Courtney: Are the Young Duck DL Ready to Take Over?

The sixth in a series of the prevailing storylines at each position group for the Ducks

Posted on April 13, 2021

Chris Courtney
  By Chris Courtney of WFOD for SportsPac12

With spring practices underway at Oregon, I’m taking the time to examine the prevailing storylines at each position group, while exploring how these questions could impact the Ducks entering the fall.

Today, our Spring Storylines series continues with a look at the defensive line.

Oregon defensive lineman Popo Aumavae | Oregon Athletics

After four years of serving as critical mainstays for the Ducks along the defensive line, Jordon Scott and Austin Faoliu have moved on to the next chapter of their respective football careers.

Combined, Scott and Faoliu appeared in 90 career games for Oregon, establishing themselves as building block players for a defense that went from one of the nation’s worst units a year prior to their arrival in 2017, to one of the nation’s best and most talented groups in 2019.

Scott

And while the 2020 season will go down as perhaps the most underwhelming season produced by the pair during their time in Eugene, no one will ever question the dedication, leadership, and accountability that Scott and Faoliu brought to a program that was in desperate need of it prior to the 2017 season.

Replacing the void left by Scott and Faoliu, particularly from a spiritual standpoint, won’t be an easy task for the up-and-comers in Oregon’s defensive line room.

It’s a task that could be made even more difficult with Kayvon Thibodeaux potentially playing more of an outside linebacker/edge rushing role this fall compared to how he was deployed over the two seasons of his collegiate career.

Fortunately, however, the past couple of seasons have revealed the emergence of some promising young talent that could be primed to step into larger roles in 2021.

Oregon defensive end/outside linebacker Kayvon Thibodeaux | 247Sports

Topping that list of emerging talent in the defensive trenches for the Ducks is Brandon DorlusKristian Williams, and Popo Aumavae. Over the past couple of seasons, each of these players has flashed enormous potential in the limited roles they have played.

Of the group, Dorlus may be the player who heads into 2021 with the biggest expectations, as the 6-foot-3, 285-pounder from Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) more than doubled the number of tackles he was credited with in 2020 compared to 2019 (12 to 5), while replicating the number of tackles for loss (2.0) and sacks (1.0) despite playing two less games in 2020 compared to 2019.

A player blessed with a tremendous combination of strength and athleticism, look for 2021 to be Dorlus’ true coming out party after he slowly but surely took reps away from Faoliu at the end of last season.

Williams

Williams and Aumavae find themselves in similar positions to Dorlus this spring and transitioning to the fall.

Though Aumavae was limited for a portion of last year’s COVID-shortened season, he remained impactful in the middle of Oregon’s defensive line after coming off a breakout 2019 campaign that saw him rank tied for sixth on the team in tackles for loss (5.0) and third on the team in sacks (3.5).

He will be pushed by Williams, who shined brightly in 2020 and has steadily improved year-over-year to the point where both he and Aumavae were vulturing snaps from the veteran Scott towards the end of last season.

Prospective depth will be provided by Keyon Ware-HudsonBradyn Swinson, and Sua’ava Poti, who have combined to appear in 18 games for the Ducks over the past two seasons.

Ware-Hudson and Swinson, in particular, are expected to be called upon to have increased roles this fall, as both players found themselves as part of the rotation along the defensive line in 2020.

Shipley

Depth up front is rounded out by second-year freshmen Jake ShipleyMaceal AfaeseJayson Jones, and Jaylen Smith (who switches back to defense after spending last fall repping along the offensive line), while four-star recruit Keanu Williams from Clovis (Calif.) is on hand this spring to try and crack a seemingly deep, but largely unproven group of young defensive linemen to be molded and sharpened by Ducks defensive line coach Joe Salave’a.

This story also appears at wholeflockofducks.com and is syndicated with permission. Follow WFOD on Twitter @_WFOD and Chris Courtney @csquared02.

 




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