Analysis: The SACK Strategies of All-American Kayvon Thibodeaux

Joshua Whitted Analysis 33 Comments

Kayvon Thibodeaux wasted no time justifying his five-star recruiting rating. As a true freshman in 2019, he established himself as one of the premier pass rushers in the Pac-12, and he saved his best effort for last, as the underdog Ducks took on the College-Football-Playoff-contending Utah Utes in the Pac-12 Championship Game.

Thibodeaux wrecked the Utes, finishing with 2.5 sacks and spending most of the night in the Utah offensive backfield. Beyond the numbers, Thibodeaux showed off an impressive array of pass rushing moves that show just how advanced of a pass rusher he has become despite his youth.

In the video above, Thibodeaux (No. 5) uses both his smarts and athleticism to beat the Utah right tackle (No. 69). Thibodeaux lines up wide of the offensive tackle (Thibodeaux uses what is known as a Wide 9 technique), which gives him plenty of space to build up speed and beat his opponent with a quick speed rush, which Thibodeaux is very good at given his explosiveness. The offensive tackle realizes that he has to cut off Thibodeaux and beat him to the edge, and because of Thibodeaux’s athleticism, the offensive tackle has to set heavily towards the outside.

That works perfectly to Thibodeaux’s advantage, as now, the inside of the offensive tackle is exposed due to him oversetting. Thibodeaux simply executes a swipe move — a quick two-hand swat at the offensive tackle’s hands — and he has a clear inside path to the quarterback.

Next, Thibodeaux uses a tried and true pass rush move — the swim move — to get his second sack of the evening. In the video above, Thibodeaux (No. 5) starts his pass rush from the edge, but slants inside to take on the right guard (No. 71). Thibodeaux quickly gets his hands on the outside shoulder pads of the guard and gives him an ever-so-slight tug to throw off his balance.

Then, while keeping his outside hand on the shoulder of the guard, Thibodeaux quickly brings his inside hand up and over the head of the guard. This propels Thibodeaux past the offensive lineman and makes for a swift pass rush win.

Finally, Thibodeaux uses a simple-but-effective speed rush to blow by his opposition and earn his third sack of the night. In the video above, Thibodeaux (No. 5), is once again lined up in a Wide 9 position, outside of the right tackle (No. 69). As mentioned earlier, lining up in this position gives Thibodeaux an inherent advantage on the edge, and Thibodeaux certainly makes the most of it in this situation,.

First, Thibodeaux times the snap count ridiculously well, as he takes his first step before anyone on the offensive line even flinches. Then, he uses his explosive strides to race past the offensive tackle in a flash and get within range of the quarterback. Finally, he uses his elite balance and flexibility to flatten his rush and turn the corner to meet and sack the quarterback.

Thibodeaux is the total package as a pass rusher. He can win with speed, power and elite technique — a lethal combination. And did I mention he was only a true freshman in 2019?

Pac-12 quarterbacks better keep their heads on a swivel for the next two years because Thibodeaux’s only going to get better with age. If he maintains his upward trajectory, he will be in the conversation as the best pass rusher in all of college football by the season’s end.

Joshua Whitted
Morgantown, West Virginia
Top Photo by Tom Corno

Phil Anderson, the Volunteer editor for this article, is a trial lawyer in Bend Oregon.


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When you need a pick me up from the doldrums, there’s no better place, than a Huskies fan site, it wil never let you down:

Some choice morsels from this one:

Who cares what the media folks think

Havnt even played a single game yet.
Think this can be a 7-0 season

Don’t know about apostrophe’s in Husky land I guess, and yes, it CAN be a 7-0 season.

And this one:

Ask yourself
Did Cal and Oregon beat arguably the worst UW Football team in 4 years and if so
how dominating a fashion did they do so?

Okay, has there been an occasion recently, when the Huskies were in a euphoric frenzy after beating the inarguably worse Oregon teams in the last 40 years…and actually felt like the wins were signs of a reversal in the rivalry?

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck

I love this quote from a Washington fan…“I think the PAC scheduling UW/Oregon as the last game of the season was definitely no coincidence. Although, honestly, I am not convinced Oregon is going to be in a position to win the North by the time that game rolls around.”

What are all the adjectives that describe the Huskies when you see stuff like that?


OK, I’ll go for the low hanging fruit: delusional.


It is low hanging, because the, delusions of grandeur, just weighs heavier and heavier all the time. They have to go back to the Hugh McElhenny years for real dominance; and that just infuriates them. The fact that it isn’t just football where O has it all over W, Pritchard never lost in Seattle, makes it even more laughable.


Desperation, maybe ??


Three adjectives come to mind: Dismissive, arrogant, and desperate.

Jon Joseph

Thank you.


Usually we get the updated roster in late July August, but between football being postponed then cancelled, and now returning we finally have the new roster.

A few things of note, both noah Sewell and Trey Bensen were assigned the number one, so either Bensen isn’t expected to make the travel squad or Sewell isn’t expected to run the ball(which I know was some speculation).

other than that their were a few weight changes. biggest weight loss Jonah Tauanu’u -30 biggest weight gain chris randazzo +34. Every single player who signed(Except the expected luke hill) has enrolled as well as a number Walk On’s added. I think I saw a walk on at all three specialist positions(LS,Kick,Punt).

