Oregon Ducks Football: New Impact DT Transfer from Clemson-Scott Pagano

Mike Kelly Talent Evaluation

The Oregon Ducks football team received a much needed commitment of talent and leadership from graduate transfer Scott Pagano on April 14, 2017 when the veteran defensive tackle from Clemson chose the Ducks over Oklahoma, Notre Dame, California, Arkansas and Nebraska among some 30 other schools.

Scott Pagano playing against Georgia Tech

Scott Pagano was a highly regarded National Recruit in the 2013 recruiting cycle. Scout.com listed him as a four-star prospect and he played in the U.S. Army All-American Game. Clemson won the Pagano sweepstakes and received his commitment and signed his National Letter of Intent on February 6, 2013. Pagano was the fourth-ranked defensive tackle prospect  in the West of the 2013 recruiting cycle as compiled by Scout.com.


Scott Pagano is listed from a variety of sources as 6’3. Due to age (22?) I would not think there is much more potential for growth with respect to height. He has been also listed at 295 lbs. from numerous sources. Given his frame there is some potential for more good weight, but not a lot. I’m guessing he is at 95% of his long-term maximum effective weight. Any more than that would certainly impact his skill set.

The only reliable clock I have found on him was from a Clemson recruiting site. They are a 40 yard-dash time and a 20 yard shuttle time. Both were a very respectable 5.31 in the 40, and a 4.47 in the shuttle. These appear to be officially sanctioned times and they’re very good for a 17-year old (2013) kid of his dimensions.


High School:

In the video above Pagano playing weak-side defensive end (WSDE) on the near side, displays great use of his hands while setting the edge.

Scott Pagano is again lined up on the weak side above, recognizes a wide receiver “Bubble” screen and redirects to make the play. Very impressive for a high school kid.

Pagano in the video above lined up on the weak side, brushes off an Ole’ block and pressures the quarterback off of his mark. He completely blows up this screen play.


In the clip above Pagano (Number 56 – middle of the screen) does a nice job filling the hole to his left against North Carolina State.

Pagano above at left Defensive End, bats down a pass from Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett during his bull rush.

Scott Pagano above matched up with All-American center Ryan Kelly of Alabama in the 2016 National Championship game.


As I see it:

Scott Pagano started nine games in 2015 and four games 2016 for Clemson. His apparent reduced role from 2015 to 2016 probably reflects the recruiting success the Tigers have enjoyed recently. A glance at their depth chart reveals several high profile defensive tackle prospects that were signed after Pagano, and are currently ahead of him on their Chart. The likes of Albert Huggins and Christian Wilkins are both four star athletes. And then Clemson signed the No. 2 rated defensive tackle in the country Dexter Lawrence in 2016; who started as a true freshman and was rated as a five star prospect coming out of (Wake Forest North Carolina) high school.

I suspect Pagano’s decision to transfer is a result of a variety of reasons. Among them: diminished playing time at Clemson, the possibility of being a starter on a defense that is in need of an upgrade in talent at that position (at Oregon), and certainly  the opportunity to receive better coaching that perhaps enhances his future pro prospects. New defensive line coach Joe Salave’a has an extensive resume playing in the NFL and coaching this position at the collegiate level.

Scott Pagano – Tough Guy!

Pagano addresses two needs for the Ducks as I see it. First he represents an upgrade of talent at a position of need: defensive end in Oregon’s 3-4 (0r 3-3-5 Variant). The cupboard is relatively bare with the recent departures of first round draft picks DeForest Buckner and Arik Armstead and the Ducks’ inability to recruit top-level [NFL] talent to replace them.

And secondly his input of leadership to a young defense cannot be overemphasized. He will (likely) be lined up next to a true freshman at Nose Tackle Jordon Scott who is going to have his ups and downs on a weekly basis of his first year in the trenches playing big time Division 1 football. In my opinion mentoring not only Scott but a host of other younger players, is a major reason the coaching staff aggressively sought his services for his final year of eligibility.

