Kayvon Thibodeaux Is On the Move

David Marsh Editorials 8 Comments

Spring football is finally here, and Oregon’s new Defensive Coordinator, Tim DeRuyter, is wasting no time adapting the roles of his players to fit his defense. Kayvon Thibodeaux is one of those players on the move within the defense, and he shared the news during Tuesday’s post-practice press conference. This spring, Thibodeaux is moving to more of an outside linebacker position, a role in which he can still rush the passer from the edge but is afforded far more freedom.

This is fantastic news for Oregon fans.

Thibodeaux is supremely athletic, and he uses that athleticism to beat his opponents. However, at 250 pounds, he simply isn’t big enough to beat a top-tier offensive lineman on strength alone. He beats top-tier offensive linemen because he uses a mixture of strength and speed. It also doesn’t hurt that, as a freshman, he practiced against perhaps the best lineman in Oregon history, Penei Sewell.

Thibodeaux’s 2020 Season

The Pac-12 Championship Game was Thibodeaux’s best game in 2020. Throughout the game, USC’s top offensive lineman, Alijah Vera-Tucker,  a highly touted offensive line prospect in the 2021 NFL draft, was consistently beaten off the edge by Thibodeaux’s speed and power. Thibodeaux was a constant presence in the USC backfield, and that pressure paid dividends, as USC quarterback Kedon Slovis threw three interceptions. Although Thibodeaux did not touch the ball on any of those turnovers, he played a significant role in making them happen.

University of Oregon Athletics

Kayvon Thibodeaux was constantly pressuring the quarterback against USC in the Pac-12 Championship Game.

That’s why DeRuyter opting to move Thibodeaux around is so exciting for the future of the Oregon defense. Thibodeaux is Oregon’s best player, and the goal of every coordinator should be to put their best player in the best position to have an impact on every single down.

Thibodeaux struggled for much of the 2020 season and he found himself being double-teamed frequently. The rest of Oregon’s defensive line couldn’t seem to create pressure on their own to force opposing offenses away from Thibodeaux. Moving Thibodeaux away from being a full-time defensive end will free him up to get into the backfield faster.

When Mario Cristobal was asked about Thibodeaux moving positions in his post-practice interview on Tuesday, his response was less definitive, as he stated, “I think what we’re talking about is a certain package as opposed to what he’s going to be doing full-time. There’s a lot of things he’s going to be doing.

Thibodeaux in Coverage?

Thibodeaux could be anywhere in the front seven. He may line up as an outside linebacker or he may line up as a defensive lineman. Either way, this is going to create a headache for all opposing offensive coordinators, because failing to prepare for Thibodeaux will spell disaster for Oregon’s competition.

University of Oregon Athletics

Kayvon Thibodeaux and Noah Sewell before the snap against USC in the 2020 Pac-12 Championship Game.

Additionally, Thibodeaux said himself that there will be times he plays coverage, in particular against tight ends. Finding defenders who can cover big tight ends has long been a problem for Oregon. USC’s Drake London was a problem for every opposing team last year, including Oregon. Stanford has had a long history of large pass-catching tight ends who have bullied their way past safeties and linebackers.

What better way of shutting down those tight ends than putting an athletic defender on them? Depending on where Thibodeaux lines up pre-snap, it will be unclear to opposing offenses whether Thibodeaux will be rushing the quarterback or dropping back in coverage. This could be a nightmare for offensive coordinators.

Moving Thibodeaux around on the defensive side of the field will also open up more opportunities for Oregon’s other defensive players. With opposing offenses terrified of Thibodeaux, Noah Sewell, Mase Funa, Isaac Slade-Matautia, and Justin Flowe will have more opportunities to pressure the quarterback, stop the run, and make a difference in the game. Every minute spent practicing and scheming to stop Thibodeaux is a minute that opposing teams are not working on stopping the rest of Oregon’s mayhem makers.

Heisman Aspirations

This all sounds great for the team, but is this good for Thibodeaux himself?

Thibodeaux stated that one of his goals is to win the Heisman. Defensive players are rarely considered for the Heisman, and if Thibodeaux is going to be considered, he is going to need to put up some considerable stats. Will moving Thibodeaux around hurt his stats this upcoming year? Or does it give him the best opportunity to win the Heisman — or at least be invited to New York as a finalist?

David Marsh
Portland, Oregon
Top Photo By: Tom Corno

Andrew Mueller, the FishDuck.com Volunteer Editor for this article, works in higher education in Chicago, Illinois.

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Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck

Epic Day for Oregon Games!

Today on the Pac-12 Channel at 5:00 PM Pacific….the No. 3 Softball team takes on No. 2 UCLA at “The Jane!” Right after that game is over the Baseball team that is No. 19 takes on No. 20 Oregon State at PK Park…also on the Pac-12 Network!

Can you ever remember a Softball clash like this? Or both Softball and Baseball ranked at the same time? Or all four teams ranked in these great match-ups?

Forget dinner; bring the popcorn!

What a glorious day that was as the Ducks won both! The women are playing like a top-five team in shutting out UCLA 3-0, and while I expected the Softball team to be better this season and make some noise–I did not see this level of play coming. So fun to watch…

Oregon boys beat Oregon State: I love that title as it is true. North Eugene native Robert Ahlstrom held off the Beavers for seven innings of superb pitching, and then Hillsboro native Kolby Somers finished the save. Gabe Matthews from Salem hit a big home run to give Oregon a lead and momentum and the Ducks got it done in the eighth inning to win 4-1.

Today both teams could win their series? Whew!

For the men….after winning two of three in Corvallis earlier this season in a non-conference series–if they were to win this series….I don’t know when the last time that happened!

UtahDuck

I think this also really helps us understand what kind of offense that DeRuyter is planning to install at Oregon. With thib at OLB I think it becomes obvious that oregon is switch to more of a 3-4 or 3-3-5(Probably in obvious passing situations). I think thib proved he was more than capable in Run support and Securing the edge but obviously he has a much higher motor and skill set and moving him off the line and into space makes a lot of sense.

olcodgerduck

Thanks David for a great article – it’s awesome to hear positive things out of spring practice!

From above:

Every minute spent practicing and scheming to stop Thibodeaux is a minute that opposing teams are not working on stopping the rest of Oregon’s mayhem makers.

And, if I may quote myself from elsewhere:

I think KT will be more effective with this arrangement, as now teams will have to pay more attention to him. Any time you can present a different look, even if doing the same thing, you add complications to your opponent’s game planning. And if you are actually doing something different, then that is even a further distraction to the guys on the other side. I think growing Kayvon’s skill set is absolutely a positive thing, and will only add value to him as a player now, and going forward to the next level. I like it!!

At this moment, I am seriously jonesing for some Ducks Football!! I can’t wait for the mayhem this fall!!

Go Ducks!!

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck

Reading your post got me wiggling like a Duck thinking of water….

Santa Rosa Duck

Thank you David Marsh and thank you for a football article 9 days after the spring work outs have started. Thibodeaux is an outstanding talent and I have confidence that Tim DeRuyter will figure out how to maximize this talent.

In a way too early prediction, it seems that Anthony Brown is getting the first team reps at QB. I would guess he would have to screw up to not be the starter this year which means the real competition will be for who is first off the bench. Personally I do not rule out any of the three.

Very concerned about our lack of depth at running back. Perhaps a true freshman works his way into the rotation. In any event GO DUCKS!

Haywarduck

If he leads the team in interceptions, and sacks he just might be in the discussion for the Heisman!

I also think the focus on Thibs may just help close the deal on JTT.