They have not removed any of the opt outs(My guess this is because players can still opt out of the season and technically stay with the team unlike what gary anderson said at Utah state).

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck

When players are on opposite sides of the LOS…they can wear the same number as you know. If Sewell wants to run the ball or block as a bowling ball fullback–they put a different jersey number on him. For example when a TD pass was thrown to an offensive tackle last season…he was lined up as a TE and had changed into a TE number.

One big surprise looking at the updated roster is that Oregon has maybe the biggest player ever at the university this year as incoming offensive freshman tackle from Hawaii, Faaope Laloulu is 6’6″ and 395 lbs.!

Dontae Manning now is listed, and he is Kenny Wheaton’s old number! (No. 20)


Yeah, I just think it is interesting that he has the same number. Yeah he could change his number(i remember Aiello changing his number so he could line up at TE or tackle in the nevada game) but this would have to be prior to the game i think. I just think it could be telegraphing the game plan if he is usually number 1 yet we play washington and he is now number 87. I am likely reading into it way to much.

Other weights that I am impressed with is Jayson Jones on oline was listed as 340 as a recruit and is coming in at 310, I think Manning adding 7 pounds means a lot to his readiness to play, Both QB’s added weight prior to coming in.

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck

It is interesting and makes you wonder if Jones will switch of the offensive side of the ball, because he is pretty tall and now lean to be a defensive tackle. And the opposite thought about Laloulu above as he certainly sounds like he could fill-the-bill for being a nose tackle when we run an odd defense!

Jon Joseph

Thank you Utah.


Harder than usual this year to make assumptions about net gains/losses as to whether they are good weight (lean mass) or fat that is being added or subtracted.

Did players lose good lean mass due to irregular schedules of strength training / off season programs? Did they add pounds of fat from being out of the food program and eating at home?

How diligent and focused players were in the long off season may have a significant impact on where they slot on depth charts, and how well they hold up during an intense Fall camp schedule that won’t be able to wait on stragglers?

Jon Sousa

Great article with great videos! Thanks.

Thibs is planning to go pro after next year. His goal is 30 sacks before he does. He got 9 last year. He’s got 6 fewer games to do it in this year. If he can squeeze out 9 this year that will leave 12 to get done in 2021.

David Marsh

Is it football season yet? This is making the waiting more difficult as now I have a taste for KT’s abilities again and I want to see him wreck some opponents.

At least practice is supposed to start tomorrow. So practice report maybe then?


Great article! Thank you! I love the video illustrations you provided and your insight of how each was performed. All the defensive coaches are coaching up these players. Gang green is alive!

Jon Joseph

Great and well illustrated take Josh + Phil, thank you both.

Immense talent? Spot on. But I was happy to see him improve over the course of the season as a result of strength and conditioning and being coached up.

I pity the fools trying to block Mr. T in 2020. I expect he will be bigger and perhaps, even faster?

T will not be going against Stanford’s AA, Walter Little, who has opted out.

Stanford gets me thinking about Costello and then on to The Pirate. I guess the Arkansas D coordinator, unlike LSU’s Bo (Faux?) Pelini, decided to watch the Air Raid go against Jimmy Lake’s UW D.

Beat the defending champ than take an L against a team that had not won a conference game in over 2 years. That’s the full on Pirate experience.


Beat the defending champ than take an L against a team that had not won a conference game in over 2 years


After a big win you get a big letdown. Great coaches can see this coming and take steps accordingly. IMO I think Cristobal could use some help in this also.

Jon Joseph

RB Hill was hurt early on. But against a 3 man front and 8 guys dropping back, run the darn ball!

When at Mizzou under Gary Pinkel, Arkansas DC Barry Odom repeatedly shut down the TX TECH O. The D Arkansas ran should have come as no surprise to Leach.


Good information Joshua, thanks for putting it together.

I never realized these “moves” had names but I can see that Thibodeaux was one of best Ducks recruitments ever. A prime example of why you go after 5 star players and the more you have the better you are.


Hopefully other guys see this and his development and want to stay on the O-coast to bring the Ducks to the top.


Great players want to follow other great players to success.


That really is the case, and why KT is such an important player in Duck football history. As Joshua’s article shows, not only is KT loaded with talent, he’s honing his technique, later he will have the veteran savvy and completely destroy the offense.

But beyond that, what you and Quackanadian touched on here, is what can’t be mentioned too often is how impactful KT’s signing with Oregon was; a 5* defensive player, right out of SC country goes to Oregon, and does on defense what DAT did on offense! The culture that Mario is building at Oregon is attracting recruits that want to play with other great players.


I still remember Ngata saying one reason he came to Oregon was to compete against Igor. Great players want to be pushed, merely great athletes want to be pandered to.

I can’t wait to see a couple of our other 5* players as they are players too.

Jon Joseph

Hope so too Quack.

BTW, proving again that recruiting matters 24 Playoff invites to date. 17 have gone to Alabama, Clemson, Oklahoma and Ohio State.