Wednesday, June 13, 2012
Strongest position group: Oregon
By ESPN.com staff
Every team has a strength -- that one position group that can make a play on offense or make a big stop on defense when needed.
Based on what happened this spring, we're going to look at the strongest position group for each school. It could be on either side of the ball -- and it could be subject to change after fall camp goes into full swing.
We're going in reverse alphabetical order.
Strongest position group: Linebacker
Headliner: Dion Jordan (42 tackles, 13 tackles for a loss, 7.5 sacks).
Supporting cast: Michael Clay (102/8.5/3/ 2 interceptions); Kiko Alonso (46/6/2.5, 2 INTs); Boseko Lokombo (33/3.5//2/ 2 INTs)
The skinny: First of all, we're with Rob Moseley: Oregon runs more of a 3-4 than a 4-3, which makes Jordan more of an outside linebacker -- or drop end -- than a typical, hand-on-the ground defensive end, as he is officially listed. And that makes it easier to rate linebacker as the Ducks strength over the defensive line, as Jordan is a top candidate for Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year. Even without Jordan, this is an outstanding crew that won't get much preseason recognition but could end up with three guys earning All-Conference honors. All four are extremely athletic. All four are physical. All four can rush the passer and drop into coverage -- see the six combined INTs for Clay, Alonso and Lokombo. All four are experienced, even though Alonso, the defensive MVP of the Rose Bowl, and Lokombo were mostly backups last year (Alonso did start several games). And, apropos of nothing: Is Boseko Lokombo the most fun name to say... ever? Yell it and try not to smile. The depth is mostly young but saw action last year and is promising. While the Ducks are known for offense, their defense should rank among the nation's best, in large part because of a strong crew of LBs.