Do “Top 5” lists leave you feeling empty inside, wanting more? But, you don’t have enough time, before your boss catches you to click through another exhausting, lengthy and predictable “Top 10” slideshow? Well, look no further!
Yeah, you read the title correctly. Introducing the “Top 7” list.
Now some of you might be asking/saying to yourself, “I’ve seen lots of top 5 and top 10 lists before, but why a top 7?”
“What is a menacing Mallard? Do you mean like Wesly Mallard??”
OK, OK- so maybe the ”Menacing Mallards” line was just an excuse I came up with to show that video. C’mon, just admit that you could watch that hit on replay all day.
True, while there are other websites out there that produce top 5 lists nearly as often as Lane County produces rain clouds, this is FishDuck! We refuse to do a half-assed job with anything! And as you know, we are always willing to go above and beyond for the most deserving of audiences, Oregon Duck fans.
There were other reasons for the title. After all, 7 is 2 more than 5, for one thing. Some people say the number 7 is lucky, so there is that. 7 is also a prime number, and is the total of points a “normal” football team expects to tally from scoring a touchdown and an extra point. But, since we know the Ducks go for 2 a lot, that wouldn’t really fit either.
And truth be told, there are way more than 7 players on this list.
In the words of former coach Mike Bellotti, “I was very pleased” to see the situation that presented itself when looking over the expected roster for the 2012 Oregon Ducks defense. What I found was that it was going to be nearly impossible to narrow a list like this one to just 5 names. Hey, keeping it to 7 even proved to be hard enough, so why fight it?
So without further ado, here is a list of the heavy hitters expected be roaming this year’s Duck defense. Put it this way, you wouldn’t want to be tackled by any of these guys even in full body armor on a field comprised of memory-foam pillows.
#12 Brian Jackson, Jr. DB (5-10 202 lbs)
One of the top candidates to step in for the departed Eddie Pleasant next to John Boyett at safety. A well-rounded athlete with good size, Brian Jackson takes pride in delivering big hits. Brian has appeared in 25 games over the last 2 seasons, mostly as a standout on special teams in ’10 & ’11. Jackson will have opportunity to push for a more prominent role on the defense this fall. Jackson has both speed and strength, he led all defensive backs with a 319 lb power clean and had a career high 8 tackles against LSU in the Cowboy Classic. Teammates say that pound-for-pound he is the strongest player on the team.
#20 John Boyett, Sr. FS (5-10 202 lbs)
What can be said about John Boyett, other than he is among the best safeties ever to play at Oregon, and should garner plenty of conference and national recognition. Much has already been written about Boyett’s potential since his record 17 -tackle outing in the Rose Bowl, a game in which he played every single defensive snap. The hard working, cut-tackling torpedo in the Oregon secondary returns for his senior season and will have the opportunity to cement his status as one of the very elite players in the country. To be a top defense next season in the presumably pass-happy Pac-12, the Ducks will need Boyett at his best. He is without question the defensive leader, if not the team leader going into 2012. Boyett for MVP!
#46 Michael Clay, Sr. LB (5-11 219 lbs)
Michael Clay is one of my favorite Ducks to watch on the field, and not only when he is killing LSU players. (apologies about the terrible video quality)
Clay has true sideline-to-sideline range and speed defensively, and you can nearly always find #46 around the ball. Clay possesses a rare attitude and work ethic, and he consistently demonstrates acute football instincts that, when combined, make him so valuable that it is nearly impossible for the coaches to sit him for long. Clay worked his way onto the field for the Ducks first as a long snapper, and his “anything for the team” attitude has made him a leader by example. The senior will be primed for a big finale to a great career that has been integral to the most successful stretch in school history. Over the years, his timely recovery of “the Fumble” in the Rose Bowl might be remembered as a moment on par with “the Pick” for the newer generation of Duck fans not old enough to experience first-hand the moment Kenny Wheaton was gonna score.
#47 Kiko Alonso, Sr. LB (6-4 246 lbs)
With apologies to Casey Matthews and Blair Phillips, Kiko Alonso has the most prototypical NFL-measurables at the LB position since Peter Sirmon roamed the Autzen turf a decade ago. Kiko has a lot of time in the program, but has previously played behind some great talent, as well as suffering an injury and suspension which has limited his abilities to fully contribute thus far. But this is his year, his chance for redemption and growth.
While he is likely to share reps at the position again this year, expect Alonso to step into the starting role and dominate. Say what you will about mistakes in his past, but I prefer to look ahead to his future potential. Here’s hoping the whole Rose Bowl Defensive MVP thing will serve as motivation for a strong finish to his college career. Hits and plays like the one in this video, (even though the 6-5 230lb Nick Foles completes the pass for a 1st down), demonstrate the strength, force, and ability Alonso possesses.
#90 Ricky Heimuli, Jr. DT (6-4 321 lbs)
The most immense of the interior defensive lineman, fans have been waiting for Heimuli to emerge as the dominant force he should be. Injuries have slowed his production so far, and rumor is that he was playing on a nagging lower leg injury for most of last season. The full measure of an effective tackle will rarely show up on the stat sheet, but Ricky’s ability to clog running lanes and collapse the pocket has allowed other defenders to pile up the tackles. A player cut from a similar cloth as Haloti Ngata, the former Rivals #8 rated defensive tackle seemingly has the size and strength to hold down a starting spot in the fall.
