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Oregon Preview 2006 - Defense
Oregon Ducks
Posted Aug 8, 2006

Oregon Ducks Preview 2006 - Oregon Duck Defense

What you need to know ... Oregon was the one team in the Pac 10 that played a little defense last season, but it'll dip this year without star tackle Haloti Ngata and top corners Justin Phinisee and Aaron Gipson. There are enough returning veterans to keep from sliding into mediocrity until several athletic new playmakers to step up. There's speed to burn in the secondary and plenty of size up front, but there aren't any sure-thing All-Pac 10 performers. The linebackers in the 4-2-5 are good, but not spectacular.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Patrick Chung, 91
Sacks: Matt Toeaina, 3
Interceptions: Patrick Chung & Blair Phillips, 2

Star of the defense: Sophomore S Patrick Chung
Player that has to step up and become a star: Senior DE Darius Sanders
Unsung star on the rise: Redshirt freshman CB Willie Glasper
Best pro prospect: Chung
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Chung, 2) FS J.D. Nelson, 3) DE Matt Toeaina
Strength of the defense: Safety
Weakness of the defense:
Proven cornerback, pass rush

Defensive Line
The line takes two huge hits losing All-America tackle Halota Ngata and star pass rushing end Devan Long. There's size all along the front four, but there's not a player like Ngata who makes things happen for the rest of the defensive front seven. Cole Linehan, David Faaeteete, and Ra'Shon Harris are all big bodies who should be able to clog things up inside, while 301-pound Matt Toeaina is a huge end with a little bit of pass rushing ability.
The key to the unit: Finding a steady pass rush is vital. The linebackers might not have as much free range to roam without Ngata doing all the dirty work on the inside, so Darius Sanders, Michael Speed, Victor Filipe, and Nick Reed must get in the backfield on a regular basis, or else the top JUCO players coming in this summer have to rock.
Defensive Line Rating: 7

Projected Starters
- DE Matt Toeaina, Sr. - 30 tackles, 3 sacks, 6 TFL, 4 quarterback hurries
A tackle-sized 301 pounds, Toeaina has been a steady starter for the last two seasons showing off surprising pass rushing skills for his size. While he'll be asked to consistently get into the backfield, helping out against the run like a third tackle will be the biggest priority. He'll likely move back to tackle with several injury problems on the inside.

- DT Cole Linehan, Soph. - 10 tackles, 1 sack, 1 interception, 3 quarterback hurries
Linehan goes from a backup role to starter on the left side. He has worked hard at getting stronger over the last two years and now should be a rock in the middle. He's quick enough to be a decent interior pass rusher.

- DT David Faaeteete, Jr. - 3 tackles, 2 TFL
His emergence should allow Matt Toeaina to stay at end, but he has to prove he can handle the work on the inside on a consistent basis. Expected to be a starter last season, he ended up seeing a little time here and there and wasn't all that productive. At 6-2 and 307 pounds, he needs to be a reliable anchor on the right side.

- DE Darius Sanders, Sr. - 17 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 9 TFL, 1 interception
It this the year Sanders finally plays up to his talent? He's 6-5 and 269 pounds with tackle strength and linebacker quickness; it just hasn't happened yet for him. With all the tools to be a pass rushing star, he needs to be a fixture in the backfield with Devan Long gone.

Top Backups
- DT Ra'Shon Harris, Soph.
A phenomenal prospect at 6-5 and 305 pounds, he has the potential to be the team's next great tackle. Potential. He's strong and very active when he's on the field, but he was lost for the year with a torn triceps muscle.
- DE Victor Filipe, Sr. - 5 tackles, 1 sack
A huge end at 6-2 and 290 pounds, he's big enough to move inside and be a quick tackle. The former JUCO transfer has a surprising burst for a player of his size. He'll rotate with Matt Toeaina on the left side once he returns from an elbow injury.
- DE Nick Reed, Soph. - 5 tackles, 1 sack, 3 TFL
A pure pass rusher, Reed has a strong, smart player on the left side looking to add a little bit of flash on third downs. He'll move around where needed.

There are enough veterans to play around with the formation able to use two and three linebackers when needed. Blair Phillips and Brent Haberley won't be threats for the All-Pac 10 team, but they'll be steady tacklers and shouldn't make too many mistakes. There are several good options among the reserves with quick young players like John Bacon and Kevin Garrett looking to push for meaningful time.
The key to the unit: Be disruptive. With the line likely to be worse this year, the linebackers will have to get used to having to fight through more blockers. That doesn't mean they'll be expected to see their production dip.
Linebacker Rating: 6

Projected Starters
- Blair Phillips, Sr. - 45 tackles, 2 sacks, 9 TFL, 2 interceptions
The team's biggest linebacker at 245 pounds, Phillips came over from the JUCO ranks and ended up starting over most of the second half of the season. He's a good pass defender with the speed to stay with most backs and a burst to get into the backfield.

