While the Oregon Ducks have historically been known for their dynamic offenses and flashy style, the new regime might change that a bit.
With Dan Lanning at the helm, it may be defense first in Eugene, and while Kenny Dillingham will certainly raise some opposition, the pedigree of the defensive staff has turned some heads early.
The Ducks are going into the 2022 season without their defensive star, Kayvon Thibodeaux, on the roster, but Noah Sewell, Justin Flowe, Brandon Dorlus and Christian Gonzalez are projected to fill the void.
Recently, ESPN put out its annual future power ranking for defenses in college football. The rankings assess the 2022, 2023 and 2024 seasons, “accounting for current rosters, incoming recruits and transfers and potential NFL departures.”
They also take coaching changes into account, which is a big help for the Ducks.
So where does Oregon rank according to ESPN? Let’s take a look:
Oct. 6, 2018; Winston-Salem, NC; A Clemson Tigers helmet sits on the bench during the game against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons at BB&T Field. Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports:
Justin Shaffer # 54 of the Georgia Bulldogs celebrates their win against the Clemson Tigers in the Duke’s Mayo Classic at Bank of America Stadium on Sept. 4, 2021 in Charlotte, North Carolina. Grant Halverson / Getty Images:
Texas A&M Aggies:
Nov. 20, 2021; College Station, Texas; A general view of the stands at the last regular season home game between the Texas A&M Aggies and the Prairie View Am Panthers at Kyle Field. Maria Lysaker-USA TODAY Sports:
Alabama Crimson Tide:
Dec. 30, 2021; Paradise, Nevada; Arizona State Sun Devils wide receiver Ricky Pearsall (19) is tackled by Wisconsin Badgers safety Scott Nelson (9) during the 2021 Las Vegas Bowl at Allegiant Stadium. Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports:
Notre Dame Fighting Irish:
Notre Dame Fighting Irish running back Kyren Williams (23) celebrates with Notre Dame Fighting Irish quarterback Drew Pyne (10) in the second half of the NCAA football game on Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021, at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, Ind. Cincinnati Bearcats defeated Notre Dame Fighting Irish 24-13.
Oct. 1, 2021; College Park, Maryland; Iowa Hawkeyes players celebrates after a game against the Maryland Terrapins at Capital One Field at Maryland Stadium. Scott Taetsch-USA TODAY Sports:
Cincinnati Bearcats defensive lineman Curtis Brooks (92) celebrates after a 4th down stop in the fourth quarter of the NCAA football game on Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021, at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, Ind. Cincinnati Bearcats defeated Notre Dame Fighting Irish 24-13.
Jan. 13, 2020; New Orleans, Louisiana; Detail view of LSU Tigers helmets after the LSU Tigers defeated the Clemson Tigers in the College Football Playoff national championship game at Mercedes-Benz Superdome. John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports:
Ohio State Buckeyes:
Nov. 9, 2019; Columbus; Ohio State Buckeyes defensive tackle Davon Hamilton (53) sacks Maryland Terrapins quarterback Josh Jackson (17) during the first quarter at Ohio Stadium. Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports:
Utah Utes mascot Swoop poses during the Pac-12 Conference championship game between the Utes and the Oregon Ducks at Allegiant Stadium on December 3, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Utes defeated the Ducks 38-10. Ethan Miller / Getty Images:
Sept. 18, 2021; Lawrence, Kansas; Baylor Bears head coach Dave Aranda looks on during the first half against the Kansas Jayhawks at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium. Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports:
Oregon head coach Dan Lanning looks on during the Oregon Spring Game Saturday, April 23, 2022, at Autzen Stadium.
2021 future defense ranking: 6:
Scouting the Ducks: The unit has been on a solid trajectory but enters a transition period with coach Dan Lanning’s arrival and the departure of standout end Kayvon Thibodeaux, playmaking safety Verone McKinley III and others. Lanning proved himself as both a tactician and a recruiter at Georgia, and should continue predecessor Mario Cristobal’s momentum in attracting top defenders to Eugene. The immediate forecast is a bit murky, but Oregon returns a foundational piece in sophomore linebacker Noah Sewell, who last fall had a team-high 114 tackles, ranked second behind Thibodeaux in sacks (4), and tied for the team lead in forced fumbles (2). Sewell is surrounded by non-senior linebackers whom Oregon needs to emerge, such as junior Mase Funa, redshirt freshman Justin Flowe, sophomores Keith Brown and Treven Ma’ae and others. Sophomore Bradyn Swinson is listed at defensive end but could play outside linebacker for Lanning and coordinator Tosh Lupoi after recording three sacks and making a start in 2021.
There’s some experience up front with senior tackle Popo Aumavae, junior end Brandon Dorlus and sophomore tackle Keyon Ware-Hudson, but all three missed time this spring following surgeries, allowing others to get more field time. The development of players such as sophomore tackle Sua’ava Poti, sophomore end Brandon Buckner and junior tackle Sam Taimani, a transfer from Washington, will help the long-term depth. Safeties Bennett Williams (three interceptions in 2021), Jamal Hill (seven starts in 2021) and Steve Stephens IV (eight starts) will lead a somewhat new-look secondary this fall. The cornerback spot has new faces, including Colorado transfer Christian Gonzalez and fellow sophomores Trikweze Bridges (three starts in 2021) and Dontae Manning (18 tackles as a reserve). Oregon should get most of its DB rotation back next fall, and added ESPN 300 recruits Jahlil Florence and Trejon Williams.
Oklahoma State Cowboys:
Nov. 6, 2021; Morgantown, West Virginia; Oklahoma State Cowboys players celebrate after defeating the West Virginia Mountaineers at Mountaineer Field at Milan Puskar Stadium. Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports: