Is Oregon Becoming Linebacker U?

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My FishDuck Friends, this is a contributed article from Haywarduck, who is a regular in the comments and a big part of our community. Thank you!  Charles Fischer

Are the Ducks becoming an NFL factory at linebacker? It’s a fair question when considering recent rosters in the NFL and Oregon’s recruiting, as it certainly has come a long way. The NFL currently has over 250 linebackers active on rosters with three from Oregon. Alabama, of course, leads with 10 active NFL linebackers. Utah, Washington and Stanford have five, while UCLA leads the Pac-12 with six.

Now, sometimes a linebacker is just a great college linebacker, similar to how the Ducks have had great positional talent in other spots that didn’t measure up in the NFL. The best example is probably LaMichael James at running back. He was arguably the greatest college RB of all time, but he didn’t make it in the bigs.

At linebacker we have also had some very good college players, the problem is they just weren’t elite. Take, for example, Casey Matthews, at 6′ 1″ 240 lbs., one of my favorites at Oregon. He played with as much heart as anyone to wear the green and yellow. The problem is he wasn’t his brother Clay Matthews‘s size at 6’ 3″ and 255 lbs.

In the 80’s, Oregon put one linebacker in the NFL, Brian Hinkle, not a bad player, but little else. During the 90’s, the Ducks had just a little success with sending linebackers to the NFL. More recently, Oregon has produced Kiko Alonzo, the lone starting talent, in addition to Dion Jordan, Justin Hollins and Joe Walker making rosters. But, with Oregon’s current talent, more linebackers are surely going to make some noise in the NFL.

Tom Corno

Mase Funa closing in on one of his sacks.

Right now we have elite talent on our roster with measurables that will translate to the NFL. So, who will be the most talented linebacker on our roster?

First we have Mase Funa, a guy who proved himself last year. Funa is 6′ 1″ and 260 lbs. and has a motor to make tough plays. As a freshman, he was second on the team with four sacks and had a knack for making tackles for loss… as once he gets a hold of a guy–he goes down.

If it weren’t for injuries his senior year, he likely would have been a five-star talent out of high school. He has a huge upside and has already taken a major role at the stud position.

Kevin Cline

Troy Dye is another great Oregon linebacker, earning himself a roster spot with the Minnesota Vikings following last season.

Most Ducks fans are aware of the talent Noah Sewell brings to the team, as his brother Penei Sewell was a high four-star prospect and is now the top offensive lineman in all of college football. Noah is a five-star prospect and is expected to rise above his ranking, and at 6′ 3″ and 260 lbs., he breaks the mold for linebackers with size seldom seen. The problem for other teams is he can move at his size like a linebacker.

A case can be made for a few others, but Justin Flowe seems to have what it takes. First off, he is a five-star talent who has the size, speed and passion to make it to the next level. Flowe is a product of the Snoop Dog League, much like De’Anthony Thomas, who earned the nickname “Black Mamba.” Like Thomas, Flowe earned the nickname “baby man” because he dominated older kids when he played as a 6 year old.

Let’s see if his nickname follows him to Eugene. Will Flowe be able to dominate older opponents as a freshman?

With a loaded depth chart moving forward, Is Oregon becoming the new Linebacker U?

Bend, Oregon
Top Photo by Kevin Cline


Chris Brouilette, the Volunteer editor for this article, is a current student at the University of Oregon from Sterling, Illinois.

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I love Troy Dye and we all know watching that guy play from the time he was a true freshman, he will have a very productive lively career with the Viking’s. He will or could be a 100 tackle a year LB for them. I don’t kn ow if he’ll be a PB type of LB but he’ll be a guy the Vik’s just wont want to get rid of.

Yes I have to agree about James but I think he just got drafted by the wrong team in the Niner’s and they are my team since I was a youngster. James had the speed plus the juke ability and just needed to be drafted by a team with less talent at the RB position.

As far as Sewell is concerned I’m gonna have to disagree with you as he has been graded at the highest level for a College Football LT the position on any team you have to have your best player to play that spot. He will I have no doubt from the moment he steps on the field with whoever drafts him will be a perennial Pro Bowl player.

The young Man has more talent in his little pinky than most Men have with all 10 fingers as he’s just that good. Anthony Munoz good. He will no doubt even if he sits out his last year be a no later than 3rd pick in the draft because his type of talent when it does come around you don’t wait to pick him.


I’d argue oregon has the potential to be the next LBU, will they time will tell. when it comes to “PositionU” i’m usually fairly opinionated, I don’t consider anything that happened more than 5 years ago(The one exception is QB), mostly because teams should be getting players drafted regularly and recently. So this excludes USC who is often considered LBU because they haven’t had any LB drafted in the first round in the last 5 years only 3 LB’s with draft rounds being 2,2,5. same with penn state with one lb in the 6th round, and miami who also claims it has had 0 lb drafts in five years.

I think if we want to be LBU we need to be surpassing LSU and clemson. Clemson has had 5 LB’s drafted in since the 16 draft and last year had a first round draft pick. LSU has also had 5 lb draft picks but has three first round draft picks in the last two years.

If we look at the potential and what oregon has, than yeah I think oregon has a shot in the next four years of becoming LBU. If you count dye, then you potentials with Funa, Jackson and ISM who have all currently played for oregon. add in Sewell and Flowe from last years class and the potential shoots up lastly oregon native Brown in the upcoming class could push us up significantly.


