Oregon Ducks interior defensive line replenished with experience and depth
EUGENE — No Oregon Ducks position group has been more significantly and hugely improved this offseason than the inside defensive line.
Starters Brandon Dorlus, Popo Aumavae and Keyon Ware-Hudson all missed the spring after winter surgeries and returned to the field. Jordon Riley and Casey Rogers each arrived from Nebraska, where they played for Ducks defensive line coach Tony Tuioti. Then Sir Mells and Ben Roberts arrived, giving Oregon seven more players to open fall camp — two more scholarship players than the Ducks had in the spring.
“Going through the spring…when you get hit, you realize, ‘OK, this is where we have to try to make it a strength,'” Oregon coach Dan Lanning said. . “Casey and Jordon are obviously guys Coach Tuioti has worked with in the past. So we had a very intimate knowledge of them, their work ethic and the kind of players they are. It certainly helped us.
“But I can’t say enough good things. I’ll tell you, there’s one guy that I don’t think gets enough praise, and that’s Brandon Dorlus. He did not go through the spring. But Brandon’s leadership, his work ethic, these guys follow. I was really excited to see that. Obviously, Popo and Keyon’s return is a big chunk of our future success. Tony is an extreme perfectionist and (defensive coordinator Tosh) Lupoi also has extensive experience in the front seven. These guys being able to develop these guys, I can’t say enough about the guys we didn’t necessarily sign, but they’re okay.
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The addition of Riley, a sixth-year senior redshirt, and Rogers, a fifth-year junior redshirt, as well as Washington’s Sam “Taki” Taimani this winter, changes the UO experience inside of the defensive line. The Ducks went from one upperclassman last season to five this fall.
“Really thrilled to have the individuals that we have,” Lupoi said. “To be honest, it’s always like that at this level of play, it’s hard to assess these guys without protection. Sometimes guys look a lot better in Olympic underwear and we’ll probably know a lot more building from tomorrow when…we get pads. Begin to discover from the start what we are really made of.
The 6-foot-5, 295-pound Rogers had 17 tackles, including three for loss, last season. He had 25 tackles, including three for loss, one sack and two breakups in eight games in 2020.
The 6-foot-6, 310-pound Riley had seven tackles, including one for loss, in 10 games last season.
Both Lanning and Lupoi praised the character of veteran transfers as well as their talent.
“Excited, especially… about the additions to our culture with these guys,” Lupoi said. “These guys did everything we asked of them from a nutritional standpoint, what they do in the weight room on and off the court and now on the court. Again, we’ll know a lot more as we progress through camp. Hard to assess right now where we are from that point of view, but definitely love them as people and get them into this program. I’m really excited to train them.