Posted on April 13, 2021
Today, our Spring Storylines series continues with a look at the defensive line.
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.
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.
Topping that list of emerging talent in the defensive trenches for the Ducks is Brandon Dorlus, Kristian 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 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-Hudson, Bradyn 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.
Depth up front is rounded out by second-year freshmen Jake Shipley, Maceal Afaese, Jayson 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.
—Previously in this Spring Storylines Series—
• Who gains the inside track at starting quarterback for Oregon?
• How concerning is Oregon’s lack of health at running back?
• What impact will Oregon’s highly-touted newcomers have at WR?
• Does a leader emerge at tight end for Oregon?
• How much growth will we see from Oregon’s offensive line in 2021?
—Recent Chris Courtney Stories—
- Courtney: Postgame Takeaways from Oregon Spring Game
- Courtney: Are People Sleeping on the UO Secondary in 2021?
- Courtney: Is the Linebacking Corp Oregon’s Deepest Group?
- Courtney: How Much Will Oregon’s OL Grow in 2021?
- Courtney: Does a leader emerge at tight end for Oregon?
- Courtney: How Much Impact Will New Duck Receivers have?
- Courtney: How concerning is Oregon’s health at RB?
- Courtney: Who gains inside track at starting QB for Ducks?
- Courtney: What are the Ducks getting in Stephon Johnson?
- Courtney: What are Ducks getting in Trejon Williams?
- Courtney: What are the Ducks getting in Tanner Bailey?
- Courtney: What are the Ducks getting in Percy Lewis?
- Courtney: What are the Ducks getting in Landon Hullaby?
- Courtney: Tyler Shough transfer adds QB intrigue for Ducks
- Courtney: What are the Ducks getting in Avante Dickerson?
- Courtney: What are the Ducks getting in Byron Cardwell?
- Courtney: Ducks follow Familiar Theme with DeRuyter Hire
- Courtney: Postmortem Takeaways from Oregon’s Loss to Iowa State
- Courtney: Burning questions for Oregon entering Fiesta Bowl vs. Iowa State
- Courtney: The Case for (and against) Tyler Shough as Oregon’s Starting QB
- Courtney: Post Mortem Takeaways from Oregon’s Championship Win over USC
- Courtney: Burning questions for Oregon entering Pac-12 Championship vs. USC
- Courtney: Oregon Football Early Signing Day Postmortem
- Courtney: Major Storylines Converge for a Wild week at Oregon
- Courtney: What Christian Burkhalter’s Flip to UCLA Means for Oregon
- Courtney: Postmortem Takeaways from Oregon’s Loss to Cal
- Courtney: How does Jadarrius Perkins’ Decommitment Impact 2021 Duck Class?
- Courtney: Burning Week 5 Questions for Oregon at Cal
- Courtney: How Kyron Ware-Hudson’s Decommitment Impacts Oregon’s 2021 Class
- Courtney: Postgame Takeaways from Oregon’s Loss to OSU
- Courtney: Burning questions for Oregon entering Week 4 at Oregon State
- Courtney: Improvement for Ducks on Defense Hinges on Health of Noah Sewell
- Courtney: Postgame Takeaways from Oregon’s Win over UCLA
- Courtney: Burning Week 3 Questions for Oregon vs. UCLA
- Courtney: Analyzing Unexpected Preseason Role Reversal of UO Offense, Defense
- Courtney: Postgame Takeaways from Oregon’s Win over Washington State
- Courtney: Burning Questions for Oregon Entering Week 2 at Washington State
- Tyler Shough’s rate of development critical to Oregon’s success in 2020
- Courtney: Postgame Post Mortem—Takeaways from Oregon’s Win over Stanford
- Courtney: Burning Questions for Oregon Entering Week 1 vs. Stanford
Courtney: Postgame Takeaways from Oregon Spring GameA trio of freshmen quarterbacks are vying to push Anthony Brown for potential starting reps - May 1, 2021
Courtney: Are People Sleeping on the UO Secondary in 2021?The eighth in a series of the prevailing storylines at each position group for the Ducks - April 17, 2021
Courtney: Is the Linebacking Corp Oregon’s Deepest Group?The seventh in a series of the prevailing storylines at each position group for the Ducks - April 15, 2021