Of for sure, i think the talent is present. Sometimes it is just the luck of the draw and I really don’t know what clemson/lsu have in their rosters I am just saying as far as becoming lbu is going to be difficult when those teams have “a bit” of a head start. add in that penn state has a first round pick in parsons and unless ISM shows up we don’t have a lb draft pick next year we have to keep pushing. With that in 2-3 years we could see, Flowe, Sewell and Funa all go early in the draft. As well as have a number of late draft picks. It’ll be interesting to see how Brown affects the rotation because he could be a high drafter as well.

What I like most about this is winning begets winning, if your team is “Winning” draft day, then your team will win National Signing day(or the early signing period). if oregon can show we have elite LB’s, CB’s and DL’ it’ll help in recruiting more.

Oregon has never had the depth and talent at linebacker that we have now…and oh for one of them in the ‘Natty of 2015!

Thanks for a good Ponder-Point Hayward.


Funa / Noah /Flowe ! Can’t wait to watch that !!!

Jon Joseph

Thanks Haywarduck.

Next rungs on the ladder to climb: make the playoff; win the playoff; send more guys to the NFL.


That is how it works, the NFL Draft the past few years have been reunions for Alabama & Clemson players. It is a signpost that recruits do look at when considering what school to play for. Of course the Draft is fallible, not every 1st rounder has even a mediocre NFL career, while a lot of late round picks have become stars.


A nice idea, Hayward Duck, and I want to note one of my all time favorite Oregon LB’s; from the, “Gang Green”, Rich Ruhl, most famous for getting in Huard’s face after he threw, “The Pick”. Rich didn’t make it to the NFL, it appears he’s selling insurance now.

It would be great if the Ducks could establish itself as Linebacker U, as it would further tarnish Trojan lore, making #55 irrelevant. The LB talent assembled on this year’s team is definitely a big part of why the defense is expected to be such a dynamic force.


Linebacker “U” ?? You raise an interesting question Haywarduck. Oregon certainly is headed that direction. However you failed to mention Troy Dye as one of UO’s finest linebackers and now playing for the Minnesota Vikings. We’ll have to watch his career and see if can hold his own at the top level.

LaMichael James didn’t make it in the NFL because he was not the “greatest college RB of all time“, although he may have been the greatest RB at Oregon.

Saying that Penei Sewell is “the top offensive linemen in all of college football” will get a lot of other schools lined up to argue that statement. Although I think he is one of the top few (very few) and will undoubtably go very early in round 1.

Jon Joseph

Hard to argue with the Outland Trophy? But you are correct. After all there is much argument regarding the Heisman Trophy.

I’m still PO’d that Paul Hornung and not Jimmy Brown won the Stiff Arm Trophy.


Hornung over Brown? That will never make sense, in any discussion. Moving to the NFL, even more of a joke comparison. Brown is the best RB ever, and Jim Taylor, the best Packer RB.

Jon Joseph

And Hornung played on a team that finished 5-7!


And of course that team was Notre Dame. Hornung makes a great case for the most overrated athlete in history.


To be fair, Funa, Flowe and Sewell haven’t proven themselves in the NFL either, but they were mentioned specifically. Star rankings don’t always equate to star power…he’s not a LB, but just ask Patrick Chung about how that whole ranking thing works…


I’m not disagreeing with you, I’m just pointing out that you said you didn’t mention Troy Dye because he hadn’t proven himself in the NFL yet, but was very accomplished here. In the other three, only one has played a down outside of high school, but you’re lumping them into all kinds of potential vs what they’ve “proven”.

Just a small list of Oregon 5* guys that haven’t panned out, here or elsewhere…Cameron Colvin, Canton Kaumatule, Thomas Tyner and Lache Seastrunk.

No, they’re not all defense, and your article specifically is about LB’s, I’m just trying to make the point that potential vs performance are entirely different, yet as I said, leaving Troy Dye out of the discussion because of his lack of NFL experience isn’t, in my opinion, a solid argument when your top three have a minimum of two more years (Funa) before they’re even eligible for the draft.

This is way too drawn out on my part, I know, but it all boils down to Dye needs to be in the discussion. He was a star here from day one, and maintained that production throughout his four years as a starting LB. Where he ends up at in the NFL…we don’t know yet, but he is, at present, an Oregon LB who is on an NFL roster as a LB.


I love your last sentence. Dye is truly on a high level for what he accomplished at Oregon. But that doesn’t generate the idea of LBU at Oregon. This new type of LB, unseen on an Oregon team before does.


Oh, I agree that size-wise he fits the mold of what we’ve had for a long time…said for years that I never understood why we didn’t have the 240-ish lb guys at LB, but considering the context of what you’re writing about, LBU means producing pro-level LB’s, and as it stands, he IS a pro LB, unlike anyone on the current Oregon roster.

Will they be? Sure, I think we can all agree that barring injury they’ll be in the NFL soon enough, and likely only after three years for a couple of them, but they aren’t there yet…Dye is. LBU doesn’t just produce prototypical success stories, they produce success stories, and right now we don’t have a lot in the pros to call us LBU.

Don’t get me wrong here, I like the direction we’re going, and I like your enthusiasm about it, but we’re not there yet. Funa, Flowe, Sewell and Brown for that matter all have the potential to raise the bar beyond what we’ve seen before on a regular basis, and I like that, but that doesn’t take away what’s already occurred.

David Marsh

From what I saw it looks like Dye might be playing some safety in the NFL. Size wise Dye is on the smaller side for an NFL linebacker. However, Dye was also seen as between a safety and a linebacker size wise coming out of high school. He did play safety in high school by the sound of it.

I think Dye will find success in the NFL in whatever role they put him in. For a linebacker he managed to get quite a few interceptions… and who can forget the interception against Utah in the Pac-12 championship game when he still had his hand wrapped in a club???