The huge question on defense is, who will be the leading tackler in the fall?
From 2009 thru 2011, the final Oregon defensive statistics listed John Boyett as one of the top two tacklers on the team alongside Casey Matthews and Spencer Paysinger. The next season after the BCS Title game, Michael Clay, DeWitt Stuckey and Kiko Alonso stepped in for Matthews and Paysinger to rack up the majority of tackles the next season that somehow escaped Boyett’s grasp.
A question that Duck fans haven’t needed to ponder in almost four years has presented itself this off season. The Oregon Ducks coaching staff are charged with replacing 28 percent of the 880 total tackles from last season.
Football-seeking missiles Clay (101), Alonzo (81), Dion Jordan (44), and the injured Boyett now departed, who will be the next man or men to step up?
While replacing a core of seniors like that group isn’t be easy for any roster, here is a look at some of the likely candidates.
#33 Tyson Coleman-
(2012: 32 tackles, 3.5 for loss, 1.5 sacks, 2 passes defended)
Coleman posted 32 tackles last season, good enough for 12th on the team. He also showed some versatility in defending two passes and being credited for 1.5 sacks as a redshirt freshman.
Among the favorites to take a starting linebacker spot this season, Coleman was hampered in the spring with a lower leg injury. At 6-foot-1 and 220 pounds, he is very similar in size and speed as Clay, but can he achieve Clay-like production?
#12 Brian Jackson-
(2012: 69 Tackles, 1 for loss, 1 sack, 2 int, 9 passes defended, 1 fumble rec)
Brian Jackson figured to play primarily opposite Boyett at safety, until injuries forced a reshuffle. No matter what the situation or position he was put in, Jackson excelled as a quarterback of the defense.
His 69 tackles ranked 3rd in 2012, and his well-timed hit on Chris Harper in the Fiesta Bowl came in the clutch. Now a senior, the Ducks figure to lean on his experience as part of what looks like an extremely formidable secondary in 2013.
#4 Erick Dargan-
(2012: 54 tackles, 3 for loss, 5 int, 7 passes defended)
Prior to the above mentioned injuries in the secondary, nobody expected a ton out of Dargan prior to the season. He had made his presence felt in the spring as he was touted as the strongest overall defensive back, but little else had been seen of Dargan.
His 54 tackles ended up fifth last season, and his 5 interceptions led the team. Dargan came on strong towards the end of last season, and if healthy is one who could have a huge year.
#40 Brett Bafaro-
Yes, an unknown commodity joins the list here, and his name is probably interchangeable with JC transfer Joe Walker at this point. That said, Bafaro is a good size at 6-2 and 225 pounds, he is a Oregon kid (Hillsboro), was the Northwest Oregon Conference Player of the Year as a senior.
He also has spent one full season adjusting to the college scene and the team. Not to mention a year of exposure to the training of strength and condition coach Jim Radcliffe. Bafaro is one of several intriguing young prospects at linebacker.
#25 Boseko Lokombo-
(2012: 39 tackles, 4.5 for loss, 2 sacks, 2 int, 6 passes defended, 1 forced fumble)
Lokombo capably took the reigns upon the departure of Josh Kaddu and hasn’t looked back. The 6-3, 225-pounder from Abbotsford, B.C. has also consistently been among both the strongest and fastest linebackers in drills and the weight room.
With an obvious propensity for making a big play, this season will be the last chance Duck fans will get to watch “BoLo” try and build upon his impressive career that already includes four defensive touchdowns. At outside linebacker, he ranked 10th last year in tackles, but he may be called on for more should depth be a concern.
#22 Derrick Malone, Jr.-
(2012: 41 tackles, 1 for loss, 1 int, 1 pass defended)
If you are not familiar with Malone, it’s probably time that you should get to be. To better illustrate the point, the 6-2, 219-pound junior finished eighth on the team in spot duty, finishing with more tackles than Isaac Remington and Wade Keliikipi combined.
And Malone not only has size and production, but speed to burn. In high school, Malone was a 1,500-yard rusher, and also excelled on the track, posting personal bests of a 10.9 100 m, and a 22.0 200m.
Going over the roster, the Ducks appear to be in good hands as there appears to be many players who could have that type of breakout season of a Clay or Boyett. You can easily make a case for others, but, who are YOU looking at to replace the seniors and become the leading tackler in 2013?
Top Photo by Kaly Harward