While most of the attention on the Oregon Ducks in 2012 focused on the offensive exploits, the Ducks played surprisingly stout defense as well. Helping their cause was the playmaking of 6-foot-7 Dion Jordan at defensive end/outside linebacker.
Whether he was coming off the edge or dropping into the flats in pass coverage, Jordan was a force on the Oregon defense and his efforts are being rewarded with a potential top 10 selection in the upcoming NFL Draft. So how will Oregon compensate next season for Jordan’s departure?
The next man up on the depth chart would be junior Tony Washington. In his sophomore season, Washington was a fixture in the defensive rotation, appearing in all 13 games where he made 20 tackles, including 1.0 tackle for loss, as a rotational player.
The 6-foot-3, 244-pound defensive end brings a long wing span and nice athleticism to the edge, much like Jordan did, but has a reputation of being more of a finesse passer, which hurts his ability to get into the backfield. He will have to prove that he’s ready to take on the position full-time this spring as complete defensive end.
Behind him will be redshirt sophomore Sam Kamp who will try and push his way into the starting lineup. At 6-foot-4, 251 pounds, Kamp brings a little more size to the position than Washington, but is well behind in terms of experience and production.
He appeared in just eight games last season, getting in on five tackles (all assisted) and had 0.5 tackles for loss. He has a lot of ground to make up on Washington if he hopes to supplant him for next fall, but the door could be open this spring for him to make a name for himself.
The name to watch in this race, however, is incoming freshman Torrodney Prevot. The Ducks pulled off a shocker on signing day when they flipped Prevot from the USC Trojans, and head coach Mark Helfrich signed him with visions of him filling the role vacated by Jordan and could turn him loose sooner rather than later.
His athleticism gives him the versatility to rush the passer off the edge or get to the flats in pass coverage, which is what made Jordan so special. He’s shown an ability in his high school career to be a disruptive force in the backfield, causing havoc and turnovers wherever he goes in addition to being a sound tackler.
At 6-foot-3, 201-pounds, Prevot will need to add some bulk to his frame to withstand the rigors of Pac 12 football, so he could be delayed in taking over as the primary starter next season. His playmaking and versatility, however, will make it difficult to keep him out of the defensive rotation as he gradually assumes more of the starter’s role.
It will be nearly impossible to match the production of the soon-to-be NFL standout, but Oregon has bodies in place to do their very best. Will Washington or Kamp put their claim on the spot this spring or will the Ducks use a rotation with the talents of Prevot next fall? Time will tell, but whoever lines up at the drop end position in 2013 will have a very big wingspan to fill.