Oregon Defense, Time to Worry?


After attending Oregon’s annual spring game last weekend, there are many who were not overly impressed by our defense.  Many of my friends, and almost every media publication that I followed after the game were busy praising the offense and questioning the defense.  To all of these defensive worry warts, and any of you reading this article I say…DON’T WORRY.

DeForest Buckner looks to take Byron Marshall down.

Courtesy of Kevin Cline Photography

DeForest Buckner looks to take Byron Marshall down.

While it is too early to make assumptions, forgive me for doing so.  Our defense is not going to take a step back, and in fact it may even be stronger this year.  While losing great players like John Boyett, Kiko Alonso, and Michael Clay may sound foreboding, Oregon’s next man up idea will take care of the hiccups.  After All-Star safety Boyett opted for knee surgery after the first game of the season, everyone held their breath.  Avery Patterson then came in and locked it down.  Patterson proceeded to tear his ACL against Cal towards the end of the season.  Everybody held their breath, and then Brian Jackson came in and locked it down.

Oregon’s defense suffered a rash of injuries last season.  In hindsight, that was actually a blessing in disguise as so many backups and younger players saw valuable playing time.  At one time Oregon had three true freshman playing on the d-line in Arik Armstead, DeForest Buckner, and Alex Balducci.  Linebacker is a question mark this coming season, but the backups saw valuable playing time at that position too as Clay and Alonso got beaten up a little.  Tyson Coleman played quite a bit, as did super athletic Boseko Lokombo.

Two defenders have the improbable task of taking Colt Lyerla down.

Courtesy of Gary Breedlove Photography

Two defenders have the improbable task of taking Colt Lyerla down.

Let me clear up your trepidation by listing some names for you.  Avery Patterson, Brian Jackson, Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Eric Dargan, Arik Armstead, DeForest Buckner, Alex Balducci, Taylor Hart, Boseko Lokombo, Terrance Mitchell, Tyson Coleman, Ricky Heimuli, Tony Washington Jr, and Wade Keliikipi.  I could keep going but I will stop there.  Oregon has a ridiculous amount of talent coming back with a lot of snaps under their belts.  I expect each player to be better than they were last year, that does not bode well for opposing teams.

What some people don’t understand is that a spring game is really just the final spring practice.  In this case, the scoring process was very poorly put together and favored the offense.  For the defense to get the same amount of points that the offense received for a touchdown required more work than the offense.  It would take two 3 and outs and an interception or fumble recovery for the defense to get as many points as the offense got for one score and an extra point.  Matching a TD might require one forced fumble, one interception, and one 3 and out.  It would take the defense practically an entire quarter to score what the offense could in 2 minutes.

Another reason not to fret is because this was a practice scrimmage.  If you have ever played defense for a football team, then you know how frustrating practices can be.  While the offense gets to go all out, do whatever they want, and then celebrate in the end zone like they actually beat you, the defensive players have to carefully hold themselves back from taking peoples heads off and injuring their own teammates.

The defense getting fired up before the game.

Courtesy of Kevin Cline Photography

The defense getting fired up before the game.

Even in full contact practices, I can tell you there are hesitations from the defense.  At the end of the day, these guys are your teammates and your friends, and you are not trying to hurt them.  The defense was forced to hold back, plain and simple.  Also, don’t forget that there were injuries that depleted the secondary and a lot of underclassmen were getting reps that they probably would not get in a game during the season.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not taking anything away from our offense and the players that performed well.  I am just saying, don’t put too much weight on the performance of our defense with a flawed scoring system during a practice.  The holes will be filled with the next man up philosophy and Oregon will see many benefits from the injuries that happened last season.


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Sam Arney

Sam Arney

Sam was born and raised in Cottage Grove, Oregon and he has been a die hard Duck fan his entire life. Sam studied at the University of Oregon before moving to San Diego for 5 years. After moving back to Oregon, Sam decided to follow his passion for writing and started writing for various sports sites. To him, nothing is better than being in Autzen Stadium with 59,000 fans screaming their heads off!

  • NativeDuck

    “I can tell you their are hesitations” – Really? Shouldn’t that be: “I can tell you there are hesitations”?

