The Oregon Ducks just watched as their top defensive player last year, outside linebacker/defensive end Dion Jordan, get drafted No. 3 overall by the Miami Dolphins in the 2013 NFL Draft. That is a major piece of the defense that new head coach Mark Helfrich has to worry about replacing next fall. While the Ducks will use a combination of players to cover for the loss of Jordan’s ability to make plays all over the field, they might just have a carbon copy of Jordan already on the roster with sophomore Christian French.
French, much like Jordan, is a converted tight end that has been moved to the defensive side of the ball to play outside linebacker. The sophomore has the same tall, athletic frame at 6-foot-5 and 231 pounds as Jordan, giving him a similar ability to drop back into coverage with his athleticism or use leverage to rush the edge. He lacks the experience, but that can be fixed with time.
So far, he’s made a minimal impact on defense, recording just 13 tackles in nine games as a freshman. He showed a nice flash of what he’s capable of in the spring game, however, recording nine tackles and a sack. He saw an expanded role during the spring with several of the Ducks’ defensive starters sidelined with injury, but may have earned himself a role in Nick Aliotti‘s defense with his performance.
Given the chance to refine his pass-rush technique, French could develop into an excellent situational defender in 2013. Coming in as an extra pass-rusher or as a defender in the box that Oregon can drop into coverage would give him valuable minutes as he contributed valuable snaps to the Ducks’ defense.
Having a lanky former tight end rush the passer has worked out for Oregon in the past with Dion Jordan, why not again in 2013 with Christian French?