- Brent Haberly, Sr. - 63 tackles, 5.5 TFL, 4 broken up passes.
Haberly came out of nowhere in spring ball in 2005 and finished fifth on the team in tackles. He's not all that big and isn't going to set any speed records, but he's great at always being around the ball and is decent at getting into the backfield. His motor is always fully cranked..

Top Backups
- A.J. Tuitele, Jr. - 37 tackles, 2 TFL
Oregon plays a 4-2-5, but Tuitele could easily be used as a third starter. Versatile enough to play any linebacker position and with the speed to move to safety if needed, the 213-pound junior is a smart veteran and a huge hitter.
- John Bacon, Soph.
Bacon is one the best prospects on front six. He's 6-3, 235 pounds and quick enough to be used as a pass rusher. He'll start out behind Blair Phillips and should see plenty of time in the rotation at both linebacker spots.

Defensive Backs
This could be a work in progress up until the opener to find the right combination. There's a whole bunch of speed, but not a lot of experience at corner needing to replace Justin Phinisee and Aaron Gipson. Willie Glasper and Jackie Bates have plenty of upside and next-level wheels, but they'll be under the spotlight early on. Patrick Chung is a rising superstar at safety and J.D. Nelson, now healthy, should be an All-Pac 10 performer at free safety.
The key to the unit: 11 of the 23 passes picked off last year are gone with the loss of Phinisee and Gipson. The new corners have to come through right away or safety Patrick Chung might have to move.
Secondary Rating: 6

Projected Starters
- CB Willie Glasper, RFr.
The superstar recruit of a few years ago wasn't eligible in 2004 and didn't get on the field last year. Now he's ready to step in and he must play up to the hype with the replacements needed at corner. While he's not huge at 5-11 and 175 pounds, he's strong and has next level quickness and cutting ability.

- FS J.D. Nelson, Sr. - 64 tackles, 1 interception, 5 broken up passes
After making the position his, Nelson appears ready to step up and be even more of a playmaker now that he's healthy following off-season knee surgery. He's a good hitting 219 pounds with a great motor and an attitude that brings toughness to the secondary. A great all-around athlete, he should be making more big plays when the ball is in the air.

- Rover Patrick Chung, Soph. - 91 tackles, 1.5 TFL, 2 interceptions, 3 broken up passes
One of the team's fastest players, Chung lived up to the prep hype and finished second on the team in tackles. He's a natural at Rover with the speed to be all over the field and the open-field tackling ability to be one of the secondary's most dependable players. If needed, he could be moved to corner if the new starters don't work out.

- SS Kwame Agyeman, Jr. - 12 tackles
On the field since his true freshman season, it'll be up to Agyeman to be one of the team's top tacklers at strong safety. He's tough as nails and has been a great special teamer, but he'll have to show he can thrive against the pass.

- CB Jackie Bates, Jr. - 30 tackles, 3 TFL, 1 interception, 4 broken up passes
Fast enough to hang with any receiver in the Pac 10 with 4.31 speed, the junior has to go from being a steady backup to a top starter. He saw a little two starts last year and now will hold down the job the left side. He could be moved to free safety if the coaching staff wants to play around with the lineup.

Top Backups
- FS Ryan DePalo, Jr. - 17 tackles, 1 broken up pass
One of the strongest players in the secondary, DePalo can play either safety position after turning into a solid reserve last year. He'll start out behind J.D. Nelson at free safety and could push Kwane Agyeman for time at strong safety.
- SS Jerome Boyd, Soph. - 7 tackles
He still needs work, but he has the measurables at 6-2 and 211 pounds. While he's a great athlete and an improving tackler, he still has to show he can cover on a regular basis.

Special Teams
Paul Martinez is one of the nation's better placekickers, but the punting game needs a lot of work. Matt Dragich was a top JUCO punter and has talent, and now he has to do better than last year. Jonathan Stewart returned two kickoffs for touchdowns last year, but he might see his role reduced now that he'll have to carry the ball more. Replacing Justin Phinisee as a punt returner will be a problem.
The key to the unit: The punting game has to be far better after only netting 31.8 yards per kick
Special Teams Rating: 7

Projected Starters
- PK Paul Martinez, Sr. - 19-24 FGs, 26-30 extra points
Martinez didn't work out as a punter, but he brought a big leg on field goals nailing a 51-yard shot and hitting eight of nine field goals from 40 yards and beyond. He'll be in the hunt for All-Pac 10 honors.
- P Matt Dragich, Sr. - 32 kicks, 1,246 yds, 38.9 yards per kick, 8 kicks inside the 20
Dragich had a lousy year with the Ducks trying to change around its punting game. He didn't hit any bombs, but he has enough of a leg to air it out a little bit more.

Related Stories
Oregon Preview 2006 - Depth Chart
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Oregon Preview 2006 - Further Analysis
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Oregon Preview 2006 - Offense
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