Flying Under the Radar for Ducks Football

Jason Selby FishWrap, FishWrap Archive

The University of Oregon has become a hotbed for awesome talent. Since 2010, the school has turned into a football powerhouse, attracting athletes from all across the country.

The best players are often times recognized on a national scale. Guys like Marcus Mariota and Royce Freeman were known by every person in America last year. But those guys are not the entire team, and it would be a mistake to forget the guys who have had an impact, while flying quietly under the radar.  This year is no different. There are some names that you might have heard of, but common media talk tends to leave them out of the mix. Get ready, because the players listed below are in a position to make a huge impact this year for the Ducks.

Tui Talia

Expect some more line destruction from Tui Talia this season.

Craig Strobeck

Expect some more line destruction from Tui Talia this season.

If you haven’t heard of Talia, here is your chance to familiarize yourself with him. The 6’5″, 285-pound former No.1 juco defensive end recruit is as versatile as they come. Fans have been so caught up in talking about DeForest Buckner and Canton Kaumatule, but what about Talia? Talia was stuck behind Buckner and Arik Armstead last year, but expect him to have an impact this year.

In the Spring Game, Talia recorded five tackles, including one for a loss, and a broken up pass. He showed his ability to get leverage as he pushed off the line, and his versatility was in full display. What the NFL might have gained in Armstead, the Ducks gained in Talia. Don’t forget that Talia is the projected opening day starter, so looking at the Buckner-Talia combination is something to which you should devote some effort.

If the scouting reports have done us right, it’s safe to assume that Talia will rack up a few sacks this year, along with some tackles for loss. His ability to break off the line is second to none, and if he can hone in his consistency, along with Buckner on the other side, the feared twin-tower combo coming off both sides of the defensive line will be a real problem for opposing offenses.

Jimmie Swain

Jimmie Swain, the former Texas Christian University commit turned Oregon Duck, will play a huge role in this year’s defense. The sophomore is trying to make a name for himself in the stacked linebacking corps that the Ducks have this year.

Look for Swain to assist an already stacked linebacking core.

Kevin Cline

Look for Swain to assist an already stacked linebacking corps.

Last year, Swain saw action in 11 games and recorded 9 tackles. Though the production might not seem high, last season’s team had a plethora of linebacking talent, so it would have been very difficult for a freshman linebacker to have an impact. With one extra year of experience under his belt, and a 6’2″, 235-pound ready-to-play frame, Swain is due for a breakout year.

Swain’s 4.51 40-yard dash speed is the fastest of any current Ducks linebacker. His agility in the open field makes him an easy fit for third and long, and his big frame allows for defensive coordinator Don Pellum to leave him in on short yardage plays. Barring an injury to any of the current projected starters, I do not see Swain starting at all this season. He will be one of the first middle linebackers off the bench and, for that, we must pay attention.

Matt Hegarty

Welcome to town, young man. We are excited to see what you bring to the table.

Welcome to town, young man. We are excited to see what you bring to the table.

If you haven’t paid attention to the news in the past few weeks, then you do not know this guy. Hegarty, the Notre Dame graduate transfer, has decided to take his talents to Eugene. The 6’4″, 305-pound bruiser is looking to start at center week 1 for the Ducks.

Hegarty was a staple in the offensive line unit last year for the Fighting Irish. The New Mexico native started 11 of 13 games, helping to anchor one of the biggest offensive line units in the country. Hegarty’s speed and his ability to read defenses make him a perfect fit for the high-flying, fast-paced offense that the Ducks like to pursue.

If you remember the beating that Alabama put down on ND in the National Championship a few years back, Hegarty was not a part of the game. He had suffered a mini-stroke in November of 2012, and in December of the same year, he underwent surgery to repair two holes in his heart that had existed since birth. For more information and details about Hegarty’s stroke, read this Chicago Tribune article by Brian Hamilton.

Hegarty has a legitimate shot at starting for the Ducks come week 1, and this story just makes you want to root for him all the more. He is flying under the radar because he is a new name from a different school, but don’t be surprised if Hegarty becomes one of the key names in the Ducks’ campaign to return to the College Football Playoff.

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