Ducks reload on the D-line

2011-08-10T21:37:00Z Ducks reload on the D-lineJesse Sowa, Albany Democrat-Herald Albany Democrat Herald
August 10, 2011 9:37 pm  • 

EUGENE — In any other situation there might be panic over losing three starting defensive linemen.

But when you play nine players across four positions, there’s talent and experience to fill in the gaps.

Oregon used spring practices to find the candidates to replace departed tackles Brandon Bair and Zac Clark and end Kenny Rowe in the rotation.

Fall camp will help the Ducks create a pecking order heading into the Sept. 3 season opener against LSU in Arlington, Texas.

Senior end Terrell Turner is the lone returning full-time starter, while five others played in all 13 games last season.

“Even though guys didn’t start, they still got quality snaps. We hope that is a plus for us ... part of developing depth is playing depth,” Oregon coach Chip Kelly said. “You can’t be afraid to play guys, especially early.”

A larger pool of players to choose from has lessened the impact of losing starters.

Joining ends Dion Jordan and Brandon Hanna and tackles Wade Kelikipi, Taylor Hart and Ricky Heimuli on the two-deep depth chart entering fall camp are Jared Ebert, a junior college transfer at tackle and Tony Washington, a redshirt freshman.

Ebert and Washington will be playing their first downs for the Ducks this season. Tackles Isaac Remington is also expected to compete for time in the rotation.

True freshman Sam Camp and Koe Ka’ai are unproven commodities.

 “We played a lot of people last year, so who’s to say that Ricky Heimuli wasn’t a starter or Taylor Hart wasn’t a starter ... and on and on and on,” defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti said. “They played in big games and played valuable downs.

“The game has changed. We have different lines coming off the sideline every three or four downs, and we continue to want to do that.”

Aliotti said he expects to be able to use a nine-man rotation as the team did in 2010 because of the experience.

“I think we’ll be OK,” he said.

Jordan, a junior who played in all 13 games in 2010, including one start, said the 15 spring practices provided an eye-opener for him.

The depth developed through incoming players the past few seasons was evident.

“We’ve got a lot of talent. We’ve got a lot of guys who have the potential to play once they learn the system and understand what’s going on,” Jordan said.

He says its hard to measure the contribution of the players moving on and what it’s going to take to replace them.

“All you can do is go out there and do your best and compete,” Jordan said.

With the new players added to the mix, Jordan said the line probably has a little more talent and features a lot more flexibility in putting players in different positions.

“The young guys coming up, they’re getting bigger and stronger,” Turner added.

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