Ducks defense -- read: sacks -- then Hart likely will be the man-behind-the-man. Hart is a guy who doesn't get a lot of acclaim but is almost always cited by his coaches and teammates. Before spring practice, LB Michael Clay went off on his own tangent to me about how underrated the 6-foot-6, 289-pound junior is as a pure athlete. Chip Kelly clearly loves the guy. Defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti provides Hart's name first when he explains that he's more worried about replacing safety Eddie Pleasant than DE Terrell Turner. We'd say that Hart is the Hart and Soul of the Ducks defensive front, but then you'd accuse us of making a bad pun. So we won't do that. A 14-game starter last fall, Hart earned honorable mention All-Pac-12 notice. He can play both DT and DE, as he is proficient at holding his ground as well as attacking. The Pac-12 all-academic second team member also is smart, which is a good thing. Jordan is a top candidate for Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year, a guy who figures to record double-digit sacks. But don't be surprised if Hart doubles his sack total during another productive season.