#65 Isaac Remington, Sr. DT (6-6 286 lbs)
It would be hard to find a more intimidating specimen than Remington. He has the look of a 6-6 He-Man doll, and plays with great effort and a non-stop motor. You can find #65 routinely taking on double teams, and still causing havoc for opposing offenses. The defensive line MVP of the ’06 Oregon Football Camp, Remington was originally offered a scholarship out of high school, where he was a two-time All-State selection in Arizona. After touring the JC ranks, Isaac redshirted in 2010, and appeared in all 14 games last season. A relentless strong man perhaps reminiscent of an Igor Olshansky, Remington led all defensive lineman with a 445 lb squat.
#96 Dion Jordan, Sr. DE (6-7 245 lbs)
Yes, I really love this hit..
When quarterbacks have nightmares, Dion Jordan (The “Praying Mantis”) is who they see. A freak athlete at 6-7 245 lbs, he may not be the biggest defensive player in overall girth, but it’s how fast he can move it all that sets him apart. Rumored to have 4.4 hand-timed 40-speed and possessing a huge wingspan, Jordan can swallow plays up whole. A highly rated tight end prospect when he arrived at Oregon in 2008, Jordan has grown into his new defensive end position about as well as anyone could ask. He posted position leading marks in the vertical jump (33.5″), 10 yard dash (1.71 sec), 20 yard dash (2.79 sec), shuttle (4.08 sec), and “L” run (7.23 sec). What does all of that mean? Dion Jordan is fast, really fast, and his 7.5 sacks and 13 tackles for loss last year were an indication of a confident player hitting full stride.
#92 Wade Keliikipi, Jr. DT (6-3 300 lbs)
#66 Taylor Hart, Jr. DT (6-6 289 lbs)
#25 Boseko Lokombo, Jr. LB (6-3 225 lbs)
These players may loom just outside the top 7, but each of them will no doubt have a huge impact on the defense next season. Wade Keliikipi and Taylor Hart are both gigantic, and they continue to get rave reviews by coaches and teammates. Along with Heimuli, Remington, and Ebert, both players are going to be counted on to bolster the middle of what looks to be a strong defensive line. Boseko Lokombo is a dominant force, deceptively fast, strong, and very sneaky. He will take the ball away before you even figure out what position he’s playing. The entire 2011 Oregon State Beavers vs Boseko Lokombo? I’m taking Lokombo. After doing no research of any kind, I have concluded that his name means, either “Scoop and Score” or simply “Big Play.” Don’t believe me? Watch this!
Likely to make a push with a strong Spring:
#9 Arik Armstead, Fr. DL (6-8 297 lbs)
#35 Anthony Wallace, So. LB (6-0 231 lbs)
#4 Erick Dargan, So. DB (5-11 208 lbs)
The obvious name in this group is Armstead, but he still has so much to prove considering he is only 18 years old, and has been with the team less than 10 practices. That said, the expectations are still very high for the young big man. Anthony Wallace is a hard-hitting and highly-rated Texan who appeared in 6 games last season as a true freshman, and could see time at both inside LB spots. Erick Dargan is a former 4 star recruit from the same area of the SF bay as Demetrius Williams and Cameron Colvin. The largest of the defensive backs, Dargan got his career started on special teams and as a reserve safety last season. Dargan should figure into the mix with Jackson at the strong safety or rover position.
Under the radar Duck to watch for in the fall:
Stetzon Bair, So. DL (6-9 265 lbs)
If your last name was Bair, and you happened to live in St. Anthony, Idaho, and had a son that stood 6-7 272 lbs, you would obviously want to name him Brandon. Years later, if you were blessed with a second son who was somehow even larger, then you have no choice but to name him Stetzon.
The 2008 high school graduate took a two-year religious mission before enrolling at Iowa Western, the same JC that brought about 6-5 267 lb. DT Jared Ebert. (Ebert redshirted last year and may in fact stand a better chance than Bair of seeing the field this year)
The two-year mission means he will be relatively old at 22, and presumably more mature mentally and physically. Bair is scheduled to arrive on campus in June, and will have 4 years to play 3. That is a long time for the excellent Oregon coaches to develop his skill, and strength, but Bair’s size is something you just can’t teach.
Make no mistake, the younger Bair is said to be a tough competitor who has his sights set on playing right away. Upon signing with the Ducks, Bair was quoted as saying “We’ll see what fall camp has to say” about the roster situation.
Much like his brother, I have a hunch that Stetzon will find a way to leave his own unique mark as a Duck, whether it be this season or not.
And besides– Even if he ends up using his redshirt year this fall; with his size, maybe he could walk on to the basketball team? I’m not saying he could be a 20 and 10 guy- or even a 5 and 5 guy- but couldn’t coach Altman’s team benefit from a few (mini) Ray Shaefer-type minutes? I’m willing to bet that Bair could set a solid screen, and likely give out a few good, hard fouls. Or at least lay on the ground and swat at the ball like Ray…