The Oregon Ducks are heavy favorites to make a run at the Pac-12 title in 2014 but will have to retool their defense to get over the hump. New defensive coordinator Don Pellum has to replace key pieces, particularly on the defensive front, to get the Ducks back on top. A key piece of their defensive efforts will be defensive end DeForest Buckner as he steps into a featured role on the Oregon defensive front this fall.
Buckner has been a key piece of the defensive rotation over the last two seasons playing in 26 games since his true freshman season in 2012. Last season, he showed continued development, recording 39 tackles and 2.5 sacks as a sophomore and provided plenty of reason for Pellum to build around him this season alongside returning starter Arik Armstead.
Oregon’s focus in 2014 will be to defend the run better than they did in 2013. The Ducks allowed 175.9 yards rushing per game in Pac-12 play, which will hurt the Ducks tremendously against teams like the Stanford Cardinal, which will pose the biggest roadblock to Oregon’s return to the Pac-12 Championship Game. At 6-foot-7 and 286 pounds, Buckner has the size and athleticism to be a difference-maker against the run and dominate the line of scrimmage.
The Oregon offense gets the bulk of the attention for obvious reasons but the defense will be the key for the Ducks’ chances to get back on top of the Pac-12 in 2014. For the defense to find success this fall, DeForest Buckner is going to have to step up as a leader on the defensive line and create havoc for opposing running games.