Last Sunday I explained the plummeting stock that analysts have in the 2015 Ducks, particularly members of ESPN. I then went on to highlight one player from every position on offense who was being overlooked or undervalued. Here we are one week later, and it’s time to do the same for our defense. Without further ado …
OREGON’S 2015 ALL-UNDERRATED TEAM: DEFENSE
DL: Gus Cumberlander
I really, really wanted to say Canton “Destroyer of Worlds” Kaumatule, but that would’ve been boring. Sigh …
But honestly, it’s whatever. Because when it comes down to it, there’s nothing boring about Gus Cumberlander. When I talk about this guy, all I want to use are exclamation points, because that’s how this guy plays. He was a three-star recruit, but with the right coaching, this guy has NFL written all over him. His frame fits the bill — coming into Oregon he weighed a stout 250 and stood a tall 6’6″ — but what impresses me from watching his highlights is his solid football knowledge.
He’s got some wicked pass-rushing moves, he keeps the edge really well, and he has great blocking recognition. You can’t teach instincts and, luckily for the Ducks, it looks like they won’t have to. If this guy bulks up, which I know he will, he can be an absolute force anchoring the opposite side of the line with Kaumatule for the next few years.
LB: Jimmie Swain
Block this kid. I dare you. No, I double dare you! Oh, you can’t? Before this season, watching videos of Swain was about all we had to do to determine his talent. He barely played last season, recording 11 tackles in nine games, but his potential just oozed from the sidelines. He’s 6’2″ and approaching 240 pounds, but what’s terrifying isn’t his size, it’s his quickness. Swain ran a 4.51 40 as a linebacker coming out of high school. That would’ve been the fastest time at the NFL combine this year for all linebackers, and he has three more years to work on his agility and quickness.
Watching his highlight video, you can see this speed on display. Blockers don’t even have a chance to get a hand on him before Swain is already in the backfield, and once he’s there he doesn’t miss. He comes through his tackles with his whole body, not just his arms, and he does a great job of identifying plays. The linebacker position is crowded, but Swain is already making a name for himself. Of the four inside linebackers on Oregon’s first depth chart, Swain was the only underclassman. Again, guys like he and Cumberlander are probably a few years away from reaching their full potential, but the talent is there, and it is bountiful.
DB: FOTU LEIATO
AAAAAAAHHHHHHH. Notice this guy’s name is in caps. You just want to yell when you see this guy because he makes you get so freaking excited. And not just about football, no. You watch this guy and you jump up and get excited and all of a sudden hey, maybe that grocery run doesn’t sound so bad. Or maybe you’ll finally clean the basement. Whatever it is, you just want to do something because this guy just motivates you! He hits harder than a semi-truck without brakes going down a San Francisco hill. It’s like he has a built-in Madden hit stick. I don’t know how many other ways I can say that this guy is exciting to watch, so I’ll just let the highlight video say it for me…
Sure, he’s undersized. Sure, he’s a little slow. Sure, he probably should be a linebacker. But that hair, and that power, is reminiscent of a certain someone (see below).
Unlike last week’s list, which comprised mostly already recognizable names, this list features players who are a little more up-and-coming, and yes, underrated, too. All of them bring different skill sets to the table, but all of them have demonstrated at a young age that they can be the future of this defense.
It just really sucks we have to wait because boy, do I want to see Leiato out on that field.
Top photo by Kevin Cline
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