    The one thing about this site that is frustrating is the the verb noun mis-matches. Not only are there the wrong “there” used (their, they’re, and there – often used incorrectly) there is the use of singular verbs with plural nouns (and vice versa).

    Content is great. You just need to improve the English.

    • sam arney

      Thanks for the catch, it has been corrected. My grammar is usually very good. I am in the process of moving from state to state and have had a lot on my plate.

    • fishduck

      Hey Native,

      We need more editors to help us writers at FishDuck.com. Want to help us out 6 hours a week? Our current editors could use a breather; email me charles@fishduck.com


  • deekduck

    Brian Jackson started all year. eric dargan came in after Avery patterson got hurt.

    • Sam Arney

      I was referring to the switch from Rover to Free Safety.

  • LADuck

    Absolutely correct..third and fourth stringers for most of the scrimmage. Offense essentially gets to play full speed and D goes 3/4 with strict orders to be careful on contact. Christian French showed a lot of promise…and there is the prospect of incoming players Mattingly, Robinson twins, and T-rod…Our first team D-Line will be monstrous and deep. Go Ducks!

    • sam arney

      I agree, Christian French looked great!

  • Pete

    When it appears that you didn’t know that Brian Jackson started all season, it undermines your credibility.

    You also imply, in the 3rd paragraph, that Lokombo wasn’t a starter. By putting him in the “also played quite a bit” category, behind Coleman (who was Lokombo’s backup) no less, it sounds to the reader like Lokombo was a reserve. And after your Jackson error, I’m inclined to believe that you don’t really know the Duck depth chart.

    Expecting every returning player to improve next season is foolish.

    While it’s true that our d-line was down to Balducci, Armstead, and Buckner against Cal, and that experience is very valuable, keep in mind that their o-line destroyed us in that game.

    You say Clay and Alonso were “beaten up” last season. How do you mean? Aside from the wrist injury that forced Alonso to finish the season in a cast, I don’t know of other injuries. I don’t think either guy missed a game.

    • Sam Arney

      I know that Brian Jackson was a starter all year, what I was referring to was his switch from Rover to Free Safety, quite a difference if you know anything about football. Expecting returning players to be improved after an additional year in the program is not even close to foolish, your comment that it is…is foolish. Speaking of the freshman d-line, I was speaking about experience, not their defensive production in one game of the season. Clay and Alonso did not play near as many snaps as they did in 2011 due to being “beaten” up as I said. I never said they missed any games. Thanks for your comment.

      • Pete

        There can be quite a bit of difference between a FS and a SS (or Rover),
        but often the difference is minimal, as is the case with Oregon’s
        defense. That’s the difference between a typical fan and someone who
        actually understands what they are looking at on the field. Our defense
        is multiple, not only in our front 7, but in our coverages. We play
        some 1 high coverages, but mostly 2 high. When we are 2 high, the
        Safeties are interchangeable. All of Oregon’s Safeties can play high or
        drop down.

        Let me clarify what I meant on improvement: most
        players improve from one year to the next. But, it’s never the case
        that every player does. Sometimes that’s due to injury, and sometimes
        it’s because some player already maxed out or got a little lucky the
        year before. Every fan of every team expects their team to improve from
        the previous year, but many teams don’t. I’m not sure we actually
        disagree here.

        Alonso and Clay both definitely played more last
        season than in 2011, in every measurable way. They both missed games
        the year before, but not last year. And, they played a higher
        percentage of snaps per game than they did the year before. In fact, no
        two players in the front seven of the defense played anywhere near as
        many snaps as those two guys did.

        Seriously, look at the tape.

        • deduckfan

          Hey Pete, why don’t you write your own articles if you know so much.

          • Pete

            I might, although I’m not claiming to know so much. But, the average fan in the stands has very little understanding of the nuances, especially on defense. And that is totally fine. I only commented to Sam because I felt some of the things he wrote perpetuates some common misunderstandings. And this site has shown a dedication to learning and teaching x’s and o’s.

  • Coach Helfrich even said that his scoring system was skewed towards the offense more than he would have liked.

    Also, if Nick Aliotti has taught us anything, its that he can throw together one hell of a defensive unit.