The Player:

Scott Pagano is a solid Division 1 football player. He has played in a lot of big games including two National Semi-Final and two National Championship games. And experience matters. It matters in terms of how one practices, and how one prepares themselves for the upcoming game. This experience coupled with a strong personality translates to leadership. It is difficult to quantify the value of leadership; but it’s an intangible quality that provides structure and discipline to a team, and is vital to its success.

He is a good [not great] athlete, and a bit of a “tweener.” He is undersized to play the NT position in a 3-4 or 3-3-5 variant defense. He could however play a defensive tackle position in a conventional 4-3 alignment, but the wide-open passing offenses in college football and the NFL today is rapidly making that alignment obsolete. He has adequate size to play defensive end in the 3-4 alignment at the collegiate level, but not at the professional level. To play DE at the pro level he would need to add more good weight to the upper end of his maximum effective weight (MEW). I suspect this added weight would have a negative effect on speed, agility, and overall athleticism.

Scott Pagano – Signaling to the crowd “No Gain!”

Furthermore, I don’t believe he is athletic enough to play that position at the next level. The film I have seen does not support the conclusion that he could compete effectively at that level. The offensive linemen that he would be matched up against are not only bigger and stronger than he is, but better athletes too.

Beyond Oregon:

The NFL draft is all about triangle numbers (Height, Weight, and Speed) and production in college. The criteria are pretty basic: Does the prospect have the “right” measurable’s for the position? Did he dominate the games he participated in during his college career?

I did a little research and identified three players from a recent NFL draft that most closely resemble Scott Pagano in terms of triangle numbers. They are Quinton Jefferson (Maryland), Lawrence Thomas (Michigan State), and Aziz Shittu (Stanford). Although they are similar in size to Pagano, the production on the field for their respective teams was significantly different. The thread that ties these three prospects together is the they were All-Conference in the ACC, Big-12 and the Pac-12.

Scott Pagano was not.

Another similarity is despite their production, they were all considered late round or free agent prospects. Jefferson was drafted in the Fifth Round by the Seattle Seahawks. While both Thomas and Shittu were free agents that made the New York Jets and the Philadelphia Eagles roster respectively.

Pagano at an NFTC camp

In my opinion I do not believe Scott Pagano carries a draft grade unless something dramatic happens this year. Furthermore, I would be surprised if he signed a free agent deal that warranted any more than a training camp roster spot. Having said that, there is no shame in not making an NFL roster. The odds are very steep and there are few job openings available every year for new candidates. Even “can’t miss” guys fail to make it every year even after they have been drafted.

But Pagano’s value to the Oregon Ducks football team will be more from an intangible standpoint, rather than quantifiable productivity. I suspect that the coaching staff will ask him to get up in front of the team in important games this fall during critical halftime scenarios, to deliver “words of wisdom” to his young teammates.

And wouldn’t it be fun to be a fly on the wall when Pagano fires up theses guys?

Michael Kelly
Chico, California

Top photo credit: KHON2 TV

For more Talent Evaluationsclick here.

New 2024 FishDuck Publishing Schedule….

During the off-season the FishDuck.com publishing schedule will consist of articles on Mondays and Tuesdays. Do keep checking as new articles could be published during the week when a writer has something to say.

In mid-August of 2024, we will go back to the seven-days-a-week of articles during the football season as we did in the football season of 2023.

The Our Beloved Ducks Forum (OBD) is where we we discuss the article above and many more topics, as it is so much easier in a message board format over there.  At the free OBD forum we will be posting Oregon Sports article links, the daily Press Releases from the Athletic Department and the news coming out every day.

Our 33 rules at the free OBD Forum can be summarized to this: 1) be polite and respectful, 2) do not tell anyone what to think, feel or write, and 3) no reference of any kind to politics. Easy-peasy!

OBD Forum members….we got your back.  No Trolls Allowed!